Michigan State

1965 - 66 Spartans

The 1965 (consensus) and 1966 (shared) National Championship helmet

(Authentic Reproduction)


Always known as a master recruiter, the success of the 1965 and '66 Spartan squads came from Head Coach Duffy Daugherty's ability to attract great players to the program. He was one of the first to recruit nationally and mine the rich storehouse of African-American talent in Texas and the South. Many in fact alluded to Duffy's exceptional ability as a recruiter but followed with a criticism of his coaching acumen. 1962 and '63 brought in a number of athletes that would pave the way for a National Championship. Despite the 4-5 record of '64, optimism abounded as the sophomores and juniors knew how good they could be. Playing in new Kelly green helmets with a white one-inch center stripe as before, white two-inch identifying NCAA-style numbers were placed on the rear of the shell, and a small, white Spartan head logo with a white border was added to each side of the helmet. The State team played what was ranked as the toughest schedule in the nation, and began '65 with a win over UCLA while featuring two Hawaiian imports, FB Bob Apisa and barefoot kicker Dick Kenney. Apisa contributed 606 yards, sharing time in the backfield with Clint Jones who made almost every All American team with his 787 rush yards, twenty-six receptions, and twelve TD's. QB Steve Juday, sharing time with Jimmy Raye, completed the 10-0 season with twelve school passing records throwing often to junior WR Gene Washington, another All American who used his track speed to great advantage. The high-flying offense which led the Big Ten played second-fiddle to the defense which placed DE's Charles "Bubba" Smith and Harold Lucas and LB's George Webster and Ron Goovert on various All American teams. In fact a total of eight Spartans were named to at least one All American team! This awesome collection gave up but sixty-two points for the season and only 45.6 rush yards per game. Considered to be one of the best collegiate teams in history, one that earned Daugherty the National Coach Of The Year award, rolled up a record 2369 rushing yards, and was ranked as National Champions, the nation was understandably stunned when a rematch with UCLA and their fine QB Gary Beban resulted in a 14-12 Bruins' upset over the Spartans in the Rose Bowl. Interestingly, dominant DE Lucas signed a huge contract with the Cardinals but walked out of training camp to work in a factory in his hometown of Detroit.

The '66 team was determined to avenge the bowl game loss and with new QB Jimmy Raye, began '66 as they had played in 1965. Running off nine straight impressive victories, only the 11-8 squeaker over Ohio State was close in a game played in rain-soaked conditions. Raye's 1110 passing yards were a surprise but the pounding runs of All American Clint Jones who later played six good years for the Vikings and another for the Chargers, Dwight Lee, Regis Cavender, and the oft-injured Bob Apisa who still was named to some "All" teams carried the load. They could thank All American T Jerry West for his fine blocking. WR Gene Washington remained an outside threat at all times and joined teammate Jones as the Vikings co-number-one draft choice. Again, the defense was the key to the team and they were magnificent as the 9-0 Spartans faced off against one of Notre Dame's great squads in what was termed "The Game Of The Century" and one that is still discussed due to the controversy surrounding its 10-10 finish. As the Spartan defense chided the Irish offense for killing the clock to preserve the tie, it also left them with a 9-0-1 record and a split with Notre Dame in voting for the National Championship with the AP title going to the Irish and the UPI Coaches' Poll giving it to Duffy's boys. LB George Webster was All American again and went into the annals as one of collegiate football's all-time greats before heading off to a ten-year pro career with the Oilers, Steelers, and Patriots. DE Bubba Smith dominated the line of scrimmage and then played primarily for the Colts in ten pro seasons. Eleven of the twenty-two starters were named to the All Big Ten team including DB Jess Phillips and LB Charlie Thornhill who has had two sons follow him as outstanding MSU players. Both Smith and Webster are members of The College Football Hall Of Fame. The Kelly green helmet with one-inch white center stripe, distinctive, small Spartan head logo, and two-inch white identifying numerals placed on the rear of the helmet is the one design perhaps most closely associated with Michigan State football excellence, as it was worn for the 1965 and '66 seasons only by what were arguably the greatest of the Spartan teams. 


Considered by many to be the best player to ever wear the Michigan State green and white, Webster is also considered by many college football historians to be the among the very best college football players of all time! Spartan Head Coach Duffy Daugherty and other Big Ten coaches had established a reputation of recruiting and offering fair treatment to many African-American players in an era when playing opportunities weren't available to them at colleges in certain areas of the country. Webster was a star at Westside High School in Anderson, South Carolina and began his MSU career as a 204-pound two-way tackle. Moved to roverback, his sideline-to-sideline tackling ability had Daugherty stating that "He doesn't tackle people. He explodes them!" Daugherty often admitted that Webster was the best player he had coached in his long tenure. A two-time All American, Webster led the defense that brought a national championship to the Spartans in 1965 and left them ranked second with a 9-0-1 record in '66. His number 90 jersey was retired when his college career ended, such was the respect that the entire program had for his accomplishments. Selected to Michigan State's All Time Team, Webster was also voted as the Greatest Player in the program's history. A first-round draft pick of the Houston Oilers, Webster was the AFC Rookie Of The Year in 1967. After five years in Houston, he played two with the Steelers and completed his professional career with three more in New England. Despite injuries that limited his pro play, he was always effective and highly respected. He worked with community groups and served underprivileged children and unfortunately passed away after a lengthy illness in 2007.

If interested in any of these MSU helmets please click on the photos below.