The best Josh Hull could do was call it a "Wild West" look.

But the suddenly semi-famous Penn State football mustache would seem to deserve more detailed attention.

This all starts with a classic football game on TV and a bonding contest among players, and it has now turned into a season-long fashion statement for the senior middle linebacker.

Maybe it's not really about fashion.

Mustaches, as you might know, really aren't in style now.

"I'm just trying to have some fun, not trying to stir anything up," Hull said, smiling. "Everyone just says, 'Nice 'stache.'"

Certainly, people keep asking him about it.

Even asking each other about it.

"Josh Hull's mustache?" tight end Andrew Quarless shot back to a reporter. "That mustache is funny. I wouldn't say I'm jealous. He's a funny guy, though."

"He's got a mustache?" coach Joe Paterno said. "I guess I've seen it, but I haven't noticed it. As long as it's not coming down to his neck, then he's all right.

"Good kid, great kid. Playing well. Heck of a student," Paterno said. "He's an engineer, 3.5 grade-point average. If he wants a mustache, that's OK."

* * *

The story goes that Hull and tight end Mickey Shuler were watching a replay of the 1995 Penn State-Northwestern game on the Big Ten Network.

"These guys all have mustaches," he told Shuler. "I might have to rock a mustache."

For the record, Shuler apparently can't grow one. The rest of the Lions, though, competed with varying levels of success during preseason camp, with fullback Joe Suhey impressing the most.

Team leader and quarterback Daryll Clark, for instance, keeps his mustache thin and finely trimmed.

The thought of sporting Hull's look?

"It's ugly on me," Clark said. "It's ugly on him, too. But he's playing lights-out, so he can have it."

Hull's style, it seems, is all his own. Thin, but not too thin. Long, but not yet flowing.

Not a true '70s porn-stache, as linebacker Sean Lee likes to say.

More like a young David Crosby. Or a really young Christopher Walken.

Maybe Ted Nugent.

The best fan reaction?

A female student wanted Hull to sign her game program, "The 'Stache Master."

And the thing is, as the mustache grows, along with its reputation, Hull seems to be finding his niche as a not-so-quick tackle machine. A smart player who's always in the right spot, calling the right defenses.

A big kid who fills lanes well in run support.

A plugger.

Not only has he earned a scholarship and morphed into a tackle machine, but he's also slowly winning over critics who always point out his lack of foot speed and "athleticism."

At the same time, possibly the only mustache of any substance on the team, continues to grow.


"I can't grow a mustache," Lee admitted. "But I think it's a great power look. I think it adds to his game a ton. I think it's made him a better football player."

Hull smiled when told of the comments.

"If the mustache is making me a better football player," he said, "we're going to keep it on there."

Bowman in, but Lee uncertain

It seems as if Penn State's Navorro Bowman will play in Saturday's most important prime time game, after all.

Sean Lee, the other injured star linebacker, is much more uncertain.

Bowman, who has missed nearly all of the first three games with a groin injury, practiced well on Monday and Tuesday, Lee said.

Doctors, though, will decide whether Lee's sprained knee is strong enough to play on Saturday against Iowa. And who knows when they will decide for sure?

Lee did not practice on Monday or Tuesday.

"If I'm not moving well and playing at 100 percent the doctors won't put me out there," Lee said. "I would love to be out there, especially in this game. You don't get to play in very many like this, but it's strictly up to the docs."

Of course, Lee will lobby hard for team doctor Wayne Sebastianelli to clear him for the game. And teammates know how difficult it will be to keep him on the sideline.

"I definitely feel like he's going to play," said quarterback Daryll Clark. "I really don't think it's to the point where it will take him out of the game. I think he feels the same way."; 771-2104