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Thursday, October 29, 2009
Small sinks his teeth in for Gophers


Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Michigan State players who line up across from Eric Small on Saturday night might think the Minnesota defensive tackle is taking the Halloween thing a little too far.
 
 Josh Holmberg /Icon SMI
 Eric Small said he doesn't need an excuse to wear fake fangs.

Small has made a special mouthpiece for himself, complete with fangs, which he wears during games.

"I’ve tried showing it [to opponents], but I don’t know how many guys have seen it yet," he said.

Small will wear the fangs against the Spartans, which fits perfectly with the Halloween theme at TCF Bank Stadium.

Then again, he'll wear fangs on Sunday, too. And Monday. And Tuesday. And Wednesday. And so on.

In fact, Small has been wearing fangs pretty much every day for the last two and a half years. He wears them to classes, to social activities, anywhere he goes.

"It’s just kind of my style, my attitude, something I wanted to do, and I’m finally doing it," he said. "I like wearing fangs. It’s who I am. I have them in pretty much everywhere I go, so when they’re not in, I just don’t feel right."

Figuring out Small's inspiration for the fangs isn't easy.

He's not really into werewolves or vampires. He isn't trying to copy a celebrity. He's a big heavy metal music fan -- Rob Zombie, Mudvayne and the Swedish group Sonic Syndicate are among his favorites -- but he doesn't see too many people wearing fangs at concerts.

And the strangest part? Small seems like a pretty normal guy.

“It sounds weird, but I don’t do it for anyone else," said the 6-2, 306-pound senior. "I don’t put them in, like, 'Who can I show these to?' I just wear them and I go about my daily business just because I like the feeling of having them in. It's become so natural for me now."

He might not be looking for attention, but he still gets plenty of it, even from classmates.

"I’ll be talking to them and their eyes immediately go to my mouth and their face is just like, ‘Whoa, who is this guy? What is he doing?’" Small said. "It’s not like I’ve said anything wrong. It’s just that they see this and they’re so shocked. Some people that don’t know me, they get scared, with the fangs and the long hair.

"A lot of people think it’s cool, some people think it’s scary, but it’s just what I do."

The fangs haven't really caught on in the Gophers locker room. Fellow defensive tackle Garrett Brown owned a pair for a while but no longer wears them, much to Small's disappointment.

Still, Small probably won't be the only one a little long in the tooth on Halloween night.

"My mom was joking around about maybe wearing a pair for the game," he said, "so we’ll see if she ends up doing that."

Now that would be awesome.

Not surprisingly, Small is a big Halloween fan, but his get-ups aren't as wild as you'd think. He has gone as Joe Dirt and Hulk Hogan in the past and is thinking about being wrestler Triple H this year.

"My costumes really don’t go too far into the scary," he said. "I enjoy the haunted houses and all that stuff, but the fangs, I don’t incorporate those."

Small, who has recorded three sacks and a forced fumble this year, hopes to continue playing football at the next level. If not, he might pursue a career in exercise science, possibly becoming a strength coach.

Would he wear the fangs to a job interview?

"Depends on the job, I guess," he said. "If I was applying to be a bouncer or a security guard for a metal band, then yeah, I’d wear 'em. But if I’m going to be working a 9-to-5, I don’t think so."