West Virginia

51-58 Mountaineers
(Authentic Reproduction)




Lewis entered '51 with optimism, planning to build around end Paul Bischoff who had caught thirty-five passes, incoming sophs and the freshmen who were now eligible due to the manpower shortage created by the Korean War. With newly designed gold plastic helmets with a one-inch blue center stripe and navy blue side numerals, the Mountaineers looked sharp, especially when combined with gold/mustard colored jerseys with blue numerals. A humorous remark relayed to HELMET HUT by former WVU Sports Information Director Eddie Barrett, involved a complaint from VMI Head Coach Tom Nugent who was the head man there from 1949 through 1952. Nugent went to Florida State and then Maryland after his time at VMI, gaining fame as the inventor of the I-Formation and typewriter huddle. Noting that the "mustard colored jerseys concealed the same-colored football" and that "the satiny blue numerals couldn't be seen in the sun," these protests by a combative competitor "insured that this would then become the Mountaineers favored color combination" and for years, the WVU football teams proudly donned their gold jerseys for many away, as well as all home games.  The Mountaineers showed improvement to 5-5 behind the thirty passes hauled in by All American Bischoff who was also a defensive standout, team captain, and student body President. A close game against talented Penn State marked them as a comer. Ushering in what was considered a "golden age" in Mountaineer gridiron history, the '52 team's 7-2 mark was the start of a solid streak of good football and the development of outstanding home-grown players, many who went on to NFL stardom. Tackle Ben Dunkerley and center Bob Orders led the line with freshmen Bruce Bosley and Robert Lee "Sam" Huff, but the emerging talent was in the backfield behind them in QB Fred Wyant who amazingly had a hand in every WVU TD for the season and hard-charging Joe Marconi. With Marconi from Fredericktown, PA, a western Pennsylvania town close enough to the West Virginia border that it could be considered as part of "WVU Territory" and the other stars of the team from small towns within the state's borders, they made many West Virginia boys want to play for the home-state university. 1953 was special with an 8-3 finish that included a hard-fought 20-19 win over a Penn State team led by Roosevelt Grier and Lenny Moore, and a Sugar Bowl loss to powerful Georgia Tech and their MVP QB Pepper Rodgers. Bosley, Orders, and tackle "Beef" Lamone were named All American while guard Huff bolstered the line and provided the escort for Wyant, Marconi, and leading rusher FB Tom Allman. Other than a mid-season 13-10 loss to hated Pitt, 1954 was another successful 8-1 season as the Mountaineers played "Ironman", limited- substitution football due to graduation losses.  QB Wyant was now the winner in twenty-three of his twenty-six starts. The 218-pound Marconi and rapid Bobby Moss were a dangerous backfield but the power was in the line with All American Bosley and Huff, a matched-pair of 220-pound hitters who would go on to huge NFL stardom, Huff with the Giants and Redskins as a Hall Of Fame player, and Bosley in a fourteen-year career with the 49ers. Lewis had removed the side navy blue numerals for the '53 and '54 seasons but replaced them for player identification for 1955 and that 1955 record was fine at 8-2 and included what would be their last victory over Penn State for thirty years. The cast was the same with Wyant, Moss, and Marconi providing the punch, but backed up by the results of Lewis' recruiting acumen. While Wyant (third round pick of the Redskins) and Marconi (first round draft choice of the Rams) were good enough to go straight to the NFL after their senior send-off, back-ups Vic "Jack" Rabbits averaged over nine yards per carry and Larry Krutko almost six. Both Bosley and Huff made every All American team between them, and future Chicago Bear number one draft choice and long-time Cowboy linebacking star Chuck Howley played the guard opposite Huff, thus giving Lewis three future All Pros on his line. Howley was also a sprinter on the track team, won a letter in gymnastics, and had been Wheeling's high school diving champion, a tremendous athlete who could play any position on the football field. To this day, the 1955 "Fab Five" of Moss (a fourth round pick of the Browns who opted for a career as a Naval officer), Huff, Bosley, Wyant, and Marconi are considered to be the Mountaineers all-time best group of graduates, thus, after they left it was not surprising that things slipped a bit in '56 but Howley, now at center, still played at All American caliber. Mickey Trimarki took over the QB spot but unfortunately balanced thirty-three completions with sixteen interceptions. Krutko was the primary runner, with Howley and guard Joe Nicely paving the way to a 6-4 record. Interestingly, by the time the 1956 season had ended, some of the players could be seen with the standard navy blue numerals on the sides of their helmets while others did not show them. Lewis had high hopes for 1957 and good incoming players. 7-2-1 seemed to right the ship as Dick Longfellow burst out at QB with his accurate passing, and speed abounded in the backfield with Ray Peterson, Dave Rider, and Bill McClure. Howley finished his career at one of the guard spots and was drafted number one by the Bears, primarily for his defensive play. Tall Bruce McClung and Nicely were other line mainstays as Lewis' conference unbeaten streak ran to five seasons. In 1958 the removal of the helmet's side numerals marked a slight change in the uniform's appearance. The 4-5-1 slate of 1958 was a definite step down for the program despite the good play of QB's Dick Longfellow (who finished sixth nationally in passing) and Danny Williams and the rushing of junior RB's Dave Rider and Ray Peterson. Mel "Lefty" Reight was on the other end of many of Longfellow's passes as he led the team in both receptions and scoring from a halfback spot. Bill Lopasky and Ben McComb were stout on the line but porous defense against Oklahoma and Boston University coupled with close losses to Indiana, Pitt, and Syracuse made for a long season. Expectations for 1959 were clouded as the Mountaineers concluded their first losing slate in eight years, four of the losses by a touchdown or less, and the disappointment augmented by heavy personnel losses on the horizon for '59. 

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