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Last season, in what he describes as a "mystic haze," Holmes shaved his head, leaving only an arrow-shaped pattern of hair facing forward, hence the nickname "Arrowhead Holmes." These days, for relaxation, Holmes tends a collection of exotic fish, including a piranha that feeds on a goldfish a day. "It's the destructive time of year," Holmes notes. He himself will consume a light meal of 15 spareribs and nine chicken parts, his lifelong nickname is "Fats", and occasionally polish off heroic amounts of Courvoisier cognac in an evening. His hard times appear to be over. Earning a comfortable living like his three colleagues (exactly how much, they won't say), Holmes finds tranquillity in shooting pool, or playing chess on a board that reflects his expansive nature: it is three feet square.

He was born in Jamestown, Texas. Indeed, all of the front four, except White, whose father was college-educated, come from poor rural backgrounds in the South. They all played their college football for obscure schools. For Holmes, it was Texas Southern University in Houston, where campus buildings "had bullet holes the size of silver dollars" from student riots.

The product of a far more peaceful campus, East Texas State, Dwight White, with his missing front tooth and boyish grin, makes a deceptively mild first impression. He laughs easily in a high-pitched voice and is the teaser and clown of the front four, letting out jungle cries in practice, needling Joe Greene about the publicity he gets, and booming to reporters, "I am the epitome of masculinity." But just beneath the engaging extravert there is a hair-trigger temper and barely repressed violence. "There are circumstances," he says, "when I can get so angry and pissed-off that I'll do damage if I don't cool down fast."

White, a bachelor, now rents an apartment in the fashionable Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh, after rooming briefly with Joe Greene. The separation reflects the general state of the relationship between the four defenders: cordial but not intimate. "I couldn't live with Joe," White explains. "He'd put on music late at night."

Dwight does play chess with Greene and also Holmes. He is the most active of the four in the world beyond the Steelers. In the offseason, he works for a Commerce Department program that finds jobs for black college students from Pittsburgh's Hill district.

If White is usually the liveliest of the front four, L.C. Greenwood can be the quietest. "Most of the time I like to be by myself," he says. "I'm a loner. I want to lay back and live." That philosophy is reflected in almost everything unmarried L.C does, from collecting American Indian jewelry and playing cards to shunning contact during practice. "1 try to preserve myself for the game," he says. "That's when I come to play."

Of the four, Greenwood struggles hardest to escape his image as a jock. "I can do without the inhuman looks people give me," he says. "Even kids do it. When I tried to do some teaching in the offseason, the kids said, 'Hey, man, you're a football player, not a teacher. We don't want you here.' I'm just an object."

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