By Chris Chase
Brett Keisel's facial hair attracted a huge following during Pittsburgh's run to Super Bowl XLV.
The beard, Brett Keisel's(notes) lionlike facial hair whose wit, personality and vibrance made it an international star during Super Bowl week, died Thursday night at a charity event in Pittsburgh. It was 8 months old.
The flowing chestnut locks were shorn during an event which raised over $30,000 for cancer research at Pittsburgh's Children's Hospital. Keisel's teammates Hines Ward(notes) and Aaron Smith(notes) were on hand for the euthanizing, each cutting parts of the Merlin-esque wonder. In a final tribute, the receiver even attached a piece of the clippings to his chin, making him look like a beat poet hanging with Dylan and Ginsberg at the Cafe Wha?
Later, in the seclusion of a downstairs room, Keisel and the beard spent a final few minutes together as a professional barber sheared off the remaining, Bunyan-esque locks. When it was over, the Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end was left with a stubbly look that took years, and loads of machismo, off of his appearance. He then emerged on stage, a suited, broken man.
"I feel naked," Keisel said. "I feel like I'm 15. It's been a long time since I had this look."
The beard was born during a family hunting trip last June. Its early days were routine -- stubbly, uneven, a little itchy -- and didn't portend much future greatness. But as the Steelers season progressed, the beard, and its profile, grew. Grizzly Adams jokes gave way to a Facebook page which turned into a Twitter account which turned into questions about the beard at press conferences. Said one man of the face fur, "it is like the coat of a wolf."
At Super Bowl media day, the beard shone. Reporters from across the globe marveled at its fullness, texture and body. Other famous follicles, like Troy Polamalu's(notes) curls and Clay Matthews'(notes) Nelson hair, were left overshadowed. The afternoon would end up being the pinnacle of the beard's existence. Days later, it left the field as a Super Bowl loser. By the time it was put to rest on Thursday, it had lived for over 250 days without so much as a trim.
Even in the most solemn of moments, Keisel was hopeful for the future.
"The beard will decide when the time is right to come back, and it will all of a sudden appear," he said.