Dear Doctor,
There aren't a lot of good football movies but we recently saw WE ARE MARSHALL and my family liked it. With all of the attention given to it, I assumed that they tried to be accurate with everything and with the internet, could check their facts. They showed that West Virginia placed a green cross on their helmets to honor all of the Marshall people that were killed in the plane crash yet when I went over the West Virginia helmets at HELMET HUT I didn't see that one. Was this done just for the movie or did HELMET HUT not include that helmet since it seems like you included all their others, with the cross because it was a one game deal or for another reason? Thank you I like everything you have, especially the college helmets.
Jason from Virginia
Dear Jason,
Thank you for your inquiry. There have unfortunately, been three major air tragedies that occurred during the central part of the suspension helmet era. California Polytechnic State in San Luis Obispo fields a team that plays in the Division I-AA  Great West Conference. The Mustangs have a rather underrated history and in the late 1950's, featured a player by the name of John Madden who went on to great coaching success, best known for his time as head coach of the Oakland Raiders. In 1960, Madden was a young graduate assistant coach while future USC head coach and long-time collegiate and NFL offensive coordinator Ted Tollner was the team quarterback. Annually, the Cal Poly team would take one lengthy road trip and on October 29, 1960 they traveled to Ohio by airplane to play Bowling Green State University. Madden stayed behind in California to coach the JV team against Alan Hancock College. After losing to Bowling Green 50-6, the Mustangs boarded their plane for the return trip but the plane crashed upon takeoff, killing twenty-two of the forty-eight passengers, including sixteen football players and a team manager. Tollner, who had switched seats with a teammate immediately before takeoff, one who tragically perished while sitting in the seat Tollner would have occupied, survived with injuries that took a year to heal. This is cited by Madden as one reason why he will not fly and he is known for taking a private bus to all of the venues he visits as a television commentator. 
On October 2, 1970 thirty-one of forty passengers died when a plane crashed into a mountain west of Denver, Colorado. This was one of two chartered planes carrying the Wichita State football team to a game against Utah State and fourteen of those who perished were football players (please see HELMET NEWS, HELMET REFLECTIONS FOR APRIL 2006).  The more widely known Marshall plane crash occurred on November 14, 1970 at 7:37 PM, approximately thirty seconds prior to the scheduled landing as the team was returning from their contest against East Carolina. Seventy-five individuals perished including thirty-seven members of the team, twelve coaches and university staff personnel, five crew members, and twenty-one supporters from the Huntington, WV area. Even to this day, the crash remains the largest sports-related disaster in our country's history. It is perhaps ironic that in light of the Wichita State crash only weeks before their scheduled trip, there was discussion at Marshall to change flight plans as the team rarely flew to games. Instead of choosing an alternate means of travel, a larger plane was chartered, believing it would be a safer option. Everyone in the state of West Virginia was affected by this tragedy. Even at rival West Virginia University, there was great sorrow. The movie "We Are Marshall" presented Marshall's coaches visiting the WVU spring practice in order to observe the Veer Offense run by Mountaineer head coach Bobby Bowden. While watching film in the coaches' offices, two WVU players walked in prior to attending practice carrying their helmets that had a green cross in the rear. Quoting from work done by John Antonik for the WVU athletic website, an accurate account of the circumstances surrounding the placement of the green cross can be had. WVU assistant Donnie Young said "I just remember being at a party at Coach (Bobby) Bowden's house after our big win over Syracuse and seeing the news flash come across the television set. There was nothing but silence". WVU quarterback Mike Sherwood, whose younger brother Kelly played for Marshall in 1971 tried to arrange a charity game against Ohio University the following week, an open date for WVU, so that the proceeds could be donated to benefit the crash victims. There was consideration given to the suggestion that the Mountaineers wear green jerseys for their final game against Maryland. While WVU students wore green armbands in the week following the crash, nothing was officially done by the football team for the one remaining game on the schedule. Instead, in accordance with Coach Bowden's strong Christian beliefs, a green cross was placed on the rear of each helmet for the spring football practice session to honor the crash victims. Thus, the Mountaineers did in fact wear a white helmet that had a green cross in the back as shown in the accompanying photo but it was done only during spring practice in 1971.


I'm an enormous Rams fan of 30+ years and was hoping you could help me out with a Rams' vintage helmet question. When the Rams wore RT2 helmets I'm assuming that the horns were painted on the inside and were visible through the clear Tenite shell-but what about the section of the horns that formed the "V" on the front of the helmet? appears that this portion of the horns may have been painted on the outside of the helmet. If not, it must have been tremendously tedious painting the "V" under the 1" strip only to hope that it lined up perfectly with the rest of the horns. Come to think of it, weren't the 1" strips on Tenite helmets usually made of solid colors as opposed to being clear and painted underneath? Also, if the Rams painted the "V" on the outside of the strip, why wouldn't they have also gone ahead and painted the sides of the 1" strip as well instead of leaving it navy blue...? I'm very confused and would appreciate any thoughts you might have on this! Thank you very much and thank you even more for Helmet Hut



