I just love the college football helmet chronology that has been going up on Helmet Hut in recent months. The changing team styles that most college teams have made are fascinating and way more interesting than the pro teams who generally keep the same design over the years. Being a huge Tide fan I realized that in their past they wore white helmets prior to switching to crimson. I ran across this 1960s picture and for some reason one Alabama player is wearing a white helmet while his teammates are wearing the traditional crimson helmets. Did he just get called up from the JV team or is it a special sized helmet made only in white? Can you think of any reason for this?
Thanks for sending the photo and interesting question. I enthusiastically agree with you that the history of college football helmet team designs is fascinating and has become a wonderful new focus for helmet aficionados. You will find seemingly endless examples of other interesting helmet exceptions if you continue to research the history of college football helmets. Universities are meant to be a place for unbridled expression and it is refreshing to see that college football teams in the golden era of football shared this spirit with their different uniform styles. A change in a college team’s helmet design often signaled a new coach, era or program overhaul. “Every college football helmet design tells a story” would be appropriate song title to describe this phenomenon (sorry Rod).
Let’s get back to your question. After wearing white helmets (with a crimson center stripe) since 1949 Alabama introduced crimson helmets for the 1960 Bluebonnet Bowl. The following season they wore their traditional white helmets for some games and crimson for others while winning the 1961 national championship. The white helmets were semi retired after the 1961 season following their victory in the January 1, 1962 Sugar Bowl. Subsequently, the team wore white helmets only for the 1966 Cotton Bowl, a few games in both 1971 and 1983 and finally for road games in 1984. In addition to these rare occasions, in the 1960s Alabama used white helmets on eligible receivers in games at night or when another team’s helmet matched or resembled theirs in color. Alabama’s legendary coach Bear Bryant thought that the contrasting colored helmets made his receivers more visible to the quarterback.
The photo in question is from the 1965 game against Georgia. The Bulldogs wore helmet colors that resembled the Tide. The Alabama player wearing a white helmet while playing defense (number 83) is who also played end on offense. These combined circumstances satisfied coach Bryant’s criteria for having an Alabama player wearing a different color helmet compared to his teammates and is another example of the interesting history of college football helmets
Dear Dr. Del:
When did Maxpro go out of business? What were their years of operation? Thanks!
Marietta Corp. of Dallas Texas was founded by a California dentist named Dr. Marietta in the late 1940s or early 1950s. They initially produced sports mouth guards and facemasks. Eventually (in the late 1950s?) they started making a suspension football helmet to compete with Riddell.
In the early 1970s Marietta invented the clear shell Lexon shell helmet. Their Lexon shell was twice as thick as the rival Macgregor clear shell helmet which was invented in the late 1950s or the very early 1960s. The Marietta clear shell Lexon helmet used Velcro attached padding compared to the Macgregor helmet which used a riveted in top leather added suspension combined with sewn in (later plastic tab snapped in) padding. During this same period Marietta also introduced a non-clear shell with the same padding system as their clear shell Lexon helmet. In approximately 1977 the Marietta Corp. went bankrupt.
Maxpro started in approximately 1978 when they bought out the bankrupt Marietta Corp. Maxpro used the newly acquired but antiquated Marietta manufacturing facility in Dallas until 1981 when they built a new high tech facility in Grand Prairie, Texas. In addition to building a new manufacturing facility Maxpro also bought the Bill Kelly helmet company (Kelly started in 1977 after purchasing the Macgregor helmet line which had been dormant since 1974). Maxpro produced their helmet and the newly acquired Kelly helmet in their new Grand Prairie facility. Unfortunately, Maxpro went out of business due to skyrocketing liability insurance costs in approximately 1984-85.
It is interesting to note that when Roger Staubach, due to multiple concussions, switched from a suspension to a leather padded helmet in 1973 it was technically a Marietta and not Maxpro helmet because Maxpro did not exist until a few years later.
Also, after extensive and successful laboratory testing Penn State mandated that all of its players wear the new clear shell Marietta helmet in the early 1970s. Tony Parisi, the Pittsburgh Steelers equipment manager, started outfitting the Steelers with this helmet only after hearing about the helmet's merits from the nearby Penn State equipment manager.
Dear Dr. Del Rye:
I know that in 1950, the Browns used two helmets, White for day games and Orange for Night Games. (And I have heard they did this in '50 and '51.) I heard that the reason the Browns did this is because the NFL adopted the use of the white football for night games and the league prohibited the wearing of white helmets for night games because of this. (Apparently, this rule also applied to the white jerseys as well, because every photo I have ever seen from their first ever regular season game in 1950 vs the Eagles, both teams are wearing their dark jerseys and it's a night game.) What other teams had to do this? (I have seen film of the old Chicago Cardinals wearing red helmets.) Did this only apply to white helmets or did this also apply to any light color such as silver?
Tucumcari, New Mexico (Native of Columbus, Ohio.)
Question for you:
I was looking in one of my NFL books at some pics from the Browns' first season in the NFL, which I believe was 1950. In the first game of the season against the Eagles, they are wearing what look like the standard orange Riddell RK helmets with one bar masks. But in pics of the championship game against the Rams later that year, they're wearing a more primitive white helmet and no masks. Isn't this going backwards?
