- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- For about two years, Matthias and Kenan Farley had a bet going: Who could grow his hair longer? The winner would receive nothing. For the loser who gave in and chopped his dreads off first, fate would simply intervene and deliver a cruel destiny.
"It would bring shame on the household," Kenan said, struggling to contain laughter.
By cutting his hair for the first workouts upon his arrival to Notre Dame, Matthias lost the bet. He kept the remains out of sentimental value, storing them at his parents' house in Charlotte, N.C. And what he has done with the Fighting Irish in the two years since has caused the exact opposite effect of the wager's intended consequences.
Irony hardly begins to define the rapid rise of Farley, who will start at safety against Alabama in Monday night's Discover BCS National Championship. The sixth of eight children -- and the fourth of six brothers -- Farley avoided the gridiron for much of his life in order to carve his own identity. He gave in as a prep junior, went to Notre Dame as a receiver, changed positions after a redshirt season, then found himself starting four weeks into his first year of playing, Jamoris Slaughter's Week 3 achilles tear giving way to the next challenge for an eccentric athlete always seeking new ones.
"He's not afraid of anything, any challenge," head coach Brian Kelly said. "If you ask him if he's got to take Portuguese, he'll learn Portuguese. There's nothing that he looks at and goes, 'I can't do this.' He's got so much pride and so much confidence in himself that any task that you ask him to do, he's going to find a way."
Such is life in a family with an unspoken demand of excellence.
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