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Aaron Rodgers' good-luck whiskers belong to Wausau man
Jeremy Wilcox, whose company is a Lambeau Field contractor for the Green Bay Packers, caused a social media stir when FOX Sports TV cameras caught Rodgers tugging the man's beard right before he re-entered Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions. T'xer Zhon Kha/Daily Herald Media
TOWN OF MAINE — Forget Santa Claus' white whiskers — the most famous beard in Wisconsin belongs to Jeremy Wilcox.
Wilcox's luxurious nine-inch red beard was the one Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers gave a gentle half tug, half squeeze to before returning to Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions in the third quarter. After the good luck pull of Wilcox's whiskers, Rodgers, who had left the game in the first half after being felled by a calf injury, returned to the field and, in the ensuing offensive series, connected with receiver Randall Cobb for a 13-yard touchdown.
Even before the game ended the internet was buzzing about The Beard. "Some people have a lucky rabbit's foot, Aaron Rodgers' good luck charm is apparently someone's beard," wrote John Breech of CBSSports.com before the game ended with a 30-20 score in favor of the Packers. "I'm not going to sit here and say that the beard works miracles, but after Rodgers tugged it, he was moving around like he was completely healthy."
Wilcox, 39, lives in a log cabin built by his grandfather just north of Wausau, in an out-of-the-way corner in the town of Maine. He is a union telecommunications technician who works for Dataline Services, a contracting company hired to provide communications support at Lambeau Field during home games. Wilcox's job — and it's great one, he said — is to be on the sidelines during the games to provide technical support.
He can't exactly say how the lucky tug started. Rodgers caught Wilcox's eye in a game early this season. "He kind of laughed," Wilcox said, and then the quarterback stroked his chin. "I knew where it was going. He gave it a little tug, and I just laughed."
Ever since, Rodgers has tracked down Wilcox before every home game to repeat the move. "It's never at the same time or same place, it's not like it's a ritual or anything," Wilcox said.
The result? The Packers are one of two teams to complete the regular season undefeated at home.
Fans don't think so. Since the footage of Rodgers stroking the whiskers aired Sunday, it has become an Internet meme and the talk of Packers nation.
Wilcox knows it's a sensation — he was deluged with interview requests Monday, which had to be approved by the Packers — and he's just going along for the ride. Nor does he feel any pressure now. "It's just lighthearted. It's a lot of fun. ... Just guys having fun," Wilcox said.
Shortly after the tug was televised across the country, Wilcox's mother, Wendy Wilcox of Little Chicago posted on the Facebook site "You Know You're from Wausau, WI If..." "That Aaron Ro(d)gers 'good luck tug' was my son's beard!" she wrote. "Woo hoo! He does it every home game."
That spurred plenty of localized attention in the Wausau area. Keith Rothenberger, 42, of Wausau, now the manager of the Sleep Number store in Rib Mountain, worked with Wilcox about 20 years ago when they both were deliverymen for Slumberland Furniture.
"Honestly, he was just one of the nicest guys you would want to know," Rothenberger said. It was especially good to work with Wilcox, who is 6-feet-5-inches tall, built like a fireplug and a former offensive lineman for the Wausau West High School. Wilcox was so strong, he made Rothenberger's job easy.
Rothenberger was watching the game Sunday afternoon, and didn't recognize Wilcox. But then he read Wendy Wilcox's post and everything clicked. "He was one of those guys who could grow a beard pretty quickly if he wanted to," Rothenberger said. "He'd have a beard in a couple of days."
Wilcox started growing this particular beard about two years ago. "I let it grow because I didn't want to mess around with it anymore," he said. "I don't do anything with it. I let it run wild."
Rodgers isn't the only person fascinated by the beard. "People come up to me all the time and ask me if they can touch it," he said.
Rodgers never really asked Wilcox if he could give it a little pull. It just was understood. And even now, Rodgers and Wilcox haven't spoken. "He's never said anything about it," Wilcox said. "He doesn't even really look at me when he does it."
Wilcox will let you touch his beard, too, if you ask. He'll laugh, and say, "Sure. Go ahead."
But you won't. You don't mess with that kind of Packers mojo.
Rothenberger thinks the beard might be lucky because it's red. "You know, luck of the Irish, maybe," he said. Maybe tugging the beard has no luck at all, he said, "but once you start it, you can't stop it."
Keith Uhlig can be reached at 715-845-0651. Find him on Twitter as @UhligK.