I have nothing but praise for your wonderful site and company, and offer endless thanks for your contribution to my knowledge of football helmet design and decoration, a lifelong interest of mine.
I culled from a list of nearly twenty questions a few I am submitting here. In light of your recent comments, should you choose to answer these please feel free to wax poetic and longwinded in your responses! I thank you in advance for any information you can provide.
And now... Q's awaiting A's: free to wax
Mike Singletary of the Chicago Bears was reportedly notorious for breaking the helmets of his opponents as well as his own, both in college at Baylor and in the NFL. Do you know the exact nature of these equipment failures, i.e., cracked shells, ruined padding or mask attachments, etc.? Surely these helmets were not splitting in half like giant jawbreakers! And broken Dungard masks don't count!
We will attempt to tackle each of your well thought out questions by providing information below each individual question. Thanks for the special effort.
If a scientist was asked to produce a formula to make a special football player who was prone to break their own or a teammates helmet while making a tackle their answer might be the following:
Start with one extremely strong and quick individual with an extra large head size. Add a "no fear" and aggressive (on field only) personality. Teach them to tackle using a "head first" hitting technique. Outfit this individual, his teammates, and most of his opponents in the original "Kelly" helmet shell.
This formula could also describe Mike Singletary. When you combine his physical attributes, head first -- bone jarring hitting style and the type of headgear he wore his legacy for cracking helmets is easier to comprehend. At Baylor, where most of the broken helmet incidents occurred, Mike along with his teammates (and many opponents at other schools) wore the original clear shell Kelly model "MH 100" helmet that previously was made by Macgregor until they quit making helmets and sold out to Bill Kelly in the mid 1970s. The original Kelly and earlier Macgregor helmets were notorious for premature cracking. In the late 1960s Woody Hayes ordered the OSU equipment manager to destroy all of their Macgregor helmets and to replace them with a similarly padded style helmet that would not crack. (After decades of using Macgregor helmets OSU subsequently switch to Gladiator and Rawlings helmets) A few years after he acquired the company from Macgregor, Bill Kelly modified the molds which helped to produce a stronger shell but this was after Singletary had already left Baylor. According to Don Beitter, former executive for the Marietta (Max Pro) helmet company which merged with the Kelly helmets company in the early 1980s, Singletary's extra large size Kelly helmet was even more fragile than the Kelly helmets made in normal sizes. said that the extra large size Kelly shell was molded or "stretched" thinner and therefore was weaker and more prone to cracking than a normal size shell.
The USFL featured many attractive and timeless helmet graphic schemes. Were these devised on a team by team basis as in the NFL or were they designed by a single design group on behalf of the entire league, as it seems was the case for the XFL?
The logos for the USFL teams were designed by each individual team rather than by the league as was done in the XFL. The major reason for this difference was that that the USFL had separate ownership for each team while the XFL teams were combined into a single business entity that had one ownership group. The XFL made all of the management decisions for each team because it owned each team collectively. Can you imagine a high profile USFL owner like Donald Trump allowing the league to design a logo for his New Jersey General team -- not likely!
Which contemporary NFL helmet designs do you find most appealing and effective, and which ones would you like to see refreshed? Also, which classic or "throwback" designs no longer in use do you believe have timeless appeal and would function well with little or no updating (like the New York Jets current iteration)?
In our humble opinion the NFL recent efforts to improve the style of the team uniforms and helmets has failed miserably. Their current formula seems to be: add sparkle paint, complex striping patterns and endless numeral font styles. The bottom line is that the NFL has great ideas for the wrong sport. If the NFL was in charge of designing new styles for bass boats, bowling balls, pro wrestling costumes or motorcycle racing jackets they would be quite successful. We have a feeling that if the NFL was in charge of redesigning a hole at the historic St. Andrews golf course they would dye the fairways Bronco metallic navy blue with orange Bronco arrow type striping pointing at the hole, the sand traps painted sparkle Green Bay gold and the putting green would be striped in the new Bills design of navy, silver, white and red (hopefully we did not miss a color). Then the NFL would congratulate itself after they found that they have increased the demographics by 17.8% of hyperactive males between the ages of 12 to 14 years old who watch the British Open.
We believe the styles of football uniforms and helmets should not be contingent on sales results of licensed apparel or new style technologies (hey NFL -- how about helmet logos that flash on and off in neon colors like a truckers license plate holder). We believe football, much like baseball, is a traditional sport that is better represented by traditional uniform styling. While we congratulate the Redskins decision to showcase those great "spear" throwback helmets this year we had to cringe when we noticed that the "spear" logo was also needlessly added to their jersey stripes. The current era NFL is like a girl who thinks that if a hint of perfume smells wonderful then dousing herself with it will make her smell be even better. I guess the league in both of these examples would rationalize that more jerseys and perfume will be sold regardless of good taste.
