1951 - 54 Gators
(Authentic Reproduction)



The Gators opened strongly in '51 but faded toward the end, a pattern that would dog Woodruff through his tenure The play of the team was certainly "more respectable" according to Woodruff with a 30-21 defeat of Bama as the highlight. There were a few individual standouts and the team looked sharp in new white Riddell helmets with a one-inch orange center stripe. FB Rick Casares was 205-pounds of hell for opponents and QB Haywood Sullivan a proven leader and passer. Consensus was that '52 would be the season to cash in. The projections for having a great team in 1952 bit the dust early when Major League Baseball changed their bonus-signing rule. QB Haywood Sullivan, who had performed at an elite level in the very first High School All American Game as a T-Formation QB was also a top-rated catching prospect. He was offered $75,000.00 by the Boston Red Sox to join them as a catcher and would not have access to the same type of bonus if he waited until after the '52 football season. Sullivan signed with the Red Sox, collected his money, and went on to a career as a catcher, manager, and administrator in the Boston organization. Having brought in new assistant coaches Dale Hall who would later be the head man at Army, and John Rauch, the future Buffalo Bills head coach to spice up the offense, the beefed-up staff was left to try a willing but unsuited Casares at QB. It didn't work and after dropping the second game 17-14 to Georgia Tech, Doug Dickey was moved from safety to signal-caller and Casares back to his familiar FB position. With HB Charley LaPrada an All American the Gators went 7-2 and then defeated Tulsa 14-13 in the Gator Bowl. The return to two-platoon football in '53 left Florida with many gaps due to a lack of depth and other than Dickey and Casares who doubled as a kicker, and a 21-7 defeat of rival Georgia, the highlights were few in a disappointing 3-5-2 season. Casares played ten years for the Bears before finishing his final two pro seasons with the Redskins and Dolphins. For the 1954 season Woodruff hired Hank Foldberg who later became the head coach at Wichita State and Texas A&M to further develop his lagging offense. As a defensive specialist, "Burly Bob" as the head coach was often referred to in deference to his 290-pound heft, often kept the offense hamstrung with his conservative approach and play-calling. They had another 5-5 year but recorded their first ever win over Tennessee and could have won the SEC title if not for seven fumbles given up against Georgia in a dreadful 14-13 loss. HB Mal Hammack (ten years with the Cardinals) and FB Joe Brodsky who was spelled by Don Chandler who doubled as a punter led the backfield while the line featured tackle Vel Heckman and Center/LB Steve DeLaTorre. Jackie Simpson provided the other LB help.

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