1951 - 52 Tigers
(Authentic Reproduction)



The athletic department was $100,000.00 in debt after seven consecutive losing seasons on the gridiron, with but three victories in the previous three years. Newly hired Athletic Director Jeff Beard accepted the job on February 15, 1951 and it took him only eleven days to close the deal and bring Ralph "Shug" Jordan back to Auburn as the new head football coach. Jordan had been a high school rival and friend of Beard's, a friendship that grew when both were Auburn athletes, Jordan as a tough 165-pound center and three-sport letterman who was voted Auburn's most outstanding athlete his senior year. Jordan then coached at his alma mater until becoming a highly decorated officer in the military, being wounded at the Battle Of Normandy. He returned to Auburn for a year of assistant coaching, then spent 1946 with the new Miami Seahawks of the AAFC. When they folded, he was quite happy as the first assistant to the acclaimed Wally Butts at powerful Georgia. Hired to change the mind set as well as the level of play of the woeful Tigers, Shug was serious, hard, and demanding, but according to players, at all times "fair" and could always be approached. After a difficult 1951 spring practice session, a typical for the era six-week affair of extreme conditioning, the faint-hearted were weeded out from the 130 candidates and the Tigers were ready for the 1951 season. There was a lack of quality depth but some good players like freshmen backs Vince Dooley and Bobby Freeman who received the first plastic helmets the Tigers wore onto the field of play, navy blue Riddell RT models with an orange center stripe. Freeman later became an Auburn assistant coach and Dooley of course, was one of the most highly acclaimed coaches in collegiate football. The 5-5 record accrued by the young squad equaled the number of wins the team had managed from 1947 through 1950! To further excite fans who had before this, "stayed away in droves", a publicity push was made for "Blind" Bill Turnbeaugh who wore an early version of contact lenses. Presented as a "blind" tackle who "played by ground vibrations" and reacted "when he felt them coming", the gimmick was so effective in attracting fans and media attention that the often second-string player was selected for at least one 1952 pre-season All American mention. With future Georgia head coach Vince Dooley injuring a knee cartilage in the season's second game, the Tigers fell to 2-8, in part due to their continuing lack of quality players. Bobby Freeman carried most of the load behind 215-pound guard Ed Duncan. With a terrific freshmen team, Shug saw a bright future, especially with the expected return of Dooley.

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