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In fact, so many players have grown their hair that fans could have an All-Hair fantasy team.

“I think that football players have really started to want to their own identity on the field. I mean who can tell who is who with all those bulky helmets on?” said Michael Shaun Corby, a celebrity hair stylist and global creative director for Alterna Professional Haircare.

“People have looked up to these guys since they were young teenagers,” Corby added. “Now I think they are just taking that superstar persona to the next level and giving themselves a unique and more trend-conscious style.”

The reasons are as varied as the looks.

Some, like Peko and Polamalu, do it because it’s part of their culture. Peko is from American Samoa, where long hair is the norm for men, and Polamalu also has Samoan roots.

“If you have short hair out there, people are like, ‘What’s up, dude? Why aren’t you growing your hair?’” said Peko, who has been growing his hair since he was a kid.

Some, like Miami Dolphins cornerback Benny Sapp, do it as a nod to what’s fashionable in their hometown (Fort Lauderdale). Others are looking for low-maintenance style.

“I just get up, shake it and I’m out the door,” said Atlanta Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson, who’s been growing his hair since 2005. “That’s what I like about it. I’m good to go.”

And some guys simply like the look.

“We were playing the University of Miami and I just saw the way they looked. … They were shaking their hair and I was like, ‘That looks good.’ And then when they put their helmets on, it looked great coming out of the back of their helmets,” said Dallas Cowboys receiver Jesse Holley, whose dreadlocks now reach down to the middle of his back.

“It makes me feel like I’m running fast,” Holley added. “When I have my hair out, I feel like a lion. It puts you in that wild, warrior-type mentality.”

Despite all that hair flying around, it’s rare for a player to be brought down when someone grabs a handful of it. Make no mistake, however. There’s still enough hair pulling and twisting on the field to rival the kindergarten set.

Buffalo Bills offensive lineman Ed Wang, who recently trimmed his waist-length hair to the middle of his back, said his hair would get pulled “on every play” when it was longer _ and that was in practice, by his own teammates. After Cleveland Browns Pro Bowl kick returner Joshua Cribbs was pulled down by his hair, possibly saving a touchdown, Cribbs now trims his hair so opponents can’t get a good grip on it. And Holley and Johnson said they’ve had individual dreadlocks yanked out.

“After the game, I’m walking off the field and I’ll look down at the ground and see a piece of my hair,” said Johnson, the 2009 Associated Press NFL Offensive Player of the Year. “It’s like, ‘Hey, when did that come out?’”

While it may seem strange to see all this long hair alongside close-cropped guys such as Brian Urlacher, Chad Ochocinco and Matt Hasselbeck, no one’s been ordered to cut it off. It’s what’s cool now, much like the wildcat offense, and coaches have learned to adapt.

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