Dear Dr. Del Rye,

As The Who will be the featured artists at next month's Super Bowl, I would like to know what helmets they are wearing in this famous album cover. Thank you.


Phil G., Lynbrook, N.Y.


Dear Phil,


Your question is interesting and a bit different. First, we may wish to establish a time frame for the production of the album and its cover photo. For those HELMET HUT readers not familiar with the rock and roll group The Who or their album “Odds And Sods,” they first hit the music scene in 1965 and had gained great popularity by 1967. They have maintained their worldwide popularity since. From England, they arrived for their first U.S. tour in the summer of 1967 and captured the imagination of many with an energetic stage performance that included the flailing destruction of their instruments and often, some of the stage construction. This specific album is named for a British term that refers to “miscellaneous” items. Inside information from the band indicated that the album title is actually a play on words, as the collection of songs is a "bunch of odds and ends.” They reportedly threw in the word "sods" because it rhymed with "odds." An American translation of sod would be akin to "throwaway" or "discard" and the album is a compilation of materials from various sources that were recorded between 1967 and 1973.



One of the motivating initiatives for this album was to offer fans of The Who an alternative to the numerous bootleg copies of their concerts, giving them instead many previously unreleased studio tracks.  As band members drummer Keith Moon, vocalist Roger Daltrey, and guitarist Pete Townshend were more involved with the movie “Tommy” it was left to bass player John Entwistle and other production staff to sift through materials to form this popular recording. The cover photo was shot on November 29, 1973 by photographer Graham Hughes, Daltrey’s cousin, prior to their performance in Chicago. Before playing the Windy City, the tour had taken the group through San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas, Atlanta, and St. Louis. Supposedly it was Daltrey’s idea to do a photo that included football helmets. Thus, we are left with the possibility that the MacGregor helmets with OPO face masks in this well-known photograph were purchased in or around any of the noted cities including Chicago, and that the purchase was made while on tour rather than prior to the beginning of the tour. It isn’t clear what decal or numeral is on the side(s) of the helmets though it is most likely the number "1." The numeral appears to be centered over the earhole where visible and if the trouble was taken to letter the helmets to form the word "ROCK," adding the number 1 would have been a natural for a rock band that saw itself as the best in the world. It is of course enjoyable to perhaps propose that it is the letter “I” on the side of the headgear and then imagine it in play for a college or high school whose name began with the letter. Did these helmets have striping of any kind that had been removed, or were they solid colored shells? Were these shells a scarlet, crimson, or maroon, the exact color somewhat distorted perhaps by the available lighting? Were the helmets in fact silver or white with Graham ordering them to be spray painted prior to the photo shoot in order to get the effect he was seeking? Did these gladiatorial accessories protect the health of collegiate players in front of 50,000 fans the season before, or were they high school rejects from three seasons prior? All are and perhaps will remain questions without definitive answers. What is known is that Pete Townshend did not like the finished product and in frustration, the original photo was torn up by Graham. It was salvaged with the thought that “this really might be okay” and because piecing it together with adhesive tape very much matched the conglomerate of songs that the album itself represented, was used in its damaged state. The word “R-O-C-K” as spelled out on the four helmets was obviously not a part of any team’s official uniform but the end product is a piece of rock and roll nostalgia that includes HELMET HUT’s favorite piece of uniform gear, and now adds to the trivia of Super Bowl lore.


Thank you very much for this entertaining question.


Dr. Del Rye



Dr. Del Rye;

With the Super Bowl coming up, I have been entertained by the many Super Bowl special shows on the sports channels. I was also motivated to look at some of my old football books and I noticed something about one of my favorite players, Len Dawson. I sent a picture to you showing his helmet and the difference from others of his day. Dawson does not have the nose protector that other helmets show, was this done specially for him? Thank you for your interesting information.

Pete W, Blue Springs, MO 


Dear Pete,

Thank you for the photo shown below:


This photo shows the great Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson on the sideline in the inaugural Super Bowl game against the Packers and as is obvious, the rubber nose snubber that Riddell provided as standard issue on its RK and TK helmets for the 1966 season is indeed absent. In the spirit of fairness and to provide “parity” note another photo from Super Bowl I, this of Packers receiver Carroll Dale whose helmet is also missing its rubber nose snubber.

For those who played organized football in the 1950’s through the early-1960’s, one physical feature made it obvious while walking around campus or on the street that one was in fact, a participant. Because the front of the suspension helmets would “ride down” when contact was made, many players suffered cuts to the bridge of the nose, thus marking the individual as a football player and certainly adding a ruggedness to one’s appearance. That bow to “manliness” unfortunately also came with a constantly bleeding or scabbed appendage that was unsightly and in danger of infection. To counter this discomfort, Riddell introduced the rubber nose snubber at the front of the helmet in order to provide some protection. At the professional level, photographic evidence indicates that a few players wore a nose snubber during the 1959 season but they were on most helmets by 1960. For collegiate players, almost none are seen prior to the 1960 season but in that one year, most suspension helmets displayed the new protective device. Even after the snubbers were introduced and their improved facial safety confirmed, many quarterbacks and receivers would have the equipment personnel remove them as they believed that their vision was impaired or distracted by the small piece of rubber. Keeping with our Super Bowl theme, here is a photo of Baltimore Colts great John Unitas and back-up Earl Morral prior to Super Bowl V and it is obvious that Unitas has had his nose snubber removed.


