By Dr. Ken


My obvious infatuation with and love for helmets and jerseys, the entire football uniform, speaks well to my compulsiveness but I will reiterate my remark from last month that I was definitely from the Hank Stram school of football fashion. While coaches, teammates and later, my wife often made fun of the way I walked around campus looking one or two steps above a homeless person, even at practice my football uniform spoke volumes about the pride I took in the job I was trying to do. I admittedly was a very untalented player. I was fast with good “track”, straight-line speed but lacked the quickness to be a really good football player. I was not particularly well-coordinated and had limited athletic ability. If it was a matter of enduring, I could endure and I took great pride in knowing everyone’s responsibilities for each play. This no doubt explains why I was drawn to coaching in later years but as a player, it was immediately obvious that I would be little more than a role player. However, this did not preclude the necessity to reflect my belief that every time I stepped onto the practice field or stood on the sidelines (which I did more than on the actual field) during games that I had to look and be my best. I really did believe I was representing my school, my coaches and teammates, my family, and my hometown. As absolutely corny and ridiculously hackneyed that sounds, that’s just how it was and few understood how a supposed tough guy from the big city suburbs could be so sincerely sentimental about athletic and football values that even by the mid-1960s were becoming a thing of the past. This is in part why I noticed every nuance of everyone opponent’s uniform.


I would look at our opponents helmets in the game programs and media guides that were available to us and actually try to redesign them mentally. There were times, while trying to relax between bouts of studying or after lifting weights at the Central YMCA in Cincinnati (in the days before the University Of Cincinnati or any other university even entertained the thought of having a real weight room) that I would take pencil and paper and redesign our own uniforms and those of our upcoming opponents. At North Texas State, they had a huge defensive tackle that actually came in to play fullback once or twice in short yardage circumstances. His name was, uh, hum, oh yeah, Joe Greene, yes, Mean Joe Greene and the North Texas State Eagles were often referred to as the North Texas State Mean Green which I assumed was in honor of this unbelievable player. Joe Greene was “all that”, absolutely and positively, a man among boys.  North Texas State wore green jerseys with the white “Northwestern” stripe on the sleeve one year, and television numbers on the sleeves, a very typical 60s look but a great, classic look. Unfortunately, they had very plain white helmets with an unexciting “NT” decal. A green helmet, in my opinion, would have made this very talented team that Coach Odus Mitchell and later, his successor Rod Rust put on the field, look much larger and impressive.  Of course, this particular team did not need to look too much more impressive because their level of play spoke volumes about being impressive. QB Steve Ramsey had a seven year NFL career with the Saints and Broncos, RB-WR Ron Shanklin was on the Steeler Super Bowl teams of the 1970s with his North Texas teammate Greene, and oh yes, Cedric Hardman wasn’t a bad defensive player for the 49ers either. Would a change in helmet color have helped them? Only in the minds of the helmet loving lunatics like those of us here at HELMET HUT!