In my view, Brian Keefer has always stood out.
Sixteen years ago, he was part of an extra-special Maple Grove football team that claimed a Section 6 championship and came within a whisker of advancing to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Final Four. For his efforts, Keefer was selected The Post-Journal's 1996 Player of the Year.
He went on to Alfred University, played strong safety and, before he was through, was a three-time Division III All-American.
After graduating from AU, Keefer landed in Cortland, accepted a job with Pall Corporation and, at 33, is the company's project manager for new product research and development.
Good stuff, huh?
But Keefer admits to having a figurative skeleton in his closet.
"I get bored,'' he said the other night, "and I do things that other people don't want me to do."
Like letting his hair grow long.
Make that very long.
"My sister likes to call it a shaggy mop,'' Keefer said.
His barber would probably call his next appointment "long overdue.''
"Three years ago, me and my buddy decided to grow our hair out for no particular reason,'' Keefer said, "and we just kept it going."
Or did he mean keep it "growing?''
By Keefer's estimation, he hasn't had a haircut in almost six months.
That's about to change in less than two weeks, however, when he plans to sit down and have his flowing locks removed in an effort to raise money and awareness to support the Ovarian Research Cancer Fund and, closer to home, his aunt, Theresa Bonnett of Girard, Pa., who will soon be undergoing treatment for the disease.
Aunt Theresa was recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer and underwent successful surgery, Keefer said, at Cleveland Clinic. As a member of a close immediate and extended family, he decided to do something to show his love for his aunt, although the "hair-cutting thing" didn't immediately come to mind.
Then one day a few weeks ago, he was walking down a hall at work and somebody commented on his hair, suggesting that Keefer should make an appointment with the nearest hair stylist.
That got Keefer to do a little soul searching.
"I thought, 'I bet a lot of people would pay to get rid of this (head of hair),' and the idea clicked,'' he said.
Soon he posted notes on office bulletin boards describing his fundraising/awareness plan. The response was immediate. Now, Keefer has created a website - www.gofundme.com/cancer-cut - where donations can be sent.
"It's a fun way to support something serious,'' Keefer said.
The effort so inspired Keefer's 11-year-old nephew, Jacob, who lives in Cleveland, that he has already made a $5 pledge.
Keefer's niece, 7-year-old Grace, wasn't quite as impressed, though.
"She told me that I better hope to get married within two weeks,'' Keefer said, "because I'm going to get ugly and nobody is going to want to marry me after that."
But Keefer, whose father, Dayle, is the pastor of the Fluvanna Community Church, believes that God has a plan in all of this.
"(My aunt's diagnosis) affected me pretty deeply when it happened to her,'' he said. "That got me to thinking, 'How can I make a difference in a small way, a big way, anything?'
"I think a lot of it may be a function of growing up in a church environment and just wanting to help people."
So on Sept. 28, at a time and place to be announced, Keefer will sit down for his first haircut in half a year.
"They're going to shave different things into my head,'' he said, including a mohawk and the always-popular mullet before the stylist gets down to business and turns the "mop head" into a cueball.
"It's not about me or my hair,'' Keefer said. "It's about people like my aunt. There are a lot of people out there who are battling cancer and this is just something we can do to support them and honor them.''
By the way, about a year ago Keefer began working with a youth group at the Grace Church in Cortland. Each Wednesday night anywhere from 30 to 60 teenagers show up. In their last meeting, Keefer told the kids how he planned to honor his Aunt Theresa.
Can you think of a better life lesson for the youth of that church?
I didn't think so.