In our make believe perfect world the following changes would be made to the current NFL helmets:
Lions - remove the white center stripe and white trim around the logo.
Packers - Get rid of the glitter paint (Vince must be rolling over in his grave!)
Eagles - what's more beautiful than the Kelly green helmet with the plain painted on all silver wing?
Giants - return to the slightly smaller and more tasteful "ny" and please no sparkle.
Chiefs - what happened to that wonderful deep shade of red known as Kansas City Red. (current helmets look like the bright red old Falcon helmets)
Chargers - do I have to say more than white helmets, bolts and 3" old style college numbers?
Broncos - the white bucking bronco with the bright sherbet orange (not burnt orange as used for the 1994 throwback helmet) helmet created an impressive look.
Patriots - easiest change -- bring back the hiking patriot.
Rams - the coolest horn is the one time (1949) style with the scalloped edges that curved above rather than around the ear hole. We would also settle for the early 1960s wider yellow horns that met at the bottom front center of the helmet.
Bills - start fresh with a silver helmet and bring back the standing buffalo.
Redskins - return to the feather and consider adding 3" white 1960s Charger rounded style numerals on the sides.
Cowboys - Isn't there a more representative logo than a five point "lone star" for this colorful franchise and region of the country?
I'm curious about a prototype helmet design for the Kansas City Chiefs that was unveiled in the early 1990s. I saw then-NBC Sports commentator Bob Trumpy holding the helmet and discussing the design briefly before a NBC telecast of a Chiefs' game. The design in question was as follows: standard red shell, facemask color uncertain, and a striking and intricate (multi-part?) decal representing a stylized Dakota-style Chief's headdress. It was an attractive and progressive helmet design that went unused. Do you have any information on or clear pictures of this design?
According to the Chief''s Director of Public Relations, Pete Morris, this proposed new design was done outside of the control of the team. He stated that the Chief's owner Lamar Hunt has always closely controlled the team's uniform design and prefers the long-standing traditional style that they continue to use. Pete added that when NFL team's adopted "throwback" uniforms in 1994 there were no significant changes to the current Chief's uniforms that needed to be made to recreate the style of their old uniforms.
I would like to close by suggesting my "most wanted" list of game-used or authentic repros that I would love to see on helmethut.com. Maybe someday they'll show up! Thanks so much and I wish you continued success.
Walter Payton, Chicago Bears
Warren Moon, Edmonton Eskimos
Dave Butz, Washington Redskins
Doug Flutie, New Jersey Generals
Eddie George, Tennessee Titans
Chris Hanburger, Washington Redskins
Otto Graham, Cleveland Browns
Dear Doc -
Wonderful website. Here's my question -
One of my favorite players from the 1980s was Lester Hayes from the Raiders. I still remember a photo of him from that era. He was slathered in Stickum, crouched in a ready stance, fingers splayed like some kind of insane tree frog, and he had a facemask with 2 or 3 horizontal bars that radiated from a point just forward of the earhole, giving it a very round profile when viewed from the side. The bars were extremely thin for the time. It seems that the facemasks were popular for a couple of years, then they disappeared. I've looked at your facemask section and can't find it. Do you know who made these masks, and why they disappeared?
Dear Young Kim:
Thanks for the interesting question. The mask you are referring to was made by Riddell in the late 1970s. The main feature of this mask was that the frame was made from stainless steel rather than conventional steel. This significantly reduced the weight of the mask although it was just as strong and perhaps stronger than a conventional steel mask. The mask was also made from thinner gage material which improved the player's field of vision.
The Riddell plastic one bar and two bar facemasks were the virtual icons for facemasks during the 1950s and 1960s. Unfortunately for Riddell their subsequent efforts to develop a similarly successful steel cage mask to compete with Schutt Corporation, the industry leader for that type of mask, has not been successful. Riddell has introduced many different styles of cage type masks over the years with the hopes of finding a style that could compete with a Schutt mask. This includes the style you have asked about, a significantly thicker masks that were used (per contact) by USFL teams in the mid 1980s and even a later attempt to introduce a "futuristic" style cage mask made from unbreakable plastic. In the late 1980s after all of these prior attempts to out design the Schutt mask failed in the marketplace Riddell virtually copied the Schutt mask style and included their mask without additional charge when you purchased their helmet. It seems hard to believe but even after all those efforts were made by Riddell high school through professional team's were buying Riddell helmets, still removing the "free" Riddell mask, and replacing it with an $20-$25 Schutt mask that looked almost identical to the Riddell mask. Eric Tundevold, owner of Maskcoaters and also a high school football coach, who redips used masks for teams who cannot afford to purchase new masks every, suggests that while the Riddell mask looks like the Schutt mask it does not have the quality of workmanship that the Schutt mask does and breaks more often. Most equipment managers who prefer the Schutt mask for their teams simply say the Riddell mask is not as good as a Schutt mask.