Of all the famous mustaches in history, Will Svitek does not make the list. The offensive lineman for the Atlanta Falcons doesn’t mind however. “I always have a little scruff, being a big 300 lb guy, you have to hide your double chin and make yourself look a little skinnier, but I am definitely not a mustache guy.” The growth on Svitek’s upper lip is not a fashion statement. He is not trying to become the Rollie Fingers of the NFL. He is simply raising awareness for a cause that has touched his life personally, and impacts 1 in 6 men in the U.S. November has officially been renamed “Movember” to raise awareness and support for prostate cancer and other male cancer initiatives.
In 2001, Will’s father Milan was diagnosed with prostate cancer. At the time, Will was entering his sophomore year at Stanford. The news came right before the football season started and complicated Will’s preparation for the season. “It was tough, you always think the worst and I didn’t have any knowledge of what prostate cancer was,” said Svitek. He knew his dad was in for a tough road, and there was no doubt that he would help his dad along the way. Will took the approach of educating himself about the disease, the treatments, and being a supportive influence to his father.
Instead of allowing the devastating news to impact his abilities on the field, Svitek used it as a motivating factor. “Playing football can be hard but I always thought it was nothing compared to what my dad was going through,” Svitek said. And Svitek has carried that motivation with him through his football journey. Going from a defensive end at Stanford, to a sixth round pick in the NFL, and the transition to left tackle for the Atlanta Falcons today, Svitek has always had his father in mind. “It put things in perspective for me,” said Svitek, “and helps me not take things for granted, maximize every opportunity on the football field because I am fortunate to be healthy.”
Milan had surgery in 2001 and radiation in 2004 when the cancer came back, but he is doing well and has been cancer-free for 7 years. But the fight does not end there. Will has enlisted the help of his fellow offensive lineman on the Falcons to help raise awareness of prostate cancer and the importance of getting screened. “Being a male, its one of things we don’t want to talk about, and we don’t want to go get tested,” Svitek said, “but prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers, and if caught early, it is also one of the more treatable forms.”
In the month of October, you saw the NFL uniforms and apparel accented with pink for breast cancer awareness. In November, the mustache is coming to a stadium near you. So while Svitek’s mustache may not rank up with the likes of Tom Selleck, Borat, and Mike Ditka, if it creates conversation about the topic of men’s health and motivates more men to be screened for prostate cancer, a month of not shaving his upper lip will all be worth it.
You can follow Will on Twitter @willsvitek to see updated photos of all the Atlanta Falcons’ mustaches and donate to the Movember project at http://us.movember.com/mospace/1922003/.
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