LOS ANGELES — Liam Ryan looked like a combination of Alan from “The Hangover” and Joe Dirt at Wednesday’s Pac-12 Media Day. With the sides of his normally dark hair buzzed, a bleached mullet hung off the back of the Washington State center’s head and sunglasses covered his eyes on radio row.
“A bunch of people tell me I look half-decent, half-decent right here,” said Ryan, stroking the front part of his head before sliding down the back. “Not on that side.”
At 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds, Ryan has the build of an offensive lineman. Add that to the hairdo and his personality, and he’s the perfect fit for his head coach, Washington State’s Mike Leach, long known for his interesting interactions with the media. Now a redshirt junior, Ryan played last season in front of Cougars star quarterback Gardner Minshew, whose mustache became almost as popular as his play.
Ryan was growing out a mustache of his own last fall, and it was in cahoots with Minshew. That’s where the idea for the mullet started. Ryan already had the long hair anyway, so why not a mullet to compliment the upper lip hair? The duo made a deal to grow mullets together, but Minshew’s fame picked up and he started attending award shows.
“My mom would, like, whoop me if I showed up with a mullet,” Ryan remembers Gardner saying.
“So I was like, ‘All right, I’ll stick with it,’” Ryan said Wednesday.
But does Ryan’s mom hate the look just as much as Minshew’s did?
“She doesn’t care. I guess everyone had mullets back then, so she just laughs every time,” Ryan said.
Ryan’s hair now rivals that of Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, though Gundy has him on mullet longevity. Gundy has rocked the mullet since the beginning of the 2018 season.
Ryan first cut the hair into mullet for the Alamo Bowl. In April, he dyed it with frosted tips, Backstreet Boys style, for the spring game. That’s when he considered growing his hair back out without the shaved sides.
But Leach and Washington State athletic trainer Andrew Hamstra, among others, told Ryan to keep it. Ryan impersonated Leach when recalling the encounter.
“All right, uhh,” Ryan said, incorporating Leach’s raspy and often hesitating cadence. “I think you should keep it because there was another dude who had a mullet for like a year and he rocked it.”
“Well, he's got a little shock value to his hair taste,” Leach said Wednesday. “But it's ever changing. It's ever changing, so don't get your heart set on it because he's going to change it ... it looks good on him.”
Ryan’s personality matches the goofy, Brian Bosworth-esque look. He’s recently started fishing but before he could elaborate on it he had to cut out of his media session. He darted off for a quick, two-minute bathroom break 18 minutes into the 25-minute interview and came back to tell his favorite Leach stories, like the time Leach arrived late to practice because he was talking to President Donald Trump.
Ryan said he could tell a bunch of Leach stories. He knows the media likes them and has grown to enjoy his interactions with the media, too, noting he likes to make reporters laugh. Maybe that’s why he had the women’s soccer team dye his whole head. Or maybe it was to show up Minshew. Regardless, the mullet is here to stay.
“Now it's kind of with me. It's like a signification, I guess,” Ryan said. “Got to keep it now. Why not when I have hair? I won't have hair forever.”
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