New look, same Ben Gardner

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Ben Gardner doesn’t think he’s tempting the football gods. He’s just sick and tired of blowing through bottles of shampoo.

“It’s nice going in the shower and not having two handfuls of shampoo just to wash my hair,” Gardner said.

The Stanford defensive end has shed his trademark mullet -- much to the dismay of some teammates.

“He decided he was going to keep it through the whole season, then he decided that bowl games don’t count so he decided to lose the hair,” said linebacker Jarek Lancaster, who has his own impressive locks nearing shoulder length. “We told him that was not the case. Even though we told him and even though we all tried to stop him, as you can see, he doesn’t care what we had to say. He got ahold of some clippers. It’s pretty disappointing.”

Save the Samson and Delilah jokes. Gardner said he doesn’t anticipate any loss of strength. Actually, quite the contrary.

“I think I’m less wind resistant and more aerodynamic,” Gardner joked.

Gardner has emerged as one of the marquee players on Stanford’s defense, which ranks fifth nationally against the run. He has 34 tackles on the season and is second only to Chase Thomas in tackles for a loss on the team with 10. He’s third on the team with 4.5 sacks and he leads the squad in quarterback hits.

“Everybody told me that chicks dig the mullets, so I bought into it and played it out for a while,” Gardner said. “I don’t think it’s true anymore. It was time to get rid of it.”

Naturally, the reaction from his teammates ran the gamut.

“He looks like a normal human being,” said the long-haired Coby Fleener. “Hopefully it will improve his luck with the ladies.”

Said quarterback Andrew Luck: “I don’t know what it says about him. I guess he’s just a free spirit that doesn’t like to conform.”

Added linebacker A.J. Tarpley: “I wouldn’t say it’s a bad omen. I hope not. I wouldn’t want to put that kind of pressure on him. But it’s a lot different. The first time I saw him, I didn’t recognize him and then you’re like ‘oh, that’s Ben?’”

The question now: Exactly who has the best/worst hair of all of the players?

“I want to give deference to Fleener since he’s the oldest,” said the clean-cut Luck. “But [fullback Ryan] Hewitt’s hair is pretty mangley.”