Jeff Langum of Voorhees, N.J., holds up a first place award on Oct. 28, 2013 that he won in New York in 2012 for his massive beard.(Photo: Gannett/Jodi Samsel, (Cherry Hill, N.J.) Courier-Post)
(Cherry Hill, N.J. Courier-Post) -- In the bleakest of sports years, Philadelphia has a new world champion.
Jeff Langum and his 17-inch beard won at the World Beard and Moustache Championship in Leinfelden-Echterdingen, Germany on Saturday.
The 39-year-old Philadelphia native and Voorhees, N.J., resident - who last shaved 25 months ago for a friend's wedding - has watched his round, auburn beard become a national force in the facial hair landscape, winning "Best in Show" at the National Beard Championship in September and a $1,000 prize.
But the humble, hirsute hero didn't know his whiskers could conquer the world.
"The minute I'm on stage, a little bit of the ego comes out, and you want to win," Langum told the Courier-Post last week. "Then I walk off stage, and I'm back to drinking and hanging with friends."
Categories at a beard competition are as diverse and odd as the contestants they attract.
In "full beard natural," a category in which beards are known to hang lower than shirts, Langum's winning beard is considered only of modest length, despite measuring nearly 18 inches from his bottom lip to the end of his longest whisker.
The beard's natural roundness, described by some as a "scraggly rising sun," is what makes it stand out.
"That's the unique part," noted his wife, Oana Langum, a Philadelphia physician who also traveled to Germany. "Most beards grow long and not as much on the sides, but his sides stay pretty puffy, and when he puffs them out they get ... pretty puffy."
As a child, Langum didn't know he would ever be capable of producing any facial hair, let alone world-champion scruff.
"My dad couldn't grow a beard, and his dad couldn't grow a beard," recalled Langum, who was awarded a trophy but no cash prize for his world title.
And though Langum cleans up at most local beard competitions now, it took him seven appearances before even placing at one.
Known as "Whisker Biscuit" to friends, Langum said he has no plans on shaving again, instead wanting his beard to reach its "terminal length."