Aside from his football prowess and MVP stature, Patrick Mahomes has gained notoriety for his hair on and off the field.
PEOPLE exclusively unveils the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback’s new campaign with Head & Shoulders, in which he costars with longtime hair icon and retired NFL star, Troy Polamalu.
Mahomes, 23, and Polamalu, 38, who both arguably boast two of the most googled looks in their sport, let their hair down (figuratively and literally) to open up to PEOPLE about how hair and self-care can be lateral passes in conveying the importance of identity and confidence.
“Everyone has their own style. You see it with the uniforms, you see it with how guys go about their business, showing up at games and being on the field. They want to be unique,” says Mahomes, who first started wearing his hair in a mohawk in college.
“It wasn’t something I wasn’t going for, but once it grew out, everybody seemed to like it and it kind of became a thing,” he recalls. “Now it’s a thing in the NFL and it’s part of who I am.”
Polamalu, on the other hand, was inspired to let his locks grow when he met his wife Theodora in the early 2000s — when Mahomes was only a child — after admiring the “greatest warriors throughout history who’d always had long hair.”
Indeed, both men can also classify themselves as inspiring warriors. “It’s really cool any time you see someone, especially little kids, who are trying to be like you in any way, and know that you’re an inspiration to them,” Mahomes says of the influence his hair has reached. “It just kind of shows that you have a platform that you can go out in the community and show these kids what it’s like to be a good human being, not just a great football player.”
While Mahomes is leading by example on the field, Polamalu is more so in his own home.
“I tell my children they have to grow their hair out until they leave. It also teaches you discipline, to slow down and to take care of yourself,” the father of two boys says. “If you have dirty, stinky hair, you don’t take care of your body. If you can really take good care of your hair that means you really know how to take care of yourself.”
Outside of being a role model to his kids, Polamalu names his Head & Shoulders costar Mahomes as the league’s leading hair hero.
“Find somebody that your children can really look up to: Patrick is that,” the future Pro Football Hall of Famer says. “I’d never have seen him play. I know that he’s the league MVP. I look at him like, ‘This man is special’ and he is something worth looking up because he’s a good person [and has] great qualities that parents need to encourage their children to look up to.”
And the higher the hair, the higher the praise. “It’s definitely a dream come true,” Mahomes says of working with Polamalu for the campaign after being a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers star’s “legendary” ads. “Seeing Troy and then seeing all those iconic commercials, I knew that once my hair was kind of my thing I wanted to be able to put that as part of my brand. I’m glad that it came into fruition, and I got to be a part of it now.”
Polamalu adds, “Having these opportunities to work with Head and Shoulders, now with Patrick, has always been a blessing that’s been a part of my life throughout my football career. Being able to meet somebody like Patrick and have somebody like him carry the brand forward is awesome.”
When asked who their Mount Rushmore of NFL hair greats would be, both men had saved a spot for one another.
“Troy had the iconic hair, he’d just run around the field and his hair’s just flying around everywhere,” says Mahomes, who also selects Odell Beckham Jr. (“His blond hair was different, especially when it first came out.”), Tom Brady (“He had long blonde hair, everybody loved that.”), Clay Matthews (“When his hair’s stringy and flying around, making plays.”) and Marion Barber III (“He used to shake his dreads when he ran so hard.”)
Polamalu also chose OBJ and Matthews, rounding out his selections with Brian Bosworth.