Dear Helmet Hut,
I am a Rams fan from their days in Los Angeles and loved the non fancy type of jerseys they used to wear. In fact, I like the old type of uniforms better without the side panels and colors that don't seem to match the official team colors. In the Rams case, I have seen and have some photos from the 1960s and 1970s where it seems that the jersey color and helmet color don't really match up exactly. I don't know if this is just a photography type of problem or lighting thing (sometimes the Packer helmets from Lombardi's day look like a pretty bright yellow, sometimes like a dark mustard type of yellow). Can you tell me if anyone else has asked about this please. Thank you and Helmet Hut has great stuff, I love the Roman Gabriel helmets and that you put real ones up with the authentic ones you make that look exactly as good.
-William in Alhambra, CA


Thank you very much for your insightful questions. As the Rams are the NFL team that began stylizing their helmets with a custom logo, we salute their running back and artist-in-residence Fred Gehrke who did the original painting of the helmet. Although Gehrke made many positive contributions to the Denver Broncos when he arrived as their special teams coach in 1965, eventually rising through the ranks as personnel director and GM, it was his inspiration to paint the leather helmets used by the Rams in 1948 that has brought the most joy to helmet lovers like us. Each was hand painted by Mr. Gehrke who received a small commission from team owner Dan Reeves (please see the HELMET HUT write-up under the NFL Rams section). The original painted horn was smooth and contoured to curve under the ear. When the one-year ban on plastic helmets was lifted for the 1949 season, Riddell provided the Rams finished helmet, a one-year painted model that depicted the horns with knobbed ends and curved over the ear hole. This was a design formulated by the Riddell staff within their factory. From 1950 onward, the original Gehrke design of smooth horns curving beneath the ear hole was adopted. The Riddell RT or Tenite helmet's more detailed composition information can be viewed in the WEBSTORE'S "Build Your Own Helmet" feature but the clear shell was assembled from two separate halves that were then joined by a third piece of Tenite. The two halves of Tenite were clear and any paint applied to the helmet was done on the inside, allowing the painted color to show through the overlying clear shell. If one views photos of the Detroit Lions helmets of the early 1950's there are many instances where the helmets appear to be gold in color rather than the team color and officially issued silver headgear. In every case, the helmet paint was in fact silver but the aging, deterioration, and/or fading of the Tenite casing made it appear that the paint color was of a golden hue as the plastic itself became yellowed.
When the Rams RT helmets were painted, the most logical conclusion is that the inside of the shells were first painted with the Rams' navy blue and yellow colors and then completed with the solid center strip of Tenite as this was the standard procedure. It is assumed that the navy blue portion was painted as close to the center of the helmet as possible and after the solid center strip was applied and the helmet shell fully assembled, the outside of the strip was indeed painted so that the center "V" of the navy blue horns did in fact line up properly. The Rams continued to use painted helmets until the early 1970's, even after changing the helmet and uniform colors to white and eschewing their usual yellow/gold from 1964 through the 1972 season.  When they switched to a decal of the Rams horn it was applied to the paint impregnated shell, and placed approximately 1/4" from the center stripe.
The Rams had used a true navy blue paint for their helmets and the same for the jersey, pants, and socks, either as the primary color as in the home jersey after changing from what some thought to be a garish gold, to the numbers and trim. Don Hewitt, who for twenty-eight seasons was affiliated with the Rams, had taken over as head equipment man in 1967, replacing Bill Granholm who had been with the club for eighteen years. Mr. Hewitt explained to HELMET HUT the very interesting story about the 1973 change in the Rams uniforms. When Dan Reeves, the Rams principal owner passed away after battling cancer, his business associate William Barnes became the President of the club. Robert Irsay purchased the Rams from the estate of the late Mr. Reeves and then traded franchises with Mr. Carroll Rosenbloom, owner of the Baltimore Colts. Thus, Rosenbloom, a flamboyant and wealthy businessman with a proven track record of success in the NFL, became the owner of the Los Angeles Rams in 1972. Irsay became vilified as the man who eventually moved the Colts to Indianapolis in the middle of the night. Rosenbloom did a lot of planning and observing of his new operation in 1972 but as the 1973 season approached, he became extremely active in making changes. In addition to bringing Chuck Knox aboard as his new coach, trading long-time quarterback and team leader Roman Gabriel to the Eagles, and acquiring John Hadl as the new signal caller, Rosebloom pursued a change in the Rams uniforms. Hiring Hollywood extras, he dressed them in Rams uniforms that were made in varying shades of blue and while sitting in the press box with other team administrators (and presumably friends and other associates), decided what looked best while looking onto the LA Coliseum floor. Rosenbloom decided to return to the Rams colors of yellow and blue but instead of the previously utilized navy blue, wanted royal blue as the Rams color. Unfortunately, Rosenbloom, though demanding exactly what he wanted, couldn't quite obtain it. The Riddell royal blue helmet was not truly a royal blue. The color-impregnated helmet was a bit lighter than a true royal blue, similar to the blue worn by the Denver Broncos from '67. The Riddell impregnated navy blue helmet was not a true navy blue but instead, a shade that hovered between royal and navy blue. It was felt that the impregnation process left the helmets an approximate shade too light. Having chosen a royal blue for the remainder of the uniform that he was very pleased with, Rosenbloom could not exactly match the helmet to it, thus, the Rams helmets were provided in the Riddell shade of navy blue. As their navy blue was also a shade lighter than true navy blue, it was closer to the color Rosenbloom wanted but still did not match the jerseys and it remained a bit different and a bit darker than their jersey color until Riddell darkened their royal blue in the mid-1980's. So William, you are correct. For quite a few years, close observation would confirm that the Rams helmets were indeed a bit darker than the blue on the rest of their uniform.