1980 - 91 Cardinal  "John Elway"
(Authentic Reproduction)




After DB coach George Seifert departed to join mentor Bill Walsh with the rebuilding Forty-Niners, head coach Rod Dowhower, after only one season, left also, for an assistant's position with the Denver Broncos. Dodhower would in his travels, serve as the head coach at Vanderbilt, the Indianapolis Colts, and as a coordinator or assistant for eight NFL clubs. Former Stanford great Paul Wiggin who had most recently been the head coach of the KC Chiefs and defensive coordinator of the Saints, took the head job and stamped his mark on the program by tweaking the helmet design. The white shell, red one-inch center stripe, and white facemask were now augmented by a red four-inch "S" logo outlined in red on each side of the helmet. The offense belonged to soph QB John Elway and great things were expected, certainly more than a 6-5 record with losses to all three California rivals. Elway didn't disappoint as the first sophomore to be named consensus first-team All American QB since Northwestern's Tommy Myers. HB Darrin Nelson had a strong return from his missed-with-injury '79 season and with Elway pitching, WR Ken Margerum had a second All American year before playing six NFL seasons, five of those with the Bears. End Andre Tyler added another 53 receptions to the team total for 737 yards and the offensive firepower had the Cardinals as PAC leaders, totaling 432.6 yards and 28.4 points per game. Record-setting kicker Ken Naber was a key to the offense, becoming Stanford's all-time leading scorer. Unfortunately, the defense was as bad as the offense was good, giving up a conference worst of 404.5 yards and 25 points per game. LB Milt McColl made a number of "All" squads and then played for Walsh again, lasting seven seasons with the Forty-Niners and one more with the Raiders. Safety Vaughn Williams stood out with help in the secondary from Rod Gilmore. The tally in '81, Wiggin's second season was "a grave disappointment" at 4-7, even with Elway tossing for a 58.4% completion rate, 2674 yards and twenty TD's in an injury-riddled year. Darrin Nelson partnered with Vincent White to provide the ground attack and WR Andre Tyler came into his own. Center John Macaulay powered the O-line with T Jim Dykstra. The pass defense was horrid, giving up almost 220-yards per game despite All Conference play by Safety Vaughn Williams. Its not as if Wiggin did not have the talent but bad defense, bad breaks, and a general level of unpredictable and inconsistent play doomed his regime. Elway of course, became one of the all-time great college and pro quarterbacks, and Darrin Nelson, was an eventual number one draft-choice of the Vikings who played in the NFL for eleven years, nine of those seasons, with the Vikings. Center Macaulay had a year with the 'Niners and receiver Tyler his own with Tampa Bay. Gilmore became and remains a respected ESPN football analyst and commentator. Wiggin and the team fell prey to "The Play" in 1982, the famous or infamous and always argued kickoff return. Elway masterfully drove Stanford down the field in The Big Game against Cal and set his team up for the winning field goal with four seconds on the clock. The Stanford fans were jubilant and the Stanford band began blaring the strains of "Its All Right Now" in a taunting victory celebration as this would cinch a Hall Of Fame Bowl bid for the Cardinal. The rugby-like, five-lateral play that brought Cal Bear Kevin Moen into the end zone with the winning score with no time on the clock as he ran over and beaned Stanford trombone player Gary Tyrrell deflated the morale of the entire Cardinal program. The Play, the game, and its aftermath it is felt, contributed to the 0-10 season of 1983 and with that type of year, no bowl appearances, and what was seen as an inability to fully exploit John Elway's full talents as his quarterback, Wiggin was fired and returned to pro football. Stanford has, in the twenty-four years since The Play and the subsequent firing of Wiggin, been able to field decent and bowl contending teams every four or five years and often serves as a spoiler in the PAC 10, proud of its ability to field competitive teams while maintaining one of the most stringent admissions and academic policies in the nation.             
The Granada Hills (CA) H.S. quarterback was the most highly prized recruit in the nation in 1978. John Elway chose Stanford and set almost every passing record in both school and conference history. His seventy-seven career, twenty-seven in a season, and six TD's in one game marks were just a few among many. Completing 774 passes for 9349 yards, he was two-time PAC-10 Player Of The Year, an All American, and second in the Heisman voting to Herschel Walker. The Colts first-round pick, Elway demanded and was traded to the Broncos and made an immediate mark. He took Denver to five wins in six AFC Championship games and won two Super Bowls. His late-game heroics and ability to move his team from one end of the field to the other in the most tense situations became famous and very much his trademark. The ninety-eight yard fourth quarter drive to send the '86 AFC Championship game into overtime in an eventual Bronco win against the Browns is known as "The Drive" to all fans. Elway passed for more than 3000 yards and rushed for more than 200 in seven straight seasons and in his pro career, completed 4123 passes in 7250 attempts for an astounding 51475 yards and 300 TD's. A three-time All Pro and the NFL MVP in 1987, Elway is in both the College and Pro Football Halls Of Fame.

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