Since 2008, only one mainstay along Tech’s offensive line has been more imposing than right tackle Blake DeChristopher: his beard.
DeChristopher’s mane — or “The Beard,” as he refers to it — has been his signature since he arrived in Blacksburg. The Beard has caressed DeChristopher’s face for most of his 37 career starts — only vanishing when he chooses to showcase his unsettling Wilford Brimley mustache.
The Richmond native, under the guise of a West Virginia shack-dwelling hermit, has always admired quality face foliage.
“The inspiration came from older offensive linemen back in the day,” he said. “They grew their beards and looked tough. You wouldn’t mess with them.”
DeChristopher uses The Beard not to intimidate opponents, but to distract them.
“I think people are just mesmerized by it,” he said. “Once during a TV timeout against Boston College, their defensive end looked at me and said, ‘Man, you’ve got an awesome beard.’”
Even though his cheek-chia is merely hair, DeChristopher sees it as much more than that.
“The Beard has become a part of me,” he said. “Some nights I’ll just stare at it in the mirror to give it some attention — in case it hasn’t had enough that day. I’ll look at it so it feels loved.”
Grooming a Unabomber beard isn’t as easy as it looks.
“I like to use Pert Plus shampoo and conditioner — two-in-one,” he said. “I wash it out every other day, and I’ll comb it out sometimes.”
The ability to grow a gnarly beard with densely-populated whiskers has long been a rite of passage which separates men from boys. However, not everyone on Tech’s squad passes the test.
“We have a lot of guys on the team that can grow a beard — I wouldn’t call them A-listers,” DeChristopher said. “They’re probably B-lister beards. My beard is definitely an A-lister. Obviously.”
B-list chin-bush status isn’t quite as demoralizing as one might think.
Some of the players DeChristopher mentioned by name were Greg Nosal and Beau Gentry — Andrew Lanier is a solid B-plus.
“When he wants to be an A, he can do it,” DeChristopher said of Lanier and his talent at growing facial hair. “He likes to keep it nice and clean, which is understandable.
“Eric Martin is a B-lister, but he doesn’t count — he’s a red-head.”
To earn B-list status is an honor compared to the bottom echelon of neck-shrubs.
Jaymes Brooks wishes he could be considered a B-lister
“He can’t grow a beard,” DeChristopher said. “He’s been growing his facial hair for 20 years, and he has just a couple chin hairs and a little mustache — so we all give him a hard time.”
The Beard has earned DeChristopher a lot of notoriety on campus, especially for a guy playing a less-than-glorified position.
“People recognize it,” he said. “People say, ‘Oh hey! There’s Blake DeChristopher with The Beard!’ I think that’s kind of funny. As an offensive lineman, they normally wouldn’t know who I was.”
Despite all the attention, DeChristopher isn’t out to impress anybody with his ZZ Top rendition.
“It looks terrible,” he said. “I know it looks terrible, but I don’t care. I’ve got a girlfriend so I don’t really need to worry about my looks right now.”
His high school sweetheart, Carter, doesn’t find the excessive mug-monkey overly attractive.
“The mustache, she doesn’t like, because it hangs over my lip,” he said. “She says it looks pretty bad when she looks at me, but she’ll have to deal with it.”
When it comes to other girls wanting a slice of The Beard, Carter has nothing to worry about.