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September 12, 2013

Mustachioed O'Toole setting high standard for football facial hair

"Everything I do from now on, I'll have a mustache. I can promise you that" - actor Ty Burrell.

Although those words came from the mouth of a comedic actor, they speak volumes to the current lifestyle of West Virginia punter Nick O'Toole. The JUCO transfer made waves with football fans across the country last month when a team photo featuring him showcased the punter in a new light - a mustachioed light.

O'Toole, sporting a finely-groomed mustache blanketing his upper lip, contrasting a rather mischievous smile, became an overnight celebrity in the Mountain State for this picture. Although he is now embracing the ironic fame his facial hair has provided, O'Toole says he did not expect the mustache to truly take on a life of its own.

"I didn't expect it to go this viral, this big," O'Toole said. "I thought it was just a funny picture that people could laugh at. Apparently everybody's enjoying it."

And going viral it has. The legend of O'Toole's mustache has been fully embraced by the Mountaineer faithful this season, spawning Facebook fan pages, Twitter accounts and frequent message board chatter in its honor.

So far, O'Toole is loving the attention.

"The fan page was growing, and I liked it because I wanted to see what people were saying," he said. "I thought it was crazy."

While it started out as a simple joke, fans have taken the now-iconic mustache and turned O'Toole into a cult figure in Morgantown. Earlier this week, shirts began to appear across campus featuring the silhouette of 1980's professional wrestler, and O'Toole doppelganger, "Ravishing" Rick Rude with the phrase "#Boomstache" underneath.

O'Toole says he discovered the shirts while driving High Street this week and just had to buy one for himself, which he was sporting throughout the interview.

"I saw one of the fan pages had something about t-shirts being made," he said. "I thought somebody was joking at first and making up something that should happen. Then Monday, I saw that they were selling them on High Street. So we went down to the store and picked up some shirts."

Along with the shirts, O'Toole said that fans on his Facebook page have been promoting this Saturday's matchup with Georgia State as a "Stache the Stadium" event, playing on the words of West Virginia's "Stripe the Stadium" promotion. For now, O'Toole believes the potential for 50,000 fans donning mustaches - real and fake - could be just the spark the Mountaineers need this season.

"One of the things on the Facebook page, it said to "Stache the Stadium," and I thought people were just going to acknowledge it; they weren't going to participate in it," O'Toole said. "But apparently there's people posting pictures with their kids and random people posting with fake mustaches, so it should be fun out there."

While the quest for facial hair fame has provided O'Toole, his teammates and Mountaineer fans with a good laugh this season, he is not the first punter at West Virginia that is not afraid to take himself too seriously.

Former Mountaineer and current Indianapolis Colt punter Pat McAfee is also known to enjoy a good joke or two in his playing days. In fact, fans see such a similarity in the personalities of the two punters - both playing and off the field - that they have borrowed a portion of McAfee's nickname "Boomstick" to help best describe O'Toole - "Boomstache."

"I don't know how that started," he said. "All I know is Pat McAfee, one of the great punters that was here, they called him "Boomstick," and apparently I'm now "Boomstache." I'll take it."

Currently, O'Toole has no plans to shave the mustache. Even when pressured recently by a friend, he turned down the opportunity thanks to a desire to push it towards the next level.

"I can't shave it now. There's no way," O'Toole said. "I was talking to one of my friends and one of her friends was saying how she doesn't like the facial hair. Then I was telling her, 'can't shave it now. There's no going back.'"

As for the future of his mustache, O'Toole believes the ceiling has yet to be reached on its "greatness." By the end of the season, the punter hopes to add a new "twist" to his facial hair.

"I'm going to grow it out and try to get the Rollie Fingers look to it," O'Toole said, twisting his fingers at the end of his mustache to signify a desire to grow it further. "Put a little wax in there; we'll see how everybody likes that."

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