As haircuts go, few in the mid-1980s were more famous than Brian Bosworth’s, pictured above. A mix of mullets and mohawks and… whatever those lines are, it really didn’t matter. Bosworth was widely-regarded as the best linebacker in college football, and that fame lent itself nicely to both hairdos and a personality which were larger than life. The Boz, as the Oklahoma Sooner standout was known, was a polarizing figure. Fans of his team loved him, even when he tested positive for anabolic steroids resulting in his dismissal from the Sooner football team. Haters, as it is now said, are going to hate, and the Boz was a great example of this — as his pro career demonstrated.
Bosworth made his NFL debut during the 1987 season as a member of the Seattle Seahawks. Before he was even drafted, though, he had continued to rustle the feathers of fans and team executives alike. For example, he sent letters to various NFL teams telling them that he’d not sign with them if they drafted him — this was his way to choose the team of his liking. (It didn’t work out, as Seattle was one of the teams which didn’t want the Boz, but the team offered him the largest ever rookie contract at the time, paving the way to Bosworth joining the Seahawks.) And before the Seahawks’ season-opening game versus the Denver Broncos, Bosworth’s attitude hit before his shoulders did.
A rookie with no professional experience, the Boz started running his mouth about the Broncos’ quarterback, All-Pro and future Hall of Famer John Elway. As recounted in the book “300 Pounds of Attitude: The Wildest Stories And Craziest Characters The NFL Has Ever Seen,” the outspoken Bosworth became public enemy number one in Denver:
“I can’t wait to get my hands on John Elway’s boyish face,” the Boz boasted. He added that he’d rather get penalized for a late hit than let Elway run out of bounds unscathed.
Bronco fans, predictably, were outraged. About ten thousand of them wore t-shirts featuring Bosworth’s face with a slash through it. The shirts read “What’s a Boz Worth? Nothing” on the front and “Ban the Boz” on the back.
Bosworth didn’t mind. In fact, he liked the attention. But that’s wasn’t just him being a ham for the spotlight — it was because the Bronco fans’ collective hatred of him was good for business. The t-shirts they bought were made by a company called 44 Boz, Inc. — 44 being a reference to Bosworth’s college uniform number, and Boz, of course, being his nickname. 44 Boz was Bosworth’s own apparel company. The Bronco fans who thought they were one-upping the linebacker were, unbeknownst to them, his customers.
Bosworth — whose rookie contract called for an $11 million salary — didn’t keep the proceeds from his little marketing ploy. He donated it to a children’s hospital and later said that the entire stunt — including the words he spoke about Elway — were designed as a marketing ploy.
Double bonus!: In a technical sense, Boz’s hairdo wasn’t ever a mullet. That’s because the term “mullet” didn’t exist in the mid-1980s when he sported such a fine, fine hairdo. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (via Wikipedia), the term was coined in 1994 by the Beastie Boys, who released the song “Mullet Head” that year. The song’s lyrics define the term by referencing the hair of famous people such as Jean Claude Van Damme and Joey Buttafuco while instructing would-be mullet-heads to “cut the sides, don’t touch the back.” (The song also makes reference to Kenny G, but he never really had a mullet, so perhaps we’re all using the term wrong?)
From the Archives: Patently Bald: A patent for hair care for those with little hair.
Related: “300 Pounds of Attitude: The Wildest Stories And Craziest Characters The NFL Has Ever Seen” by Jonathan Rand. Not very well regarded, but it has the story above in it. Also, everything by the Beastie Boys. If you don’t own all of this already, you should.