New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick wipes his forehead during...

New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick wipes his forehead during the second half of an NFL preseason football game against the Detroit Lions, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015, in Detroit. Credit: AP / Paul Sancya

Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to ignore them all.

For the next five months, the Jets quarterback will bask in the glow of his trademark bushy beard -- and there's nothing his teammates or his wife can do about it.

"I had a hard time growing facial hair until I was about 24. It was just patchy and it would never come in,'' the 11-year NFL veteran said after a recent practice. "And then, I don't know, something happened in Buffalo. It finally thickened up.''

After so many years of sprouting sad little wisps of hair on his chin, he's determined to let his beard be free. But only for a limited time.

Like clockwork, he grows out his facial hair during the season and shaves it off in the offseason. And according to Fitzpatrick, most of his new teammates can't wait to see the beard go. "Most of them think it looks terrible,'' he said.

As if on cue, second-year safety Calvin Pryor called out from a few locker stalls away: "It looks terrible, man.''

Without missing a beat, Fitzpatrick replied, smiling, "Thank you. That's what my wife says. That's what most people say, actually.''

After six teams, several starting jobs and additional backup roles, there are few things that can unnerve the Fitzpatrick. Comments about his facial appearance and his wardrobe of "random T-shirts" don't bother him in the least.

Asked if he's considered other styles of facial hair, he insisted he "can't really do a goatee or the 'stache.''

"Just the beard,'' said Fitzpatrick, whom the Jets obtained in a March trade and named their starter after Geno Smith had his jaw broken by then-teammate Ikemefuna Enemkpali. "I don't know that it looks the best, but that's the look I go with. It took me so long to be able to grow one that I was proud of it when it was able to come in like it did.''

The grooming process is a time-consuming one, though. It takes three whole minutes for Fitzpatrick to get those coarse hairs in place -- and a special brush, too.

"It's like a wave brush for a black dude," he said as he searched his locker in vain for his prized possession. "Mine's like a real fine, hard-bristle [brush]. 'Cause when I sleep, it gets all matted down."

By no means is the beard a fashion statement, he said. But it does say a lot about the 32-year-old.

"It is kind of who I am now, I guess," said Fitzpatrick, who threw for 2,483 yards and 17 touchdowns with eight interceptions in 12 games for Houston last year before suffering a broken leg in a Week 15 loss to the Colts. "Everybody I've played with knows me as the guy with the beard. So I think it would be kind of weird to become something else."

However, his wife, Liza, would prefer to have a clean-shaven husband year-round. "She hates it," said Fitzpatrick, who wears his wedding ring at all times, including in games. "Well, she's indifferent, I guess. She's excited for it to come off."

But there's at least one person who supports Fitzpatrick.

"He's been told his beard looks terrible?" asked Willie Colon. "Seriously, he doesn't look good without the beard. I think he looks great with it. The beard kind of gives him character. It gives him a little flair."

Colon, of course, is partial to thick, unkempt facial hair. "I have my nappy, grinding-in-camp beard," he said, smiling.

But even the Bronx-born Hofstra product couldn't believe how quickly Fitzpatrick's hair has grown since he shaved off his beard during organized team activities this past spring.

Said Colon: "He has a lot of hair. It grows fast."

Fitzpatrick has overcome obstacles on his path to facial-hair supremacy, but he has emerged as a more confident and much hairier man.

His beard has become his trademark. And the Harvard-educated father of five wouldn't want it any other way.

Said Fitzpatrick: "I don't get recognized by many people when I shave it."

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