If Colorado head football coach Mike MacIntyre had his way, he'd hire a barber to trim the long locks of linebacker Addison Gillam.
MacIntyre admits, however, that he does love watching Gillam's hair flying through air as he tracks down ball carriers, because it signals Gillam's perseverance through a long, arduous journey to once again become a dominant force for the Buffaloes' defense.
MacIntyre had to pause to control his emotions and then wipe away tears as he talked about how well Gillam is playing lately for the Buffs (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12), who visit Stanford (4-2, 2-2) on Saturday.
"It's been turmoil for him," MacIntyre said. "To see him walk through it like he has has been ... pretty inspirational to say the least."
A freshman All-American in 2013, Gillam couldn't stay healthy throughout the 2014 season, while at the time dealing with family issues. He spent hours consulting his older sister, MacIntyre and CU sports psychologist, Chris Bader.
At one point, Gillam thought about leaving the game.
Gillam came into the 2015 season feeling better mentally and physically and then suffered a knee injury during the second game of the season. He didn't play again that season and missed all of spring practice this year.
Coming back this fall, he's been a reserve, losing his starting job to sophomore Rick Gamboa. Coming off the bench, though, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound redshirt junior has been a terror the last three weeks. In a 40-16 win against Arizona State on Saturday, he had five tackles, two tackles for loss and two massive hits on ASU quarterback Manny Wilkins.
"Now that he's 230-something, he can run like he could before and he has that smile on his face, and I always tease him about his hair flowing, but I love seeing that hair flow when he runs," MacIntyre said. "It's just been awesome, and the kids have rallied around him.
"They've see him fight through all those things. It's been a great life lesson, not only for him, but for me, and it's been a great life lesson for our team. I just hope and pray that he stays healthy and keeps playing, because it's a lot of fun to watch him play and he gets pure joy out of it. And, so do I."
One win away
CU is just one win away from No. 6, which would mean bowl eligibility for the first time since 2007. That's not on the minds of the Buffs, though.
"We're talking about a Pac-12 championship, so every game matters," MacIntyre said. "If we do that, we'll get to a bowl game, too. All we're talking about is trying to win a Pac-12 championship."
Running back Phillip Lindsay said it would be a great feeling to reach bowl eligibility, but added, "Our goal is Pac-12 champs. There's nothing less than that."
Outside linebacker Jimmie Gilbert said a bowl game "would be nice, but that's not what we want. That's below what we want. Our goal is to shoot for the stars, and if we reach them, that's what we want. If not, we tried."
MacIntyre reiterated that junior Chris Graham and freshman Davis Price will continue to battle for place-kicking duties. "Those young men are working hard," MacIntyre said. ... Even after the Buffs registered five sacks against Arizona state, Gilbert, who had two of those, said, "I feel we're not where we need to be with the pass rush." ... CU goes into Saturday's game looking to snap a 10-game losing streak in games played in the state of California. ... The Buffs have scored touchdowns on their opening possession in five of seven games. The opposition has zero points on opening drives.