Texas A & M

"Aggies" 1958-62
(Authentic Reproduction)


When Paul Bryant arrived to coach the Texas A&M Aggies in 1954 there was great excitement. When he left after the 1957 season there was great excitement over the performance of his last two teams and gnashing of teeth because it was not going to be easy to replace a larger-than-life figure who had given the Aggie alum exactly what they had wished for. Jim Myers arrived from Iowa State with his old-fashioned Tennessee Single Wing offense and took the Ags to a shaky 4-6 record. Talent was available, primarily in All SEC QB Charles Milstead, a versatile 190-pounder who would later play for the new AFL Oilers for two seasons. He finished fifth in the nation in total offense but was plagued by inconsistent play in the line. Richard Gay, a standout junior for Bryant, continued to play a mean linebacker but had some difficulty shifting from fullback to a single wing blocking back. John "Jack" Tracey, always referred to as "Jack" during his nine year NFL career at LB, was the steadiest of the linemen. Myers switched the 1958 helmet which was a carryover from the last year of the Bryant regime, taking the side player numerals and the maroon center stripe off of the white shell. Realizing that being the only single wing outfit in the conference was no advantage, Myers also switched his primary offensive formation to a Multiple T for 1959 but kept a hatful of single wing plays. Those "special plays" were no help in overcoming a six game losing streak and an overall mark of 3-7. Milstead and Tracey again played well but there was a dearth of talent behind them. With alums getting restless, it was official: the 1960 A&M squad was the pre-season pick as worst in the SWC, save the inaugural entry of Texas Tech. An infusion of soph talent, including that of 6'3", 220 pound RB Lee Roy Caffey was expected to elevate Aggie play but a 1-6-3 record, with the lone win against tiny Trinity College made the pre-season forecast a reality. The quartet of Caffey, Bob Caskey, Eddie VanDyke, and FB Sam Byer rushed well perhaps because there was an absence of passing ability and Buddy Joe Eilers won the A.W. Waldrop Award as the team's best lineman in both 1960 and '61. Some added depth and experience helped the '61 Cadets improve to a 4-5-1 record but it was far from enough to save Myers job. Thus, the man who had stripped the center stripe and side numerals from the previous Aggie helmet and had them running the single wing in all white shells, was gone within days of the conclusion of the 1961 season.


Seeking to return to the SWC Championship days of the 1956 team, the Cadets brought Hank Foldberg in to coach in 1962. Foldberg had started his college career at A&M, playing as a frosh and then transferred to West Point where he became an All American end. Not only was he a consensus All American in 1946, but he also had the pedigree of being an All American with Army's fabled Blanchard and Davis. He was a well respected assistant under Bob Woodruff at Florida before becoming head coach at Wichita State prior to being brought to College Station. He inherited Jerry Hopkins, an impressive center, do-it-all back and returner Jim Linnstaedter,  and huge 220 pound HB Lee Roy Caffey. Foldberg was strongly influenced by the 1958 National Championship team of Paul Dietzel's LSU squad, as were many other coaches in the south and southwest. In order to best utilize his talent under the restrictions of NCAA substitution rules, Dietzel made famous his three-platoon approach to the game, with his Go, White, and defensive standout Chinese Bandit units. Dietzel's assistant Bill Peterson became the head coach at Florida State in 1960 and instituted a three-platoon system successfully, calling his offensive specialists The War Party, the defensive team The Renegades, and a mixed but solid group that could go both ways effectively, The Chiefs. Foldberg fielded three units too, and his 1962 all white helmet with just a minor adornment, became a helmet-related source of discussion that still engenders much conversation. Foldberg's first unit was the Maroon Team and they not surprisingly wore maroon jerseys in practice. The stronger defensive team was noted as the White Team and they wore white pullovers over their jerseys during practice. The third unit was an offensively oriented squad called The Go or The Lightening Team and these players were designated by wearing blue pullovers during practice. Texas A&M has perhaps the most closely-bound student body in the nation and their athletic teams are much closer than those of other schools with a strong Lettermen's Association and a great deal of support provided to today's athletic department. Mr. John L. Erickson was a quarterback on the 1962 squad, specifically the quarterback on the Lightening Team, and The Texas A&M John L. Erickson '63 Foundation Athletics Hall of Fame and Hall of Honor Building is named after him. Kenneth Kipp was also a letter winner on that 1962 team and coincidentally, was the defensive substitute specifically for Mr. Erickson when the offensive unit was replaced. Mr. Brett Jenkins was the student manager of the 1962 A&M football team and it was his job, among others, to maintain and prepare each player's helmet for every practice and game.

Helmet Hut had the pleasure of speaking directly to Mr. Kipp and Mr. Erickson and the latter had conversations with Mr. Jenkins about the maroon lightening bolt that appeared on the sides of the white A&M helmets during the 1962 season. The best opinion is that the lightening bolts were used to designate the Lightening Team players so that substitutions could be made more quickly and effectively while staying within the very restrictive rules of 1962. However, Mr. Jenkins suspected that these decals were used during practice sessions but he was not positive if they were used in any or all games.

With photographic evidence provided by Mr. Jay Shelton who is perhaps the foremost expert on the helmet history of the Southwest Conference, and certainly of the Texas A&M football program indicating that the maroon lightening bolts were in fact utilized during game situations, at least by some players, the belief of these former Aggies is that the bolt decals were purposely placed or may have remained on some of the helmets in game situations, whether they should have or not. It may be true that Coach Foldberg directed that they remain on the helmets of all Lightening Team helmets for specific games or they were mistakenly left on some or all of the Lightening Team shells and as all of us agreed, it is one of those twists of fate that time has made more mysterious that lends this 1962 helmet even more interest and intrigue. It may have been that Foldberg also used too many offensive formations and plays because his three platoons and rotating quarterback group of Jim Keller, Jim Willenborg, Dan McIlhanny, and Erickson could not generate enough offense to sustain more than a 3-7 record. McIlhanny eventually took the helm while Travis Reagan and Jim Linnstaedter provided some rushing power but the primary offensive weapon was the place-kicking of Mike Clark, later to aid the Eagles, Steelers, and especially the late-'60's Cowboys over an eleven year career.

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