MADISON, Wis. — In an unofficial poll of Wisconsin football players, Badgers linebacker Ethan Armstrong would likely finish second in the voting for best movie-star looks (behind quarterback Joel Stave and his flowing blonde mane, of course). One of the defining characteristics of Armstrong’s appearance has been his long hair, which he’d spent more than a year growing out.
On Thursday afternoon in the team locker room, however, Armstrong sacrificed that hair for a good cause. He was among a group of eight players to take part in Wisconsin’s “Shave to Save” function to raise awareness and funding for childhood cancer research at the American Family Children’s Hospital.
“As soon as they kind of said it’s for the kids, it’s for a great cause and everything, I just kind of jumped at the chance,” Armstrong said. “I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up on.”
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The other Wisconsin players that volunteered to have their heads shaved Thursday were left guard Ryan Groy, tight end Jacob Pedersen, right guard Kyle Costigan, wide receiver Connor Cummins, wide receiver Chase Hammond, linebacker Conor O’Neill and wide receiver Lance Baretz.
Two more players, defensive end Ethan Hemer and tight end Eric Steffes will have their heads shaved next week.
Patients from the American Family Children’s Hospital took part in shaving the players’ heads. When it was over, patients and their families enjoyed a pizza party with the Badgers.
Kayla Gross, the Wisconsin athletic department’s community relations coordinator, said the idea originally came from former Badgers football player Ben Landgraf, who works a rotation at the UW hospital. He and hospital staff approached Gross about football players raising awareness for pediatric cancer.
Badgers football players have a longstanding relationship with the hospital, and a group of eight players contribute community service hours before every Friday home game. According to Gross, members of Wisconsin’s football team had put in more than 1,000 hours of community service since May.
“So when I presented the idea to them, they were all super excited,” Gross said. “You can tell by the turnout, 10 guys willing to shave their heads, it’s awesome.”
Groy was the first player to finish with his buzz cut, though several splotches of hair remained, which required Groy to trim the rest himself.
“I’ve never had my hair this short and I look pretty bad,” Groy said. “But it’s OK. Kids got a good laugh out of it, so it was good.”
In a competition for which player looked the worst, Groy said it was a tie between he and Pedersen, whose cut was down to his scalp.
“I would definitely agree with that,” Pedersen said. “I think I’m going to make this look work. I’m one of those guys where I already had the nice receding hairline. I just kind of made it work. And I’m one of those guys where I’ve accepted my role. It’s for a great cause.”
Unlike most of his teammates, Armstrong used a guard on his razor to preserve at least a couple extra centimeters of hair on his head. Regardless of the style, he said he hoped it made a difference.
“It definitely puts things in perspective for you,” Armstrong said. “They’re kids and they’ve been through a lot. It really is kind of all about them. …
“Hopefully the kids had fun doing it. In the end, we made their day a little better and helped them out.”