No amount of words could ever capture the special bond that forever exits between teammates from a championship team as well as this (above) heartfelt photo of Mr. Charles (“Call me Bubba”) Smith reuniting with his 1966 Michigan State Spartan teammates this past weekend in East Lansing. The school brought their most special team ever back to campus to honor the 40 year anniversary of their infamous 10 – 10 tie with Notre Dame which was widely billed as “the Game of the Century.” On Saturday night just prior to the kickoff of this year’s edition of their long standing rivalry with the Irish the Spartans also retired the number “95” in honor of “Bubba” Smith. For this game the Spartans wore the same style helmet logos and striping as used by the 1966 team. They even wore the same 1966 style two inch tall player numerals on the back of their helmets which a true traditionalist would say was a most classy gesture that reflected a truly commendable respect to detail for this special occasion. Helmet Hut was proud and excited that MSU turned to us to provide them with all of the aforementioned vintage helmet markings for this special game.
How special were the 1966 Michigan State Spartans? Consider the lightning quick feet of lineman Anthony Conti, the toughness of fullback Bob Apisa and Charles “Mad Dog” Thornhill, the uniqueness of barefoot kicker Dick Kenny, the versatility of end Mike Dissinger and runner / passer Jimmy Raye. Now parlay that talent with these four legendary “All Americans” who were selected in the first eight overall draft picks in the 1967 NFL draft: Bubba Smith (no. 1 - Colts), Clinton Jones (no. 2 - Vikings), George Webster (no. 5 – Oilers) and Gene Washington (no. 8 – Vikings). Add team character as exemplified by team co-captain Clinton Jones who, as great of a football player as he was, will someday be even greater as the metaphorical captain of heaven’s “All Genuine and Caring” people’s team. The recipe for a perfect college football team!
The 1966 team was honored and feted throughout the weekend culminating with their introduction prior to the start of the nationally televised game on Saturday night. A highlight of the festivities occurred during the Friday evening banquet when each returning player was presented with an authentic Helmet Hut reproduction of the actual helmet and facemask that they wore in 1966. With former coach Hank Bulloch barking orders in the same manner as his players might remember him conducting a “two on one” tackling drill in the old days an autograph line was formed and the players signed each other’s helmets. Just as they had done over forty years ago the players cynically chided their old coach for his gruff approach to a routine task and you can be assured that their comments to him, just like the ones they made in 1966, were just quiet enough to not be heard within the earshot of their forever “no nonsense” style coach.
As the players exchanged autographs on their vintage style helmets a video replay of their 1966 game against Notre Dame played continuously on the numerous monitors in the La Salle club inside the Spartan Stadium. With the sights and sounds of their famous battle playing in the background, shared old war stories being further exaggerated and the players gathered closely (for the autograph session) as if they were in their old locker room ready to storm the field for one more game an almost magical transformation was taking place --- these gallant heroes from the past had briefly turned youthful once again but this time they were old enough to appreciate it.
If interested in any of these MSU helmets please click on the photos below.