Ziemba’s hair destined for a good cause

The flowing, blonde locks that escape the back of Michael Ziemba’s helmet are an all-too-noticeable feature.

As the junior defensive end is whipping around offensive tackles and into the backfield, hair is streaming behind him. Of course, he likes it, and his Indiana teammates, especially Peyton Hendershot and Caleb Jones, think it looks cool.

But he knows everyone is not a fan.

Including his mom.

“She just likes when I’m clean-cut. Like all moms, I feel like,” Ziemba said.

It may not be a look all mothers would love, but what Ziemba plans to do with all that hair should help his cause.

When the time is right, maybe right before the Hoosiers head to a postseason bowl, Ziemba plans to go back to the short-haired look he arrived to Bloomington with in 2017. What’s cut off will be donated to Locks of Love, a charity providing hairpieces to children suffering from hair loss.

“If someone can use this, I want them to have it, rather than having it swept off the floor,” Ziemba said. “I figured it’s for a good cause, so I’m going to do that.”

The idea came to IU’s high-motor defender via competition. He wanted his hair to be longer than his high school friend, Sebastian, whose brown locks were well past the shoulders, even longer than Ziemba’s.

His entire life, Ziemba has had periods of either long or short hair. But once he was in competition with Sebastian, he was going long. And then longer and longer.

Ziemba hasn’t cut his hair since September 2017.

“I remember everyone knew me having regular hair. Now it’s really long,” Ziemba said. “Now everyone’s like ‘You’ve changed a lot.’ I’ve been growing it out ever since.”

The hair on his head isn’t the only change. The 6-foot-3, 256-pounder from Sanford, Fla., used to be a tight end and linebacker for Lake Mary High.

But his explosiveness at the snap has translated well to the defensive end position. He just recently climbed to the top of the Hoosiers’ depth chart, starting the season with 3.5 tackles for loss in his first four games.

“Being a defensive end was a little bit foreign to him when he came here,” defensive line coach Mark Hagen said. “He’s really been a self-made player for us. He’s coming on and getting better. He has a great motor out there.”

It wasn’t an easy transition, but Ziemba’s explanation of why it worked is simple and straight to the point, as he often is in conversation.

“Playing tight end, I was just running around, catching the ball. At linebacker, I was being physical, coming downhill,” Ziemba said. “I’m just putting them together at d-end, trying to use my speed and physicality to get to the quarterback.”

The hair competition is just as straightforward. Ziemba won.

His friend eventually related. Once Sebastian’s ponytail hit 12 inches — 10 is the minimum length for a Locks of Love donation, from tip to tip — he went and got it cut.

“He went to a certain place, he cut the ponytail, he took the picture,” Ziemba said. “I just kind of wanted that same picture, the way he did it.”

There are other reasons why getting his hair cut would, eventually, be a good idea.

Ziemba has had offensive tackles, reaching for his shoulder pads to block, yanking at the hair that’s also there. He’s been able to pull through — and, as far as he’s aware — not lose any hair in the process.

“I’ve had a couple of guys pull it,” Ziemba said. “That’s another reason I want to cut it and donate it. I don’t want it to be too damn long.”

But he’s going to wait until the season is just about over. Between now and a bowl game, which the Hoosiers just clinched at Nebraska, it’s going to be a while.

He isn’t too concerned, though.

“How much longer do you think it’s going to be between then and now? A half an inch?” Ziemba said. “People say my hair grows too fast, but it shouldn’t be too much longer.”


  1. This is the kind of representation of your program you want to see. Great player both on and off the field.

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