Eddie LeBaron 1959
(Authentic Reproduction)

HELMET HUT's acquisition of the Redskins' Billy Ray Barnes helmet that was presented on the website recently, caused quite a stir. The beautiful, classic headgear not only stimulated comment and compliments from our readers, but the staff was quick to point out that this was destined to be one of the all time HELMET HUT favorites. Everything from the unique feather design to the worn burgundy paint reminiscent of the Redskins teams of mid-1958 through 1964 screamed "This is history. This is our heritage!" The quest was on to find yet another Washington Redskins feather classic and we hit the jackpot.

With today's headlines screeching about the arrests, substance abuse, weapons violations, and frequent incidence of what can only be termed bad behavior of many of the recent generation of professional players, HELMET HUT was fortunate to be reminded that many of the players from a previous era truly reflected the very best in society's values. The Washington Redskins feather helmet of Edward LeBaron is such a reminder. Listed variously at 5'7", 5'8", and 5'9", LeBaron himself admitted to topping out at 5'7" in height. Diminutive at 160 pounds, the Oakdale High School multi-sport athlete out of Lodi, California was a four year letterman and 1949 All American on the gridiron, leading his College Of The Pacific squad to an undefeated season in his senior season. With the highest scoring output on the entire West Coast, the MVP Award for the East-West Shrine Game, and the distinction of leading the College All Stars to victory over the NFL Champion Philadelphia Eagles, the sixty-minute-per-game quarterback, safety, and punter was a tempting prize for the pros due to the performances that earned him entry to The College Football Hall Of Fame, but his small stature relegated him to a tenth round draft slot for the Redskins. A bona fide football hero, LeBaron added to his status when he delayed his entry to the NFL to join the United States Marine Corps. As a First Lieutenant fighting in the Korean Conflict, he was twice wounded by shrapnel, winning the Purple Heart, The Letter Of Commendation, and a Bronze Star for his bravery in combat. His war time heroics in conjunction with his football leadership garnered him the title, "The Littlest General".

Joining the Redskins in time for the 1952 season he learned from the master, first backing up the legendary Sammy Baugh until taking the reins the next year. He remained with the 'Skins through the 1959 season other than a 1954 one-year sabbatical to join Larry Siemering, his college coach, with the Calgary Stampeders. A Pro Bowl performer in 1955, 1957, and in '58 when he led the entire NFL in passing, LeBaron was best known for his ball handling wizardry. A magician on all play-action maneuvers, he was a crowd favorite as he deftly avoided what seemed to be the onrushing crush of huge opponents. LeBaron later said, "I never thought it was a disadvantage to be 5'7" because I could move around in the pocket. Anyway, it all boils down to technique which is something you don't see much of today." Let there be no doubt that LeBaron is a man who can accurately and critically judge today's players. After being named All Pro in '58, he shared time at quarterback in 1959 with Ralph Guglielmi and watched the Redskins post anemic offensive statistics, scoring 185 points to the 350 they ceded in compiling a 3-9 record. Deciding to retire, he completed his graduate studies and was named The Outstanding Law Student Of George Washington University. Instead of retiring however, he agreed to a trade that took him, his wife, and two children to the expansion Dallas Cowboys and a position with a prestigious Dallas law firm. With no draft choices, the hapless 1960 Cowboys could post no better than an 0-11-1 record with the highlights including a tie against the N.Y. Giants and an NFL record for LeBaron who came back to Washington and threw a two-inch touchdown pass, still the shortest in league history, against his former team on October 9th.

While schooling his eventual replacement Don Meredith, LeBaron held the starting position into the 1963 season with the new team and watched head coach Tom Landry assemble the pieces of a squad that would soon reach glory. Once again named as an All Pro in 1962, LeBaron ceded the starting position to Meredith and retired to his full time law practice when the '63 season ended. Combining law with a part-time announcing and analyst position with CBS LeBaron had the best of all worlds and he got to fully utilize his talents as the General Manager of the Atlanta Falcons from 1977-1982, being named as the NFL's Executive Of The Year for 1980, and as their Executive Vice President from '83 through '85. Retiring to a post-career life that has included a great deal of golf and tennis, LeBaron is a throwback to all of the wonderful values of another time; a great collegiate player, one of the underrated but definite greats of the NFL, an excellent front office executive, a war hero, and proudly and happily married to the same wife he has been with since 1955. His helmet which includes the unique "duckbill mask" arrangement is a classic piece with the combination of the Riddell arched single bar combined with the "regular" BT-1 single bar to form this distinctive appearance. The arched bar of Joe Perry is perhaps the best known of these nose-protecting devices prior to the development of Riddell's BD-9 double bar    but LeBaron's beautiful combination supersedes this for its unique look.