The Herd is going to get a clipping Thursday.
Gryphons offensive line coach Mike MacDonald and most members of the O line, known as The Herd, are going to get together for a very public hair-cutting session Thursday in the University Centre.
“During the spring, we were just kind of kibitzing before a meeting with the guys and I was on them about when they were going to get a haircut and they said ‘When are you going to get a haircut, coach?’” MacDonald said. “My hair is short anyways – or it was. I told them that I’ll cut it all off and I’ll raise money and donate it to cancer.”
The players thought that would be a great idea so they decided they’d join in.
“They all bought into it which is amazing because they’re young people and they’ve been growing that hair for three or four years, some of them,” MacDonald said. “That’s a big step. I don’t know if I was that age if I would’ve done the same thing, but they readily bought into it and it has built since. We’ve got 12 of the O line doing it. Some of them are just cutting enough big, long locks to donate for wigs and some of them are cutting it off completely, shaving it right down.”
Offensive lineman Ben Petrie is one of the players participating. He’s been growing his hair for just over a year.
“When I came to the beginning of the summer workouts, I was going to cut it,” he said. “Then literally about a week before I was going to cut it, coach Mike came up with the idea to grow it out and then cut it and then I just kept going with everyone else.”
Both MacDonald’s and Petrie’s lives have been touched by cancer.
“I’ve had cancer twice in the last three years and I’ve had two operations so I’ve been touched personally by it,” MacDonald said. “My dad, who’s now almost 90, survived a serious bout of cancer. It touches a lot of families. This particular week focuses on breast cancer which is a horrific disease taking a lot of young women.”
“When I was in middle school, my mom passed away with cancer so I love supporting causes like this,” Petrie said.
MacDonald also knows of the importance of cancer research.
“At the start of the summer, I was pronounced cured,” he said. “They don’t get to say that often, but in my case they get to say it and it’s all because of the research that has gone into the type of cancer that I had which have now become almost 100 per cent curable when you get these particular cancers.
“Mine was thyroid. I had my thyroid completely removed and then it was lymph and I had some lymph nodes taken out, all in my neck. But it’s only through the research and the expertise of the nurses and doctors that allow that to happen. The more funds that can go into research, the more these things are going to get cured and eventually there will be a cure, but it won’t happen without effort from everybody in society and everybody’s families have been touched by it.”
Watching his mother battle cancer, Petrie now has a different perspective on any pain he experiences during games and at practice.
“It’s extremely tough to watch somebody you love go through it, but now that I’ve seen her go through it and she went through it for four years and never complained, it makes it difficult for me whenever I’m in pain to know that if she could go through that then I could go through anything else,” he said.
The project highlights some of the more important things players are taught that don’t involve football.
“It’s all about part of teaching,” MacDonald said. “It’s not only football that we teach here, it’s about being involved with your community. You are part of the community and it is important to give back and be a part of it. There are a number of guys in my position group whose families have been personally touched by cancer so it’s an important way for them to give back, recognize and contribute in the fight against cancer.
“It’s a great way for us to teach these young men things other than football. That’s the whole point of it. And the fund-raising has been going great. We’ll take any donation. Anybody can help and it all goes to the cancer society.”
For MacDonald, Thursday can’t come soon enough.
“My hair, I’ve been growing it since we started it in February or March,” he said. “I was an RCMP officer for 28 years, so my hair has always been short. The police cut. Even after I retired, it was still pretty short. This is the longest my hair has been since I was 15 years old and it’s driving me nuts. I can’t wait to get it cut off, although some folks tell me I should keep it. But no, it’s too long.”
While most of the O line is participating, it was a completely voluntary thing.
“Some of the young guys coming in this year, they’ve got enough on their plate adapting to university and university football,” MacDonald said. “It’s about 80 per cent of the guys. There was no pressure put on them and it was made very clear to them that this is voluntary and the players, like (Andrew) Pickett our captain, spoke up and said that nobody should feel pressured to get their hair cut, but they could support us in other ways and that’s the way it’s been since the get-go.”
While some of the hair will go to wigs, that won’t include MacDonald’s hair.
“I wanted to grow it long enough to cut it and donate it to wigs, but they told me I’ve got too much grey in it so they won’t take it,” the 60-year-old said.
The exercise has brought the O line closer together.
“I think we already are the closest group on the team, but anything like this where we all have our long hair and run out on game day, now we’re all going to be short-haired brothers,” Petrie said. “We always look different so we might as well look different together.”
However, they might have to get their helmets adjusted before Saturday’s home game against the Laurier Golden Hawks.
“We’re going to have to get more air in them,” Petrie said.
Players participating include Braedon Ashford, Colin Jerome, Scott Johnston, Nick Marijello, Nikko Morrito-Barber, Petrie, Pickett, Scott Powers, Collin Reece, Eric Starzcala, Spencer Swan and Coulter Woodmansey.
The Herd is hoping to surpass its goal of raising $4,000.
Visit the http://convio.cancer.ca/site/TR/Thirdpartyevent/IFE_ON_CommunityPartnerships_?team_id=361031&pg=team&fr_id=22113 website for further information and to donate.
The haircuts are to happen in the University of Guelph’s University Centre Thursday from noon to 1 p.m.
“They really bought into it and I think they’re proud of what they’re doing and excited by it,” MacDonald said. “Hopefully they’ll have a lot of people come to the UC and support them and recognize that they’re making a commitment and a sacrifice which is miniscule compared to what the sacrifice is that cancer patients make. In my mind’s eye, I’m seeing children affected by cancer and that’s a tough go. Somebody just giving up hair, that’s nothing. It’s a simple, easy thing to do and if it helps raise money, then right on.”
While donations can be made online, they’ll also be accepted during the actual hair-cutting event.