Baffled in L.A
Please allow me to address two related questions at the same time (whoever said we weren’t talented?). The white football debuted in the NFL on the evening of Sept. 16, 1950. This was the much-anticipated NFL debut of the Cleveland Browns, the upstart newcomers and former champs of the recently absorbed/defunct AAFC, who would open the regular season by in expectantly whipping the incumbent NFL champion Philadelphia Eagles at Municipal Stadium in Philadelphia. It is considered one of the landmark games in NFL history, and the old white ball, was a part of it. The white ball was adopted for night games primarily because it could be seen far better than the conventional brown variety under the poor stadium lighting of that era.
The league ordered the Browns to set aside their traditional white leather helmets for this historic game because they looked too similar too the white football being used. It was feared that an Eagle player diving for what appeared to be a loose ball might have instead found a head attached to it. That evening the Browns wore new burnt orange leather helmets. In 1952 the team switched to Riddell burnt orange plastic helmets with a single white center stripe. In addition to the Browns, the league required the other NFL teams with white or silver helmets (Cardinals, Lions and Colts) to use darker shaded helmets when they played at night. This practice of wearing dark helmets only for night games continued through the end of the 1955 season.
In 1956 the visiting teams were required to wear white uniforms to better distinguish themselves from their opponents for the rapidly increasing television audiences who, at that time, were limited to black and white picture tubes technology. Recognizing that the white uniforms would have given the visiting team an unfair opportunity to camouflage the white ball on running plays the league replaced the white “night” ball with a brown ball with a white circular stripe on each end prior to the start of the 1956 season. The retirement of the white ball eliminated the need for the previously mentioned teams to wear a special darker helmet for night games.
The players complained that the painted on white stripes made the too ball slippery but it was retained until the end of the 1976 season. As stadium lighting improved to meet the needs of color television the white striped “night” ball was permanently replaced by the conventional all brown ball just prior to the 1977 season.
I was delighted to see that Helmet Hut was intimately involved in the Chicago Bears display in the Soldier Field "Bears Den". I have enjoyed viewing it many times in person. Over the last year I have made futile attempts to explain to anyone who would listen that the Chicago Bears helmet "C" logo has undergone a significant change since the eighties. The 1985 version is less "oval" in shape (more circular) and perhaps smaller than today's version. However, I think this was actually a deviation from the true oval design of the official logo that today's helmets replicate. Perhaps you can validate this - and perhaps you might have some background.
Hanover Park, IL
Thanks for the question; we really appreciate guys like you who pay attention to helmet and logo detail and thanks for noticing our helmets on display in the Soldier Field “Bears Den” (readers -- click here or see “Road Trips”).
We believe that the shape of the Chicago Bears logo “C” used in the 1980s is virtually identical to their current style. Perhaps the reason they might appear different, when viewed on the helmet, is because the current decal has a pronounced clear edge (or clear overlap) and the 1980s era decal was cut exactly at the color edge of the logo. Depending on its reflection, the clear edge of the current decal could make the inside of the “C” possibly appear more oval or somewhat different from the 1980s version. The current decal (20 mil) is also significantly thicker than the 1980s version (2 – 4 mil) but that should not impact its flat appearance. Please compare the accompanying 1980s authentic Bear’s decal to the current version (both acquired directly from the Bear’s organization) and hopefully it will help resolve your question.
Hi, I have attached a Dave Casper card wearing the strange looking opo mask. It seems as if the top of the bar frame is curved rather than straight. I think Terry Metcalf and Ahmad Rashad (w/Buffalo) wore similar masks. Let me know if you notice any difference in the masks or are my eyes just fooling me?
Your eyes are not fooling you. In early 1970 Riddell introduced a larger shell design for their new “Microfit” helmet. The larger shell was required to accommodate this helmet’s “hi tech” inflatable padding system. At the same time Riddell also switched to this larger shell for their traditional suspension helmet (for sizes 7 ¼ and larger). The conventional Schutt facemask models, which included the “OPO,” could still be attached to the larger Riddell shell but they no longer fit the same as they did on the smaller pre-1970 Riddell shells. The “OPO” mask rested higher up on the larger shell and the center horizontal bars now blocked more of the player’s field of vision. The equipment manager (or player) would actually bend the mask downward by pulling on the middle horizontal bars to increase the mask’s field of vision. In addition to bending the angle of the center horizontal bars during this manual process, the upper horizontal mask frame often was bent or curved downward as evidenced in the photo of Dave Casper.
In 1975 Schutt introduced a larger facemask series named and marked “green dot” (the traditional size masks were renamed and marked “red dot”) The larger “green dot” mask was primarily designed to fit on the newly invented “Bike” (now Schutt – Air) helmets which had a wider face opening compared to existing helmets such as Riddell. In addition to being used on the Bike helmet, the larger green dot “OPO” mask provided a greater opening or field of vision when attached to a Riddell helmet without having to manually bend the mask downwards.