NEW ORLEANS — It’s hard these days for Saints punter Thomas Morstead to go around New Orleans under the radar.
It’s his long, flowing hair that stands out more than anything else.
Come Saturday, however, he might just go back to being an under-the-radar elite athlete.
And he’s doing it for charity.
Morstead is cutting all of his off Saturday, donating his mane to Wigs for Kids during the annual St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser, taking place this year at Finn McCool’s Pub on Banks Street from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The inspiration to keep growing his hair came from former Saints special teams ace Steve Gleason, who used to do the same thing with his long hair.
“I found out he used to donate his hair every year,” Morstead said. “Then it gave me a rational reason to do it. I had an excuse to not cut my hair.”
Morstead, who has been growing his hair since the 2010 Saints season, said the goal for this year’s event is to raise $100,000. They’ve already nearly matched last year’s haul of about $66,000 and have surpassed what they took in two years ago by $30,000.
But they’re still $40,000 away, Morstead said.
The St. Baldrick’s event is a sort of shave-a-thon, where people with hair long enough – and not long enough – shave their heads for charity.
“You don’t have to have long enough hair to donate,” Morstead said. “People just shave their head, kind of in an effort to, ‘Hey, if we all shave our heads, what’s the big deal about not having hair?’ ”
Though Morstead’s mother is a cancer survivor, his interest has always been with helping cancer-related or children-related charities. His hair helps both.
The money raised by St. Baldrick’s goes to research in fighting childhood cancer.
As for Wigs for Kids, Morstead said research led him to that organization.
“They seem like they do big things and are a little lesser known than other organizations,” he said. “It’s all for children.”
Still, just because it’s for a good cause doesn’t mean Morstead doesn’t a have a bit of trepidation in shaving his head after growing it for nearly three years.
“I talked to a bunch of people who have grown their hair out for as long as I have,” Morstead said. “They say it’s a more emotional thing than you’ll think it is, especially when it’s going to somebody. It’s not like cutting four inches off your hair or trimming your hair. It’s like you had hair and then all of a sudden you’re bald. It’s a pretty extreme change.”
He’s excited and ready for the change, as he suspects his fiancé Lauren Moore is, too. The two are getting married in July and Saturday’s event comes at the perfect time for him to be ready for that occasion.
“I mean it’s going to be tough but it is for a good cause,” Morstead said.” I am getting married in July so I need to look respectable for my wedding day.”
But because Morstead also is a football player, he wanted to make sure Saints fans understood one thing about him cutting his hair – he’s not like Sampson.
“He’s not going to lose his power with his hair because everybody keeps asking me if I’m worried about losing my mojo, my energy from my long hair,” Morstead said. “I will be unaffected next year from that.”
To donate money, you can visit the St. Baldrick's website.