The following is a compilation of three questions, asked by Mr. Russ Cole of Southern Maryland, Wilson Thomas of Alabama, and Clifford Rigby of Los Angeles. For the sake of brevity and ease of reading, the inquiries have been placed in the form of a singular question:
Dear Dr. Del Rye,
As fans of Mike Garrett who was the Heisman Trophy winner at USC and who played professionally with the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers, it is noted that he wore his two bar mask throughout his collegiate career. When he began his pro career Garrett wore a different mask, yet returned to his original USC model late in his pro career. Can you give some detail on Garrett’s masks and note if it was unusual for players of that era to make numerous mask changes.
As Mike Garrett was a favorite of many, including a number of the HELMET HUT staff, he is memorable. He has done a fine job as the Athletic Director at USC but remains best known as one of Southern Cal's greatest players and the first in a long line of celebrated tailbacks who played for John McKay. Most accurately, we can agree that the exciting and versatile Willie Brown was the very first I Formation tailback of the McKay era but his extraordinary abilities also placed him at flanker, offensive end, and as was typical of the two-way era, at defensive back. Garrett, the 1965 Heisman recipient, was the first to define the Trojan tailback tradition, and the first in a line of players that included Heisman Trophy winners O.J. Simpson, Charles White, and Marcus Allen. Though the latter two played for head coach John Robinson, most fans consider this grouping as a continuous lineage of greats. With Anthony Davis and Ricky Bell as Heisman runners-up under McKay, Garrett truly was the first in what could be considered USC’s “royalty of running backs.” At Southern Cal Garrett... please see HELMET HUT http://www.helmethut.com/College/USC/USC1963.html wore the Riddell double bar BD-9 facemask which was “standard issue” for running backs during that era.
When Garrett entered the professional ranks with the Kansas City Chiefs, he wore the same double bar BD-9 mask that he displayed on his USC helmet but made the addition of the Rawlings HTB T Bar. This vertical bar that offered additional facial protection was made of Cy-Co-Lite plastic and used by a number of players through the high school to professional ranks during the 1960’s. It was originally designed to augment the Rawlings solid molded plastic two bar facemask but also fit well to the tubular Riddell BD-9.
After the start of the 1970 season, the Chiefs traded Garrett, at the time their all-time leading rusher, to the Chargers where he played through 1973. Garrett was glad to be closer to his California roots and shared time with the slowed-by-injury Dick Post. He took the field with the BD-9 double bar mask he had worn at USC, thus returning to the type of mask he had worn earlier in his career. Many players can be identified that wore a variety of masks during their collegiate, professional, or the combination of the two careers, dependent upon what was available to them, changing helmet styles, injury, and personal preference.
Dear Dr. Del Rye,
There is always a great deal of information on your Helmet Hut site and I have learned a lot. In the past year or two there have been a number of articles and columns about the MacGregor padded helmet, the Wilson helmet, and maybe another that did not look like the Riddell helmets in their appearance. I know that by the middle 1960s almost every school had switched to the Riddell suspension helmets and then in the 1970s to the Riddells with the padded cells in them. Is there any way to know what school might have been the last to wear the padded helmets, or switch over to Riddell? The feature on the Riddell padded helmet that was not put into production (Ed: see HELMET HUT http://helmethut.com/Features/TK5padded.html ) was very enjoyable. Keep up the good work.
Ben, Vero Beach, FL
Thank you very much for your generous comments. Helmets that have or had a “different” appearance or in some way stood out, have always been an item of interest for those who focus upon variations in uniform design. To simplify things, let me first state that the early models of the externally padded helmets were “obvious” and I am referring to the spectators' ability to immediately notice the difference in appearance compared to the Riddell suspension helmets. When MacGregor introduced the helmet, “the look” did stand out and teams like Cornell, Duke, Colgate, and Ohio State (see HELMET HUT http://www.helmethut.com/College/Ohio%20State/osuindex.html ) became known for wearing the distinctive headgear. Cornell utilized an early externally padded leather model as early as 1956, choosing the MacGregor H-600 with the addition of an “Absorblo” crown panel that was offered by the company as an accessory. The squad continued to use the helmet for practices into the mid-Sixties after switching to the plastic helmets that were used for games.
Cornell practice helmet 1959
Year by year, MacGregor improved their technology and the external padding became less obvious. They used a higher density foam whose shape better conformed to the contour of the helmet.
As the 1960’s progressed towards its midterm the consensus opinion was that the externally padded helmets did indeed reduce the frequency of concussion and head injury but unfortunately, increased the probability of cervical spine related injuries. Thus many universities that had utilized these helmets either for practice or as their game uniform model, began to phase them out and dressed their players in the more popular suspension helmets. Among the holdouts were Ohio State who wore the last of their externally padded helmets during the 1967 season (although Jim Otis and a few other Buckeyes chose to retain their older, padded models for ’68) and Michigan State had quite a few of their players utilizing them as late as the 1968 season.
As far as the HELMET HUT staff can determine through study of game film and photos, the consensus opinion is that the externally padded helmet, as worn by a team where most if not all team members were issued the headgear as the official uniform component, was Cornell for the 1971 season. Photos of the Cornell squad received quite a bit of attention that season as halfback Ed Marinaro was the Heisman Trophy runner-up. The helmet had evolved to the point that careful examination was at times needed when photographs were viewed but the helmets were definitely externally padded. Cornell switched to the more frequently seen Riddell PAC type for the 1972 season which of course had the same external appearance as the earlier suspension models.
Cornell vs. Columbia October 30, 1971
There are numerous articles on the HELMET HUT site including information on the “homemade” externally padded helmet worn by
Willie Lanier of the Kansas City Chiefs. Thank you very much.
Dr. Del Rye, As a die-hard and long time Steelers fan I loved the on site piece your staff did on the John Henry Johnson different kind of helmet. Did Johnson ever wear the more standard Riddell suspension type helmet?
Manuel from (of course) PittsburghDear Manuel:
In addition to the very distinctive HCR Cy-Co-Lite model helmet worn by John Henry Johnson as described in the article in the Steelers section, absolutely! Please note the photo taken earlier in Mr. Johnson’s career with the Forty Niners. Johnson played with the Forty Niners during the 1954, 1955, and 1956 seasons and wore the Wilson “RP” (Rubber-Plastic) shell helmet that a number of his teammates from those wonderful teams wore including Pro Football Hall Of Fame members Bob St. Clair and Leo Nomellini.
During Johnson’s final professional season in 1966, he became a member of the Houston Oilers and surrendered his distinctive Rawlings helmet for the silver Riddell shell of his new team.
Dr. Del Rye,
I love the Saints and I think Archie Manning could have been every bit as good as his Super Bowl winning sons if he was with a stronger team. Some time ago you featured a reproduction of one of his Saints helmetsand said he wore different face masks. Are there any photos of another one?
Thomas in Opelousas
You are from Opelouosas, the home town of underrated LSU, Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs, and New Orleans Saints two-way lineman Joseph Remi Prudhomme whose cousin is the famous “Cajun Chef” Paul Prudhomme so we know the food down there is wonderful. The great Archie Manning wore many masks and as per your request here is one with the same leather padded MH 100 MacGregor helmet shown in our feature.
Dear Dr. Del Rye,
I enjoyed the feature about the odd single bar face mask worn by Joe Perry that he used to protect himself after an injury. The feature noted that Eddie LeBaron wore this for a time but did others including college players?
John Kristian, Fresno, CA
Actually the majority of the backfield at UCLA did for a season.