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FREROTTE EYES NEW ARENA AFTER NFL; LINEMAN USES PAINT FOR INTIMIDATION AND PROMOTION

It is no accident that, on the day of a Buffalo Bills game, Mitch Frerotte looks like a professional wrestler who has gotten lost on his way to the arena.

There's the long blond hair. There's the goatee. And, of course, there's the paint. The black paint that goes around his right eye, juts down his cheek and forms a point just above his jaw.

Most football players know it as eye-black, and use a little dab under each eye to reduce the glare of the sun or stadium lights.

Frerotte considers it war paint, as do the Ultimate Warrior and other stars from the World Wrestling Federation.

When he is finished playing pro football ("which hopefully won't be for another five or six years"), Frerotte wants to become a pro wrestler. He is serious about it and hopes painting his face with a little flare might draw some attention from the wrestling world for future reference.

For now, the Bills' 6-foot-3, 285-pound reserve offensive lineman is more serious about his NFL career. Frerotte has long fashioned himself as a tough guy, earning the nickname "Pit Bull" as a rookie in 1987 when he was involved in training camp fights almost daily.

With the paint, he feels that much tougher.

"Anything I can do to prepare myself to play, I do," he says. "If it means putting paint on my face, I will.

"What's it do for me? The same thing I think it does for the guys in wrestling. They're matched up one-on-one in the ring with somebody, and I'm matched up one-on-one in an assignment with somebody, whether it's just on special teams or if I get any playing time on the line. And it gives me a psyche that I will dominate the other guy. He has to be intimidated somehow, and that's one way I try to intimidate him.

"And some guys have looked at me on the field like, 'Who is this guy? What the hell is he doing?' They don't know what to expect, and that can give me an edge."

Frerotte began wearing war paint in the Bills' Nov. 4 game at Cleveland. He used it to make a square mask around both eyes.

"It was for the feeling that I was going to war with Cleveland, because I didn't get to play in that playoff game (last January) and I really wanted to contribute this time around," recalls Frerotte, who spent all of last season on injured reserve after undergoing back surgery.

Surprised by the positive feedback he received from teammates, he decided to take the idea a step further and painted a circle around each eye, while running the paint down to form a point over each side of his jaw. He then started applying it to one eye, which is what he likes best.

Fans, who normally pay little attention to reserve linemen, seem to enjoy Frerotte's WWF look.

"I was walking through a mall last week, and some people stopped me and said, 'Excuse me, sir. Are you the guy who paints his face?' And they wanted my autograph," Frerotte says. "Another time, I was sitting in a restaurant and a guy came up to me said, 'Ever since I saw you in Cleveland, I've been going to games with my face painted like that.' "

During a recent visit to the Bills' dressing room, John Michael Ritcher, son of offensive guard Jim Ritcher, asked his father, "Please paint my face like Mitch's."

His father refused. He figured one off-beat person in the dressing room was enough.

"In this game, I can be as free-spirited as I want," Frerotte says. "Guys who are doctors, lawyers, businessmen, whatever, they can't be that way. They have to have a certain kind of image. But in football, it's a matter of who's sicker out on the field on Sunday. And I have the opportunity to just be crazy and nuts.

"I'll worry about having a straighter image when I get a real job."

Which, presumably, won't happen until after he has given pro wrestling a shot.

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