“They take care of cancer patients and that’s a cause I wanted to support for sure,” said the 6-foot-7, 305-pound McDaniel, whose dreads were by the far the longest on the team. “It was kind of a coincidence that all of us got our dreads cut but we were excited to see each other do it. When I saw Davone do it I thought it was kind of hilarious to me and when I saw Sean do it I thought it was kind of funny, so it’s a new look and we all look five years younger.”
Carroll actually had been thinking about cutting his hair since his rookie season in 2010 and he remembers Bess, Smith and McDaniel egging him on. But when they reneged on cutting their dreadlocks at the same time he decided to keep the look.
So when Carroll first saw the other three before the first voluntary veteran mini-camp days before the 2012 NFL Draft, he rolled his eyes and realized he wasn’t going to have a leg to stand on much longer. While Bess and McDaniel opted for the high-top look with the sideburns, Carroll chose to copy Smith and have the cleaner, more closely cropped look.
“Last Wednesday I just decided to go ahead and get it done without thinking about it too much. I knew if scheduled a specific day I wouldn’t do it,” Carroll said. “So I went to the barber, sat in the chair and then just told him to cut off all of the dreads. I kept the clippings so I can bring them to “Locks of Love” myself since it’s not far from my house. My mom (Florida’s Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll) was real happy to hear about it and to see my new look.”
This will be Bess’ fifth season in the NFL and the progress he has made since being signed as an undrafted free agent out of Hawaii served as his inspiration to change his look. During his first training camp, Bess made himself easy to spot from the stands with his gold highlighted dreads and even after getting rid of the gold his hair was something that almost became a part of his persona.
Last summer he took a big step as a professional by establishing his Bess Route Foundation and mentorship program, using his own story to grab the attention of area kids from elementary school to high school. Cognizant of the fact that his message really hit home and the story of how he overcame the adversity of spending 15 months in jail for one mistake, Bess felt now was the time to complete his transformation.
“I was just ready for change and the next phase of my life,” said Bess, who has become one of the league’s top slot receivers. “It’s a sign of growth and just a new start. It’s a clean slate, a new year, a new beginning and a new everything. I call it a ‘swag’ cut.”
Finally, Smith was perhaps the most reluctant to take the shears to his head as he had grown quite fond of his look. His dreads were not quite as accentuated as the others but they still help define the outgoing and confident former college wide receiver.
“I’ve been saying I was going to come out here for the past three years and get it done but could never build up the courage to pull the trigger,” Smith said. “First I saw Davone do it and I was thinking about it but then I was like, ‘No, maybe not.’ I saw T-Mac do it and I was like, ‘I might as well because everybody else did it,’ but I still wasn’t sure. Then one day I woke up, looked in the mirror and said, ‘Forget it. Let’s cut it off.’ And I did it.
“When I first looked in the mirror said I said, ‘What did I do? Why did I do this?’ I was regretting this and as soon as he cut the first piece off I was like, ‘Oh, there’s no going back now.’ I had long hair since my 10th-grade year of high school. But I felt good about it after my hairstylist asked if she could keep the locks and donate it to cancer patients that can really use it.”
All four players admit they feel a little lighter out on the field without those dreadlocks weighing them down and notice their head moves with more freedom inside their helmets. Smith claims he lost two pounds just by getting rid of his dreads and realized he cut down the odds of an opposing player tackling him by his hair should he intercept a pass and take it back for a touchdown.
Now those donated locks of hair will be turned into the highest quality hair prosthetics so that young cancer patients that have lost their hair as a result of chemotherapy treatments can help restore their self-esteem and confidence. With these prosthetics the kids can go about their day without feeling like people are staring at them, and meanwhile, Bess, Carroll, Smith and McDaniel can enjoy the benefits of their new look.
“I sure feel a lot lighter,” McDaniel said. “The hair made me feel kind of heavy and hot so I definitely feel fresher without it.”