Florida


1955 - 62 Gators
(Authentic Reproduction)

 

 

     

A slight but significant change was made to the white helmets with the orange center stripe as Woodruff added black three-inch identifying numerals to the sides of the helmets. This would mark one of the earlier uses of the thin, rounded style three-inch numbers. The typical fast Florida start slowed with losses in the last three contests with QB a problem through all of '55. The defense was solid but Woodruff contributed to his reputation of losing the big ones, going down to Georgia Tech, Auburn, Kentucky, and Miami in close, winnable games. Jackie Simpson handled the wide-sweeps and backed up the line well but 4-6 was the best they could squeeze out of a low-scoring offense. 1956 was the final year of his contract and Woodruff was feeling the pressure but he had some weapons. John Barrow stepped up to All American level at guard and went on to become one of the best CFL players of his era. QB Jimmy Dunn who signed with the Gators despite the protests of Florida State that he had committed to them, was, at 140-pounds, what Woodruff termed "the best pound-for-pound player I have ever coached" and with 210-pound FB Joe Brodsky, made for a tough "Mutt-and-Jeff" backfield. Brodsky returned an interception 100-yards against Mississippi State and immediately passed out in the end zone but was a cog in a good 6-3-1 season. Soph HB-DB Bernie Parrish looked like a winner too. Bad luck hit the team immediately in 1957. NCAA probation for the illegal transport and feeding of basketball and baseball recruits also sanctioned football and an outbreak of Asian flu among the Gator players caused the cancellation of the opener against UCLA. The defense rose up to stuff Billy Cannon and upset powerful LSU 22-14 and they won 22-0 against Georgia. DB Parrish played both ways effectively but was a blanketing defender. Tackles Vel Heckman and Charley Mitchell and HB Jim Roundtree augmented the play of QB Jimmy Dunn to the tune of a good 6-2-1 record though the fans were often bored by the lack of offense and willingness to punt or quick kick on third down on a regular basis. 
 
The start of the series with Florida State after years of argument and resistance, a 21-7 Gator win, highlighted the 6-4-1 season of '58. Bernie Parrish was lost early, signing a baseball contract but after a few years of undistinguished play, returned to football as a Browns DB from 1959 to 1966. One game into the '66 season, he was traded to the Oilers for his final season due to his attempts to form the first NFL Players Union. Don Fleming, another future Brown, was a solid end and Vel Heckman an All American tackle. Against defensive-minded Ole Miss in the Gator Bowl, some quipped that the game could be a 2-0 affair and they weren't far off as Ole Miss won a defensive battle, 7-3 despite the offensive acumen of QB Jimmy Dunn. With a great freshmen class in the wings, Woodruff wanted to stay at Florida but knew the heat was on for '59. Bobby Joe Green was a terrific punter with a 77-yarder to his credit against Ole Miss in the Gator Bowl of '58 and former QB Dick Allen was separated from the military with one more year of eligibility. Woodruff however, sealed his fate as he refused to break a late 13-13 tie against Rice and made the infamous remark, "I will gamble to win but I'll never gamble to lose." The remark also deflated the team and they were then upset by weak Vanderbilt. Another three SEC losses followed. The Gators beat Florida State and Miami but 5-4-1 wouldn't be enough to save Woodruff's job. His 54-41-6 record and wins in six out of ten Georgia games raised Florida from a "have-not" to respectability but Woodruff was fired, did not wish to stay on as AD, and instead took the AD job at Tennessee where he did what was termed a wonderful job. He repeated this as one of the U.S. administrators for the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.
     
With many favorites with local connections being turned down for the head coaching position, men like Georgia Tech assistant and Miami local legend Charley Tate, Tampa coach Marcelino Huerta who was inducted to the College Football Hall Of Fame in 2002, and former Florida assistant Hank Foldberg, the press was having a field day skewering the search committee. Dave Nelson of Delaware and Ara Parseghian of Northwestern were also on the list but Ara's call came the day after he agreed to stay on at Northwestern. Former Tennessee and Philadelphia Eagle end Ray Graves, a Georgia Tech assistant, was anointed as Florida's new head coach for the 1960 season and his staff included Gene Ellenson, former Georgia Tech QB, young Air Force "offensive coach" Pepper Rodgers, and former Gator QB Jimmy Dunn. Graves immediately and accurately predicted that he would not be able to recruit Florida high school standouts who wanted to be Gators because of the high entrance standards relative to the SEC and these players would eventually be on the other side of the line of scrimmage when they lined up against his Florida team. He would leave it to offensive-guru Rodgers to leave the Woodruff era behind and utilize soph QB's Bobby Dodd, Jr. the son of Graves' former boss, and 138-pound Larry Libertore to put the plan into action. The passing of Dodd Jr. and the run option of Libertore opened the path to a 9-2 finish that included a 13-12 Gator Bowl victory over Baylor, with Auburn, the only SEC loss That 10-7 disappointment cost Florida the SEC crown but upsets over Georgia Tech and LSU made Grave's debut memorable. HB Lindy Infante scurried to a TD that made the Tech game close at 17-16 with only thirty-three seconds left. The two-point conversion won it 18-17 which greased the skids for the rest of the season.

Head Coach Graves maintained the helmet style that he had inherited from Woodruff through the 1961 and 62 seasons. A 3-3 tie against Florida State, an offensive collapse that brought but seven points in three games despite good play from QB Libertore and HB's Lindy Infante and Bob Hoover left the Gators with a surprisingly poor 4-5-1 mark at the end of the '61 season. The 7-4 team of 1962 played erratically although Soph FB Larry Dupree led the SEC in rushing with 619 yards and was SEC Sophomore Of The Year. Teaming with HB's Infante (future head coach of the Packers and Colts) and Bob Hoover, QB Tom Shannon led a good offense in a three-unit rotation. Leading Duke 21-0 at the half and losing 28-21 mirrored the unpredictable play. Still, the team came to the Gator Bowl to defeat highly favored Penn State by 17-7 as defensive coach Ellenson presented his new Monster Defense. The helmets were altered as the identifying numerals were moved to the front of the helmets and Confederate flag decals were placed on each side which seemed to inspire them to play at a higher level against the favored Nittany Lions.

FLORIDA 1963:

Entering the 1963 season, the uniform was altered and Coach Graves introduced a blue shell that had not been worn since 1950 and dressed it with a one-inch orange center stripe, a one-inch gap of blue, and one-inch white flanking stripes. He added three-inch white full block numerals to the sides of the helmets for a complete and dazzling look. The 6-3-1 team of 1963 was epitomized by the heart of Larry Dupree whose baby was stillborn and buried the next day while his wife lay ill in a hospital bed. With her encouragement and sleep-deprived for three days, Dupree's father-in-law, the head of the area Highway Patrol, gave him a police convoy that got him to the Georgia game by kickoff where he won the 21-14 contest with his lightning dashes from scrimmage. It was later found that he gained a school record 745 yards with a torn knee ligament that remained un-repaired until the 1964 season was over. QB Tom Shannon led the charge in the 10-6 upset of Bama behind the blocking of Center and LB Roger Pettee, a game that brought 10,000 cheering fans to meet the team at the airport after the contest. Fine two-way back Haygood Clarke left for the Bills and a good five-year career at DB.

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