This practice continued for years in accordance with player preference and consistently, it was the quarterbacks and/or receivers that removed the snubber. In the late 1960’s the frontal sweatband or “Wildcat,” so-called because it was developed by the equipment staff at Northwestern University, was introduced. This was a piece of leather with two soft foam pads glued to the back side. This sweat band extended from and bolted in above the front ridge of the helmet and was then wrapped around the internal suspension. This not only added extra protection for the player but the leather added as extra grip to the forehead to keep the helmet from slipping.



When the Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann appeared in Super Bowl XVII his usual practice of removing the padded sweatband and replacing it with adhesive tape was evident and once again the proposed explanation was related to having improved vision of the field.


Thus, your question related to Super Bowl I takes us through the evolution of some of the helmet’s features and has proven to be very interesting. Thank you and please enjoy the upcoming Super Bowl XLIV.

Truly Yours,

Dr. Del Rye


Dear Dr. Del Rye,

I grew up as a Dallas Cowboys fan though I was too young to see them when they were in their first few Super Bowls. My father told me that when the Cowboys lost to the Colts, Bob Lilly threw his helmet up in the air and it exploded and split in half when it landed on the ground. I remember seeing something about this on one of the NFL shows too. Is this true? I really like Helmet Hut and all of the photos of the helmets, thanks.

Brad F., Conway, Arkansas



Dear Brad,

The Cowboy squads that played in the Super Bowls following the 1970 and 1971 seasons were in my opinion, underrated. Unfortunately they had picked up a reputation of being unable to “win the big game” due primarily to their NFL Championship Game losses to the Packers in 1966 and 1967. The road to Super Bowl V came with hard-fought victories over the Lions 5-0 and their NFL-best rushing defense, and then a 17-10 defeat of the Forty Niners as rookie Duane Thomas rushed for 143 yards. Future Hall Of Fame Tackle Bob Lilly led the Doomsday Defense that featured linebackers Lee Roy Jordan and Chuck Howley. On January 17, 1971 Dallas and Baltimore played what many media pundits termed “the sloppiest Super Bowl” of all time and a game credited with numerous mistakes. While the teams combined for fourteen penalties, the ten turnovers came primarily because of the incredibly hard hitting. Rather than sloppy play, the comments of the participants paint a very different picture.  Colts’ quarterback Earl Morral noted, "It really was a physical game. I mean, people were flying into one another out there.” Baltimore receiver and kicker Jim O’Brien who booted the winning field goal said, “It was really a hard-hitting game. It wasn't just guys dropping the ball. They fumbled because they got the snot knocked out of them." Legendary Dallas head coach Tom Landry summed it up by stating, “I haven't been around many games where the players hit harder. Sometimes people watch a game and see turnovers and they talk about how sloppy the play was. The mistakes in that game weren't invented, at least not by the people who made them. Most were forced.” The great Johnny Unitas was knocked out of the game by Cowboys defensive end George Andrie and defense on both sides, dominated the action.

Super Bowl V MVP Chuck Howley goes high but cannot block the winning field goal


The game was deadlocked 13-all with but 1:09 remaining and Colts linebacker Mike Curtis intercepted a pass that led to O’Brien’s 32 yard game winning field goal with five seconds on the clock! In his frustration, the gallant Lilly threw his helmet straight up into the air and when it hit the turf of the Orange Bowl field, some of the internal padding did indeed come loose and end up on the field.



Lilly chases Unitas in Super Bowl V


Lilly’s helmet was a Riddell TK 2 with Schutt's NJOP “Nose, Jaw and Oral protection” face mask and it did not “split in half” as the contact Lilly had made throughout a difficult 10-4 regular season was harder than the contact to the turf after his helmet launching throw. The internal components did not “explode” out of the helmet as most were riveted to the shell. The two jaw pads which snapped into the helmet shell, and perhaps the rubber crown may have come loose but the helmet was very much intact after Lilly’s



expression of frustration. Deeply embarrassed, Bob Lilly later apologized for his actions but the respect with which his peers viewed his consistently fantastic level of play was evident when an unidentified young Colts defender picked up the Cowboys helmet, walked it over to Lilly and as he extended the headgear to the great defenseman, was heard to say, “Here’s your helmet Mr. Lilly.” 


The unappreciated game’s Most Valuable Player distinction was awarded to Dallas linebacker Chuck Howley, the first time the MVP Award went to a defensive player. He refused to accept it, believing that the award was “meaningless” due to the Cowboys’ loss. The Cowboys would be victorious in the following season's Super Bowl game and before the 1970's and suspension helmet era ended, would also win Super Bowl XII while participating in two others, a legacy every bit as great as that of "Mr. Lilly." Your question is greatly appreciated.

Dr. Del Rye


P.S.  On  a side note, when the Cowboys contracted Helmet Hut to build many helmets for their HOF, Bob Lilly's was certainly one of them.  We got a call from Mike Denton a couple months later requesting another Bob Lilly helmet to be shipped to the Cowboys facility.  We asked the normal questions, was there a problem with the one we did?  Was is lost?  Mike said "No, ever thing is fine, but the last time Bob stop by he took the one that was in the show case"  What Bob wants he gets.