University of Miami

1959 - 63 Hurricanes
(Authentic Reproduction)




The Miami helmet was changed once again, this time to the color and style that became most closely associated with the Hurricanes of the era because of the exciting, solid play they brought to each game. Returning to the Green Bay gold shell, black three-inch thin, rounded "Charger-style" player numerals were placed on each side of the headgear. Using weight training to become stronger, Jim Otto led the 'Canes into the '59 season with a sharp, new jersey design, one that featured sleeve inserts and knit trim in contrasting colors that made the black side numerals stand out more on the helmet. Rated as having the toughest schedule in the country, the Hurricanes would need every psychological boost they could get. Otto teamed with guard Jack Novak for solid interior line play while soph end Bill Miller caught 33 passes from Curci. New RB Jim Vollenweider (later with the 49ers) teamed with rush leader Frank Buford to help the team rebound to a 6-4 record. Only a loss to Florida in the season's last game kept Miami from an Orange Bowl bid. Assistant Coach Stram departed to become head coach of the new Dallas Texans of the American Football League but left behind his multiple offense that garnered a second 6-4 record in 1960 under the leadership of QB Eddie Johns who ran as well as he threw with most of those passes again going to Pennsylvania's Bill Miller. Vollenweider augmented Johns' 1178 total yards contribution and while the year was satisfactory and included underdog wins against Notre Dame, North Carolina, and Air Force, Gustafson was looking to the quarterback on his 1960 freshmen team as the key to the Hurricanes future success.   
Known as the ironman center for the Oakland Raiders through their formative years and beyond, Jim Otto defined toughness. An undersized offensive lineman out of Wausau, WI, Otto attacked the weights and a conditioning program that made him a mainstay on both sides of the ball for the Miami teams of 1957, 1958, and '59, building himself up to a 6'2" 220-pounder who could play all of the O-Line positions until he became a 255 pound All Pro and Hall Of Fame center with the Oakland Raiders. An excellent linebacker, Otto was recognized more for his offensive blocking skills at Miami. He was snubbed by the NFL but as a first round draft choice of the Oakland Raiders of the new American Football League, he took the number 50 they gave him and began a storied pro career. Donning the more familiar 00 in 1961, as much as an AFL marketing ploy as bringing attention to his last name, Otto remained at center for fifteen years without missing a game despite severe and frequent injury. If any pro player became known for the devastating effects of their career-long injuries, it was Otto. Despite being one of only twenty players who endured the entire ten years of the AFL's existence, and earning All AFL or All Pro status in twelve of his fifteen years, Otto paid the price physically. Twenty-eight knee operations and forty total surgeries, nine while an active player which eventually led to multiple joint replacement, infection and near-death due to complications of the artificial joints, and debilitating arthritis have not dampened the enthusiasm Otto has for the game. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall Of Fame in 1980, his first year of eligibility and continues to work for the Raiders. 
It is no doubt difficult to imagine a time when the University Of Miami football program was little known nationally, and not highly respected in the Southeast. Seen as little more than a middle-of-the-road regional program representing a small private school, the lack of good players in Florida and an inability to recruit their neighboring states well against the competition of their SEC counterparts led the Hurricane staff to mine the Pennsylvania and Ohio areas for their best players, just as fellow in-state Independent Florida State had. The flurry of excitement marking their 1950 victory over Purdue and accompanying national attention provided an attractive national schedule through the 1950's but minimal television coverage kept the program under wraps until the arrival of a player who was talented enough to elevate the profile of the entire school. If there was one player that put Andy Gustafson and his program on the national map to stay, it was George Mira, a home-grown QB out of Key West who was one of the most exciting players in the  nation. That Mira's last team in '63 could muster no more than a 3-7 record behind all of his talent may have hastened Coach Gustafson's decision to finally retire after sixteen years at the Hurricane helm to focus on the Athletic Director's position. Mira was a gifted high school athlete who excelled at boxing under the tutelage of his father, a former pro fighter. He was a great pitcher in baseball (with teammate John "Boog" Powell, the two of them led Key West H.S. to two state championships), and of course, his team's star quarterback. He could have gone with Powell to play pro baseball with the Orioles. He could have been a professional fighter like his father had been but his parents pushed him to attend college. Speaking Spanish at home, his nickname of "The Matador" was a natural on the U M campus and breaking his teammate's finger with a hard thrown pass sealed his reputation as something special. As a soph, facing a tough schedule, Mira orchestrated great wins over Kentucky, Penn State, Georgia, and Florida. Against the Gators, the go-ahead TD was thrown left-handed by the right-handed Mira with opponents draped over him. Their 7-3 record earned the 'Canes a trip to the Liberty Bowl where they lost a squeaker to Ernie Davis-led Syracuse 15-14. Mira and favorite target, end Bill Miller (later to star for the Raiders after a rookie year with the Bills) went into the 1962 season expected to lead a team sorely lacking in depth. Financial difficulties led to scholarship reductions in all sports and the football team suffered, losing first-half leads to Alabama and Northwestern, fading in the stretch due to a lack of quality depth. Mira was better prepared for the season after having John Unitas as his spring ball quarterback coach and almost single-handedly carried the team. He finished the season ranked second in the country in passing yards and fifth in the Heisman Trophy balloting. He was named a first-team All American and the Hurricanes finished at 7-4 after dropping a wild snow and ice-covered Gotham Bowl game to Nebraska by a 36-34 margin. Inconsistent defensive play had been a problem throughout '62 and hopes for a huge final season were high. Jack Harding, the Miami coach who had first nurtured the program in 1937 and then served as Athletic Director since 1948 passed away and it was agreed that Gustafson would retire and take over the AD position. However with Mira, Pete Banaszak (Raiders), Nick Spinelli,  and Russ Smith (Chargers) in the backfield and a fortified two-way line with weight-trained end Ed Weisacosky (who played six years at LB in the NFL) and one of their all-time best Dan Connors, at tackle (Connors was later a cornerstone at LB for the Raider defenses of the late 1960's), Coach Gus wanted one more year on the bench before assuming full time AD duties. The 3-7 record was a shock to all especially since the offense did not score a touchdown until the fifth game of the season!  Analysis revealed that the continuing lack of depth and overestimation of talent had skewed expectations. Injuries to Smith and Banaszak allowed Mira to set a new national record of 368 completions but this was in part due to lack of a running game. Inconsistent offensive line play was a problem the entire year. When the season ended Gustafson moved up to the Athletic Director's post while Mira began what became an NFL career as a full-time backup at the 49'ers, Eagles, Colts, and Dolphins before playing in Canada and later in the short-lived World Football League. However, in his three years as the leader of the Hurricanes, the electrifying George Mira had put Miami on the map and into the public consciousness. The distinctive Green Bay gold helmet with the black side numerals was now immediately associated with the Hurricane program.

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