Seahawks' Shaquill, Shaquem Griffin say George O'Leary made them cut dreads at UCF

Shalise Manza YoungYahoo Sports Contributor

Dreadlocks are an ancient hairstyle, and have grown in popularity over the last 10 years or so. We’ve seen more and more NFL players with them, and they’re often quite attached to them.

For one, they take years to grow, and when done right, they take a good deal of maintenance.

But not everyone is a fan, apparently.

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Cut your hair or you won’t play

Now with the Seattle Seahawks, twins Shaquill and Shaquem Griffin are spending the final days of their summer break on a book tour; their memoir, “Inseparable,” was released this month.

On Thursday, the pair spoke with “SI Now,” and shared a painful story from their days at the University of Central Florida, when they say then-coach George O’Leary made them cut several inches of their hair early in the 2015 season.

Now with the Seattle Seahawks, twins Shaquem Griffin, left, and Shaquill Griffin said coach George O'Leary made them cut their dreadlocks at UCF. (Getty Images)
Now with the Seattle Seahawks, twins Shaquem Griffin, left, and Shaquill Griffin said coach George O'Leary made them cut their dreadlocks at UCF. (Getty Images)

“To this day I’m still not sure,” why they had to cut it, Shaquill said. “When it comes to cutting our hair, with him I feel it’s personal.

“I can tell you a little story about it: Going into camp that same year we cut it, he said, ‘I just don’t want to see the hair outside the helmet.’ And we had a lot of players whose hair was a lot longer than ours. So I was like, OK, it just won’t show.

“So me and my brother folded our dreads in half and put rubber bands around it so it was really short and it didn’t show. So we were like, we did what he said, we should be good. He came back and said, ‘I don’t want you to fold your hair, I want you to cut it.’

“That’s the part where it was like, OK, maybe this is a little personal, because you just said you didn’t want it to show out of the helmet and we did exactly what you said.

“At this point, he told me if you don’t cut it you won’t play, and the same for your brother.”

‘We were crying the whole way through’

At this point, Shaquem interjects that he wasn’t playing at the time anyway so the playtime threat didn’t really include him. But he wasn’t going to let his twin suffer alone, so Shaquem cut his hair too.

“We went to our dorm room and we made it happen,” Shaquill said. “We were crying the whole way through, had my mom on the phone on FaceTime while she watched us cut it. She’s crying, we’re crying, but that was a sacrifice we had to make. But I feel like the hardest part was him resigning a week after.”

O’Leary resigned in October 2015, with weeks left in the season.

The pair chopped roughly eight inches of hair. Shaquem said it affected his confidence; the pair now frequently wear their dreads in massive buns when they’re off the field, but Shaquem began wearing the bun because he didn’t feel as good wearing his hair down after they were forced to cut it.

‘It was really degrading’

SI Now interviewer Amy Campbell asked the brothers what they thought was O’Leary’s point in forcing the hair cut – power, control or perhaps a racial component.

“For us, I feel like it was really degrading,” Shaquem said. “He pushed us in certain ways that can be unexplainable. It’s hard to explain what the reason was behind it, but it was very degrading. It made us stronger and it brought us more together.

“It brought us to a point where it was like, we’re going to fight, we’re not going to quit on each other, we can’t allow him to win, even if he thinks that he was going to be close to winning, we can’t let him feel like he was going to break us because you can’t break both of us when we’re together.”

In 2014, a former UCF assistant, who is white, accused O’Leary of making racist remarks about African-American players in a breach of contract suit.

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