NY Giants

Larry Csonka 1976
(Game Worn)

As many old-timers would say, “When football was really football and played the correct way…”  Yes before Gronk, there was Csonk! There were men like Larry Csonka but in truth, there was but one and only one Larry Csonka. In an era where any offense primarily ran the football to move downfield and fullbacks handled the heavy-duty ball carrying and savage blocking necessary to propel an offense forward, Larry Csonka was the prototype. Certainly Jim Brown is viewed as the best fullback ever in the National Football League and even at Syracuse University where Larry starred, but a case can be made that Larry, less the sprinter and outside threat that Brown was, certainly bruised and tattooed more defensive players with his brutal style of play. Certainly Csonka, and with no disrespect to Jim Brown, was the prototype for the hard-hitting, bowl-defenders-over type of running back. “The Stow Steamroller” came out of rural Ohio as a high school fullback and linebacker. College Football Hall Of Fame Coach Ben Schwartzwalder who knew something about running back talent having coached Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, John Mackie, Jim Nance, and Floyd Little prior to Larry, admitted that assigning Csonka to linebacker until the third game of his sophomore season, “was one of my mistakes” but one that was corrected quickly enough to allow Csonka to become a two-time First Team All American and College Football Hall Of Fame fullback after his illustrious Syracuse career.


With the Miami Dolphins, he appeared to straddle the line of an enraged bull and a runaway locomotive when carrying the ball, truly the epitome of the line-crashing fullback of every player’s daydreams. One had to witness his balance, speed, instinct, and of course, brutal power when he blocked, ran, and forgotten by many, caught passes. He did it all for the Miami Dolphins from 1968 – 1974, achieving five Pro Bowl nominations and three First Team All Pro honors. He joined the World Football League Memphis Southmen for the 1975 season, the last for the WFL [see
 http://www.helmethut.com/WFL/WFLSouthmanCsonka.html ] and then returned to the NFL with the New York Giants. He joined the squad as they moved to the New Jersey Meadowlands as their home stadium. He also joined a team that was struggling under head coach Bill Arnsparger who had been the Dophins’ defensive coordinator during Larry’s years with that powerhouse team. Unfortunately, this was among the darkest of periods for the Giants, having lost their last three games of 1975 and having started the ’76 season with seven consecutive losses. Arnsparger was fired and former WFL Memphis head coach John McVay was elevated to the position. Csonka’s output with the moribund Giants did not match his former Miami statistics and declined annually over his three Giants seasons. In ’79, he was the NFL Comeback Player Of The Year as he finished his career with the Dolphins, rushing solidly for 837 yards. His overall body of work did not cause hesitation among voters as he was ushered into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame.


Larry Csonka in uniform provided the classic appearance of “what a football player is supposed to look like” and his helmet and mask always provided for an individuality that allowed him to stand out. With the Giants he wore a Riddell large helmet that was a bit different from the previous models worn in Miami or at Memphis, a Riddell TAK-29 which included the water filled lower neck pad. The Csonka “signature look” always included the Dungard DG110 mask with a Schutt BN0-2 U bar which was immediately recognizable with both the Dolphins and WFL Southmen. Although a few other players wore this same mask combination, Csonka is the first to come to mind for true helmet aficionados. He tried out a few other masks with New York but returned to his favorites, this time with the mask in white as per a 1975 change in the Giants uniforms. They carried over the red center stripe and white flanking stripes previously used for the ’75 season, but replaced what was the new 1975 stylized “NY” decal [see HELMET HUT http://www.helmethut.com/Giants/Kotar.html], for the word “GIANTS” which was the result of a “political agreement” with their State Of New Jersey landlords who preferred that a New York reference not be displayed.   


Close observation of this wonderful game worn helmet will reveal that Larry’s U bar is not in fact his usual Schutt BNO-2 model but instead, the Dungard DG100 version. This was the only time that Csonka wore this variation, no doubt because Schutt could not yet provide a white version of this distinctive helmet addition. It should also be noted that the equipment staff bolted on the DG110 mask positioned lower than usually seen, utilizing the front chin strap snaps as mounting clips. This in fact, made Larry’s 1976 Giants helmet quite unique. Although fans of this great running back, perhaps the NFL’s prototype power fullback, might view his years with the Giants as “lost time,” it did not diminish his success or well- earned accolades. His power was unique and defined him just as his helmet and mask combination did the same during his professional career.