If you were able to catch one of the just eight Duke lacrosse games this spring, you may have noticed an uncharacteristic lack of hair when the Blue Devils removed their helmets for the national anthem.
Although lacrosse players often pride themselves on luscious hair, players across the country were able to pride themselves on something greater.
This spring, the Blue Devils took part in the nationwide movement Lacrosse for Life, in which collegiate lacrosse players shaved their heads to raise money for cancer treatment and research at Boston Children’s Hospital.
The concept is simple. For every player that shaves his head, an anonymous pool of donors pledges $1,000 to the hospital. Duke jumped on this opportunity early on and got more than half of the roster on board. When all was said and done, 31 of the 48 player Duke roster went nearly or completely bald, raising a collective $31,000 for cancer treatment and research.
All on Manown
The Blue Devils were early adopters of this movement thanks to senior captain Joey Manown’s personal relationship with Tommy Hale, one of the three Brown lacrosse players behind the fundraiser.
Manown was approached by Hale in early October about whether or not the Blue Devils squad would be receptive to the idea once the regular season rolled around, and without hesitation Manown accepted.
“He reached out to me and asked if our guys wanted to do it,” said Manown. “I was like, ‘Absolutely, yeah.’ That’s something I think anyone would get behind.”
Manown was right in his assumption. Immediately after word of the initiative got out in the locker room, many Blue Devils had yet another reason to be eager for the season to begin.
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In late February, the charity took a back seat to the harsh realities of early-season lacrosse, as Duke started out with an underwhelming 2-2 record. However, Manown and his roommate Kevin Quigley saw it as the opportune time to unite the team under a common goal, and kicked off the head-shaving in their own dorm room. Shortly after, dozens of Blue Devils were cramped into Manown and Quigley’s room waiting to get the most important haircut of their lives.
'I give the guys a lot of credit'
Already balancing a full academic load and a demanding schedule on the field, Duke’s involvement with Lacrosse for Life is all the more admirable, especially considering that the whole movement was carried out solely by the players, with the coaching staff being completely left in the dark.
“I really don’t know anything about it to be honest, but if it’s true what I read, a $1,000 donation for how many guys? Thirty-one? That’s pretty great for getting a haircut,” said head coach John Danowski. “I give the guys a lot of credit. Certainly for a lot of them, it’s not fashionable. Some don’t look good at all with their hair cut like that, but you gotta give them a lot of credit for doing something for others.”
Danowski’s comment on style applies for some players more than others. One trait stereotypical of lacrosse players is an excessive level of care for their mane, flow, lettuce, or any number of nicknames given to their hair. And while not all Duke players exemplified that image prior to shaving, there were some who gave up more than others in the name of charity.
“I think Turner Uppgren,” said Manown on who gave up the most. “He’s our goalie. He had some luscious, good looking hair and he got it going for the cause so good for him.”
Duke was privileged to be given this opportunity to do some good, and thanks to unflinching senior leadership and the overall character of the team, Duke contributed a small piece of a massive gift.
“Our students are like any other [Duke] students,” said Danowski. “They’re high character individuals and if somebody calls, they’ll answer. I think it’s as simple as that. I don’t think our guys are looking for any recognition from it. They’re just doing what any Duke student would do if called upon.”
While the Blue Devils will not take the field for the remainder of the 2020 season, they can leave this season with the confidence that they were able to make significant change happen, whether that be on or off the field.