For former Virginia fullback Vince Croce, today’s Military Bowl is a momentous occasion. Croce has been growing out his hair, waiting until the Hoos made a glorious return to the post season until chopping off his locks.
“It just kind of randomly happened,” Croce said of his decision to grow out his hair. “My roommate came home one day and I remember he was looking kind of rough and I asked him, ‘are you cutting your hair? You going to get a shape-up or something? I’m just trying to look out for you.’” His roommate responded with a proposition: let’s not cut our hair until we go to a bowl game.
That was Croce’s third year, August of 2013.
Over the span of about four and a half years, Croce abstained from cutting his hair, getting just one trim in 2015 for upkeep.
“I loved it.” Croce said of the long hair. “It became, by the time my fifth year rolled around, became a staple of part of my identity on the field with the hair flowing out of my helmet. I had some big plays on special teams, so I was just kind of that wild guy with the crazy hair and the big beard.”
While growing out his hair, Croce had a lot of fun with it. He sported braids, corn rows, and then later - to be more “professional” - Croce went with the Kyle Guy Man Bun.
Now on the strength and conditioning staff under Frank Wintrich, Croce, who is a long-time favorite of Streaking the Lawn, is sporting a sleek new ‘do.
When Croce started growing out his hair, he met a Charlottesville barber, Ray, to get his upkeep taken care of. “I went to him even with my long hair to do my beard and line up my neck and stuff, so he was looking forward to the day, too.”
He had originally planned to cut it immediately after becoming bowl eligible and letting the strength staff do the honor. It didn’t work out that way, so Croce scheduled the cut with Ray.
“I figured I’d do it right before the trip and it would be something new for the trip and something fun, so I scheduled it a couple weeks in advance and cut it on the 23rd [of December].”
About 12 inches were cut off by Ray, and the result resembled a small woodland creature.
Croce donated his hair to Locks of Love in honor of his grandfather - who passed away almost three years ago as a result of recurring colon cancer - and his grandmother - who just finished her second bout of chemotherapy. “It hit home and I was happy I was able to grow it long enough to donate it.”
He told a couple people at practice the morning of the cut, but for the most part, it was a secret. “I went on Instagram live...the only time I’ve been on Instagram live. My life’s not that interesting,” Croce said with a laugh.
“My mom. Oh my gosh.” Croce stated unequivocally when asked who had the most dramatic reaction to the cut. “So I didn’t tell her at all (that he was cutting it). She obviously knew what the deal was but I went home that night...right after I got my haircut and I walked in the door. She probably freaked out 10 or 15 minutes. It was on Facebook three minutes within me walking in the house. I think she cried a little bit.”
Mom liked the long hair, but she wished Croce had “taken care of it” with more regular trims.
“Yeah, Head and Shoulders every other day or every third day” Croce said of his beauty regimen with the flowing locks. “Oil? No. Blow drying? No.”
He hasn’t ruled out growing the hair out again, though everyone is hoping it’s not for another bowl drought for the Hoos. “I liked the way it looked and I liked having it, so we’ll see.”