Michigan State

1956 - 64 Spartans
(Authentic Reproduction)


Duffy opened the '56 season with four straight victories and a new helmet design. The Kelly green helmet with white one-inch center stripe had one and two-bar masks on almost all of the helmets and white, three-inch thin, rounded "Charger" style player identification numerals were placed on each side of the shells for a classic appearance. An upset by Illinois was laid at the feet of Clarence Peaks' knee injury. Blanketing the Illini's only weapon in sprinter Abe Woodson, Peaks at safety saw his knee collapse and with no one else capable of stopping Woodson, he scored three times and State lost its number-one ranking. A subsequent loss to Minnesota put the Spartan squad at 7-2 with senior center and captain John Matsko at All Big Ten, and QB Ninowski as a definite All Everything prospect for '57. Peaks played seven seasons for the Eagles and two for the Steelers and was an always good and at times, great fullback but never the same after his injury. DB Vic Zucco moved on to four effective seasons with the Bears. Frosh QB out of the Bronx, N.Y. James Caan left before the next varsity season and transferred to Hofstra University on Long Island. While his football career was terminated, he did find success as an actor, coincidentally playing two significant football roles. The first was as a brain-damaged running back in Francis Ford Coppola's The Rain People, the famed director's first major effort, which was filmed at Hofstra in the mid-1960's and Caan then truly launched his career in acting with his portrayal of Brian Piccolo of the Bears who died of cancer. Coppola directed Caan again in a minor movie called The Godfather!!  1957 like every other season according to Duffy, was going to be a great one. His optimism often clouded the realistic expectations for his squad but he was right on for this season as the Spartans' high-powered offense clicked, FB Kowalczyk healed from his 1956 injuries to make All American and become the Eagles number-one pick, and guard Dan Currie proved to be an All American terror on both offense and defense. Currie was a key to Lombardi's rebuilt Packers from '58-'64 as a strong LB before finishing his NFL time with the Rams in 1966. Ninowski pulled it together at QB to make the All Big Ten team. The line also featured All Conference power in end Sam Williams, tackle Pat Burke, end Bob Jewett (Bears in '58), and guard Ellison Kelly. With all of that talent, it was only a blown call by an official in the Purdue game, confirmed by the league office days later, that cost State that game and a subsequent loss to Minnesota that left them at number three in the nation and out of the Rose Bowl. Ninowski would be a key loss at the end of the season, going on to a lengthy NFL career that would have him pinball between starting and subbing at QB for Cleveland in two different trials, Detroit, Washington, and New Orleans.

With a ton of graduation losses, Duffy opened the '58 season high on his team and gave the nation the oft-repeated quote, "Football is not a contact sport. It's a collision sport. Dancing is a good example of a contact sport." That may have been the only humorous part of a devastating 3-5-1 season, one that found a lack of depth and unsettled QB play. LB Archie Matsos who later played well for four AFL teams filled in behind All American end Williams who began with the Rams, finished with the Falcons but played most of a nine-year NFL career as an integral part of the great Lions defenses of the Sixties. HB Dean Look teamed with soph Herb Adderly and guards Mickey Walker and George Perles to offer up some offensive punch. Perles would return after coaching the Steelers great D-lines as one of the Spartans most successful head coaches. O-lineman Ellison Kelly made it with the NFL Eastern Conference champion Giants in '59. Towards the end of the season, the increasing antipathy of Munn boiled over and he publicly and viciously criticized Daugherty's coaching for the Spartans' last-place Big Ten finish. Introducing a new Double-Wing-Man-In-Motion Offense, Duffy shocked everyone including the team's best rusher, left HB Dean Look, by announcing that the excellent baseball player who had never played QB in his life, would start at that position once 1959's fall practice began. Backfield coach Bill Yeoman got Look ready and he guided the Spartans to a 4-2 Big Ten record that almost got them into the Rose Bowl and an overall 5-4 mark that included victories over Notre Dame and Michigan. Look was All Big Ten and made the Look Magazine All American team. He later played QB for one game with the NY Titans and had a brief career in baseball with the White Sox. His true claim to fame was his position as a highly respected NFL official of three decades standing  and it was his call of the Montana-to-Clark reception known as "The Catch" that has made him a notable sports figure. Two-way back Adderley was the leading rusher and receiver although FB Blanche Martin came back from his injury-ridden '58 season to do well, played with the AFL Titans for a year, and later became a successful dentist. Tackle Palmer Pyle did well too and went on to a few solid seasons as a guard with the Colts, Vikings, and Raiders but received more notoriety after marrying the daughter of Chicago crime boss "Tough Tony" Accardo, the heir to the Al Capone crime syndicate. He later became a very successful radio station executive. Almost lost in the shuffle of line talent was Long Island's Paul Rochester who had an excellent career at a DT with the Texans/Chiefs and then finished his pro playing days with the hometown Jets from 1964-'69. End Fred Arbanas was a two-way standout.

