COLUMBIA — Most of the time it’s just a mirrored section of the locker room near the showers. On Thursday nights, it’s the Tigers’ barbershop.
When the Missouri football team is excused from its 9 p.m. meeting, the players shuffle into the locker room. Senior defensive back Tremane “Tru” Vaughns pulls out the electric razor from his black carrying case and starts taking customers. Steve Redmond, who has been sidelined with a knee injury this year, sets up another wooden chair across the table from Vaughns. They turn on Lil Wayne’s latest hip-hop album and Sean Weatherspoon can’t help but dance before sitting down for a haircut.
“We plug the clippers up and it’s a makeshift barbershop,” Redmond said.
Players like Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin and Danario Alexander come for a trim every week. Others hang around for the atmosphere. Sometimes players are there until midnight.
“It’s a friendly environment,” said senior defensive tackle Ziggy Hood, who has had his hair in cornrow braids all year. “We all joke around. It’s just everybody talking.”
Relationships, family, school — anything goes. Maybe that’s why the barbershop is so successful. Besides saving the guys $20, it’s a chance for everyone to let loose. Football season is physically and mentally wearing. The players have a rigorous practice schedule and play every game with the eyes of fans, media, coaches, bowl officials and NFL scouts upon them. They relish any chance to just be themselves.
“It’s nothing but locker room talk,” junior defensive tackle Jaron Baston said. “I like it though. We sit for hours and talk about everything.”
Hood said Vaughns listens like any good barber, but he doesn’t get too involved in the conversation. Vaughns usually has an iPod earpiece in one ear as he cuts.
“He doesn’t really give advice,” Hood said. “He’s just trying to focus on cutting.”
Redmond, who players call “Red,” thinks Vaughns gets a little too focused
“Tru takes a long time,” Redmond said. “I get my guys out in 10 or 15 minutes.”
If that sounds like a slight, it is. The competition between Vaughns and Redmond began to heat up earlier this season when the two first set up at the same time — one at each end of a table in the locker room. The rivalry is friendly, but the guys jump at the chance to do some smack talking.
“He’s trying to steal my customers,” Vaughns said.
Redmond tells it another way.
“I’ve been here longer than Tru,” Redmond said. “I’ve been cutting my hair since I was 8. Till he got here, I was the only guy.”
Redmond, a linebacker, has been a Tiger since 2004. Vaughns joined the team last year after being recruited out of Pasadena City College, where he first started to cut his own hair.
“Money’s tight out there,” Vaughns said of the Los Angeles area.
Soon he got good enough that his friends started asking for cuts. One of those friends was senior safety Justin Garrett, who also transferred to Missouri to play football.
“When we got out here, everybody started asking him, ‘Who’s cutting your hair?’” Vaughns remembered with a proud grin. “I’d say, ‘Well, that’s me.’”
And so the Tigers had a second barber in business. Now with a year to evaluate each, some players have picked a favorite.
Baston doesn’t get his hair cut often, but he likes what he sees from Vaughns.
“Tru has a lot of different styles he can do,” Baston said. “He’s got a fresh style.”
Others are dedicated to Redmond. Weatherspoon said Vaughns isn’t always around when he needs him.
“You call him and say you want your hair cut, he’ll call you back three days later,” Weatherspoon said. “Steve’s more reliable. He always does something real good for me.”
Redmond often shaves “ZOU” into the side of Weatherspoon’s hair. Last week he gave the linebacker a short Mohawk too.
Quarterback Chase Daniel came out with a Mohawk earlier this year to mixed reviews.
“Tru’s responsible for that,” Weatherspoon said as if to save Redmond’s reputation as a barber.
At the time, Vaughns had the hairstyle and offered to try it out on Daniel. The Mohawk didn’t last long. Some claimed it contributed to the Tigers’ loss to Oklahoma State that weekend. Still, Daniel turns to Vaughns each week to continue his tradition of getting a haircut before each game
“I’m a Tremane guy,” Daniel said, using Vaughns’ full first name.
The Tiger defense is full of big personalities, like the always-animated Weatherspoon and outspoken Baston. Vaughns may be one of the smallest players at 5 foot 9 inches, but he is known as one of the silliest.
“There’s nobody like Tru,” said Danario Alexander, who was one of Vaughns’ first customers when he came to Missouri. “He calls me Cut Easy.”
Because his hair is easy to cut?
“I don’t know,” Alexander said with a laugh. “He just adds ‘Easy’ (or ‘Eezy’) to everything. I call him Teezy. Sometimes he’ll call me Denareezy, but that one doesn’t really work.”
But if he’s goofy other times, Vaughns gets serious when it comes to his teammates’ hair. He takes pride in being team barber. For players who need to trust each other on the field, he said this makes a statement of how close they are off the field.
“It’s kind of special,” Vaughns said. “You don’t trust everybody with your hair. That’s your appearance, how you present yourself to people. I like that they trust me.”
But unless they want to start paying for haircuts again, the Tigers will need to find someone to fill the barber role when Vaughns and Redmond graduate this year. Sophomore defensive back Kevin Rutland has been training for the job. He said he has gotten some tips from Vaughns and even cut junior safety Del Howard’s hair, though he is still too nervous to try on himself yet.
“He’s getting there,” Vaughns said of Rutland. “Don’t worry, I’ll have him ready by the end.”