Michigan State

1954 Spartans
(Authentic Reproduction)



After the 1953 season, Michigan State's probation was declared over and Hugh "Duffy" Daugherty stepped up from assistant to head coach. He had been team captain at Syracuse, entered the military service where he won a Bronze Star for heroic combat duty in World War II, then became Munn's assistant upon his termination of service. He followed Munn to Michigan State in 1947 and stepped up to the head post in 1954. His first staff is still considered one of the finest in all of college football: Sonny Gradelius, Dan Devine, Bob Devaney, future Houston head coach Bill Yeoman, former Spartan great guard Don Mason, and Bart Smith. All Everything LeRoy Bolden injured a leg in the final pre-season practice and never truly recovered his previous skills. He finished his State career and after a few years of military service went to the Browns as a kick returner and running back. The opener was a loss to Iowa as the Spartans came out in their usual Kelly green helmets. However, for the October 2nd game against Wisconsin and the October 9th game against Indiana, Duffy put the team in white helmets with a Kelly green one-inch center stripe. He split those two games but lost his first three of four by a total of eleven points, setting the stage for a disastrous 3-6 record, with all but the Wisconsin and Indiana games played in the green helmet. The finale featured a young fullback by the name of Clarence Peaks who showed great ability by gaining 150 yards on only six carries! Guard and LB Hank Bullough later became a long-time college and NFL coach, given credit by many for introducing and refining the 3-4 defense and was the Bills' head coach for two seasons. At one point, a frustrated Munn burst into a coaches' meeting to berate the staff. Duffy established his authority as head coach by throwing Munn out but their father-son type of relationship was over and this would be the beginning of ill will between the two that would surface years later. 

In 1955, still wearing the Kelly green shell with white one-inch center stripe, Duffy had a more "typically Michigan State" season with a 9-1 finish and the only loss a 14-7 squeaker against Michigan. QB Morrall, coming off of a poor '54 and missing spring ball time while playing baseball, shocked the nation by excelling as a consensus All American QB with top passing and punting statistics. His pro career was stellar, starting as the Forty Niners first-round choice and moving between starting and second-string QB who led teams to titles and Super Bowls. He spent twenty-one seasons with San Francisco, Pittsburgh, New York Giants, Baltimore, and Miami and was always a reliable leader. All Big Ten honors were bestowed upon FB Gerry Planutis who played in '56 with the Redskins, and linemates Norm Masters, a key to Lombardi's Green Bay offensive lines through 1964, and captain Buck Nystrom while John "Big Thunder" Lewis was a frightening end. Sophs QB Jim Ninowski and Walt "The Sprinting Blacksmith" Kowalczyk added offensive punch while center/LB Dan Currie was super when he received a chance to play. Gary Lowe doubled at DB and FB, becoming one of the Detroit Lions key defensive players into the 1960's, and Peaks was often unstoppable. The formidable team needed Ohio State to defeat Michigan and technically win the Big Ten title so that the Spartans, now representing Michigan State University having shed its college designation, could get the Rose Bowl bid where it defeated UCLA 17-14 in a heart stopper. Daugherty was National College Coach Of The Year and it seemed as if the number-two ranked Spartans were again in dynasty mode.


No stranger to success, Earl Morrall was the center of a recruiting war between Michigan State and Notre Dame after leading his Muskegon, Michigan High School team to the 1951 State Championship. Spartan coach Biggie Munn made sure that Earl remained in-state and he shared the QB duties with senior Tom Yewcic while leading State to the National Championship in 1953, his sophomore season. After the Spartans' poor 3-6 showing in 1954 and his decision to play baseball rather than participate in spring football practice, Morrall was considered a long shot to retain his starting role as a senior but he surprised all observers by having an All American season and emerging as one of the country's best players. He entered the NFL as the Forty Niners first-round choice and set off on a twenty-one year saga, one that earned him the "left-handed compliment" moniker of "The Greatest Back-up Quarterback In NFL History". A year with San Francisco, a year with the Steelers, going to the Lions for Bobby Layne led to his best year in '63 as he threw for twenty-four TD's. He had an excellent year in '65 with the Giants and relegated to back-up duty, went to the Colts in 1968. Coming off the bench he led them to a 13-1 record and the infamous Super Bowl III loss to the NY Jets but he re-emerged as a great in 1970, again coming off the bench to take the Colts to Super Bowl victory over the Cowboys. In '72 he was a Dolphin and after a 4-0 start, took over the team for the injured starter Bob Griese and was AFC Player Of The Year and NFL Comeback Player Of The Year for his great season, taking the Dolphins to an undefeated season's record and into the playoff rounds where the recovered Griese took over. Finally, Morrall retired after the '76 season, having secured his place in football history.

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