The 1960 team rolled up 2850 total yards and a 6-2-1 record, again falling short of a conference crown. Talent was abundant with two-way star back Adderley not meeting the standards of previous seasons but moving on to the great Packer teams and becoming a perennial All Pro DB. After serving the Pack from '61 through 1969, he completed a Pro Football Hall Of Fame career with the Cowboys in '70-'72. Soph FB Herb Paterra showed promise but HB's Gary Ballman and George Saimes were the ones who joined starting FB Ron Hatcher as the top ground-gainers. Arbanas was another two-way star at end and joined the Dallas Texans/KC Chiefs as a three-time All AFL star at tight end despite losing the vision in one eye after a street altercation. Running behind short, strong 235-pound guard Mickey Walker who became a favorite of NY Giants fans from 1961-'65 as a special teams demon, and sophs Dave Herman, Ed Budde, and Dave Behrman made the offense run easier. 7-2 in 1961 was another "just missed" season and the Spartans finished eighth in the national rankings. Incredibly, it still got Duffy hung in effigy! The 5-0 start had everyone thinking "Rose Bowl" and the let down against Minnesota and a fumble-filled performance against Purdue turned the crowd against the head coach. Using both balanced and unbalanced lines in a Wing-T Offense allowed the talented two-way line to shine. Big Dave Behrman was an All American at tackle with huge Jim Kanicki and terrific guard Ed Budde alongside. Center Dave Manders held the entire thing together and did the same for the Cowboys over eleven seasons. With soph end Ernie Clark all over the field, the defense gave up only fifty points for the entire season. HB George Saimes led the barnyard noises as the Spartans came into the tunnel against Michigan in response to their usual "cow college" comments and it intimidated the Wolverines to the tune of a 28-0 shutout loss. FB Hatcher and HB Ballman, who was a reliable player for four teams in a twelve-year pro career, mainly with the Steelers and Eagles, supplemented quick Sherm Lewis and Dewey Lincoln in their fine attack. Hatcher put a year in with the Redskins while DB Wayne Fontes toiled for the Titans in the 1962 season, returning to the Detroit area two decades later as the head coach of the Detroit Lions. A lack of depth greeted Duffy in '62 so instead of platooning, he played three two-way teams and finished with a 5-4 record. Big Ten broad jump and 300-yard sprint champ Lewis was a 154-pound dervish and he and HB Dewey Lincoln found many holes behind a line of All American Budde, a future All Pro with the championship teams of the Chiefs,  All Big Ten Behrman who was the Bills number one pick for center and tackle play, tackles Dave Herman and Jim Kanicki and 6'5" end Ed Lothmar. Kanicki, a monstrous physical presence, played with the Browns and Giants as a DT for seven seasons and resurfaced with the Houston-Shreveport franchise of the WFL in 1974. Saimes however, never specializing in any aspect of the game, was simply terrific at all of them. He ran, passed, received, and defended as a small linebacker to All American status, then was a true star at DB for the Bills and late in his career for the Broncos. Dependable D-end and LB Clark played well for the Lions for five seasons and finished with a year in St. Louis. End Herb Patera became a lifetime coach, serving as defensive coordinator for the Lions, Bills, and Rams, and in the CFL and WFL.

1963 brought "almost another Rose Bowl" that frustrated the fans. With Sherm Lewis tearing things up as an All American back and later becoming one of the most highly respected offensive coordinators in the NFL after playing in the CFL and with the Jets, the offense rolled up over 2500 total yards and only a final day loss to Illinois following President Kennedy's assassination prevented a trip to the Rose Bowl. Dewey Lincoln and surprise runner Dick Gordon joined soph QB Steve Juday and took advantage of the huge line. Big Ed Lothmar moved from end to tackle and moved on to the Chiefs as an under rated DE for nine seasons. End Dan Underwood was All Conference while the surprise All American pick was guard Earl Lattimer who got an All American mention primarily because he would perform a number of somersaults going back into the huddle each game and received national recognition for that antic. Dave Herman was the glue of the line, playing for the Jets from 1964 to '73 as an undersized guard and having a well-hyped duel with fellow Spartan Bubba Smith in Super Bowl III. With a 4-5 losing record, the talent of the Spartans' young players was so obvious they were ranked at number twenty at the end of the season. Duffy's recruiting skill and willingness to bring in perhaps more African-American players than many other coaches, had given him a stacked deck for the near future. Dick Gordon matured at HB and rushed for 741 yards, then went on to very good twelve year NFL stint, primarily with the Bears as a receiver. Track star Gene Washington caught thirty-five passes and fellow sprint champ Clint Jones showed flashes of greatness at HB. Soph LB's Charles Thornhill and Ron Goovert supported end Harold Lucas with 204-pound DT George Webster a lean and powerful tackler.  DE Jerry Rush completed his career and was solid for the Lions for seven seasons. Non-football playing hoopster Peter Gent had a tryout with the Cowboys and wound up as a fine receiver for five seasons before becoming an author.

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