New England Patriots defensive coordinator and future Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia has one of the most legendary beards in sports. Anyone who has looked at the Patriots’ sideline in the last seven years has likely locked eyes with it at one point or another.

The facial hair is more than just a way to keep warm during those frigid New England winters, however. There’s a meaningful reason for it. In fact, it’s one that runs deeper than the beard itself.

Patricia talked about it during Super Bowl Opening Night at Xcel Energy Center.

“The quick story on the beard is, honestly, 2011 I believe it was, I have a lot of buddies who are in the military, that have gone overseas, were overseas that year,” Patricia told The Detroit News. “I got to see a couple of them before they left and the were usually in full beard, obviously doing great things to protect our country and just great Americans. It’s kind of just one of those deals where I said, ‘Well, I’m not shaving to you get back. So when you get to see us on TV, or see me on TV, know that I’m thinking about you.’”

According to Patricia, he’s kept the beard over the years to make sure his buddies who continue to serve overseas know he appreciates them for protecting our country.

The true story behind the beard was hidden from the public up until Monday night. In fact, in mid-January, Patricia’s former roommate Travis Krol joked with the Detroit Free Press that Patricia kept the beard to toughen up his image.

“He’ll probably kill me, but he’s got dimples,” Krol said. “You can’t be a coach of men with dimples, so I think he covers it up with the beard.”

Others simply thought he was too busy to shave.

“I just thought because he was in his [expletive] office probably day in, day out, that thing just started growing and took a life of its own and he was like, ‘You know what, I kind of like this thing, let’s keep it going,” former Patriots linebacker Niko Koutouvides said.

Whether or not you think the mountain man look suits Patricia, you can’t argue the reason why he lets his razor collect dust.