Dear Dr. Del Rye:

I am a great fan of Kansas football and basketball and have followed both for decades. You would be surprised how wonderful Kansas fans are as like many rural based states, we have always been supportive of our high school and college athletic programs. One of the strange things that always stuck in my mind came during my favorite time of Kansas football, the period that included the Riggins teams and immediately thereafter as it was at the same time of my junior and senior high school activities. Jayhawk quarterback David Jaynes always wore a helmet that was different from the rest of the team because he never had the decals on them. Was there a reason for this other than to allow the quarterback to stand out, perhaps for publicity reasons? Thanks and as good as your Kansas State summaries were, I would of course much prefer the same for my Jayhawks. Once again, thank you.

Most Sincerely,

Jacob V., Lawrence, KS


Dear Jacob,

Coincidentally, there are members of the Helmet Hut staff that are partial to Kansas football despite their trials of the recent past. David Jaynes of course is a legend among the Jayhawks faithful having been born in Kansas City and raised in Bonner Springs. He was an All American in 1973 and set new KU passing records with 5,132 yards and touchdowns thrown among others. He was fourth in the Heisman Trophy vote and took Kansas to a 7-4-1 season and a trip to the Liberty Bowl against North Carolina State. Though he was the inaugural draft choice of the fledging World Football League, Jaynes went to the hometown Chiefs as their 1974 third round draft pick and appeared in two games for them, the sum of his NFL career. What was not widely known, was that at Bonner Springs High School, Jaynes suffered a concussion that was significant enough to require extra head protection when he arrived at Kansas University. The team was outfitted that season in clear shell helmets and as most Helmet Hut readers know, the Jayhawk decal was applied on the inside of the clear plastic shell by the factory, before delivery to the team equipment staff. Jaynes however was outfitted with a new Riddell PAC helmet as it was believed this would provide better head protection than the other helmets. As the equipment staff did not have the decals in their own inventory, Jaynes played through the entire 1973 season with a plain blue helmet shell, absent of any KU logo.


Thus it was not to bring more attention to his performances which were certainly outstanding on their own but rather, the lack of any matching decals in the athletic department plant that brought about this interesting helmet anomaly. It could also be mentioned that Jaynes received some notoriety when he married the widow of famous actor, Cary Grant. Thank you for your interest.

Dr. Del Rye


Dr. Del Rye,


I know that Marino wore several types and or makes of helmets during his career, including Rawlings, however, early in his career he wore what looked like a Riddell, but the front “sizer” or forehead pad looks very different from any pad that Riddell offered.  My questions is, did Marino alter or modify the padding or add additional padding to his helmet, or was this pad something that Riddell did in fact offer?  Thanks for the great site!!



Dear Mike,

You are correct, there is no question about it, Marino wore a Riddell model helmet his rookie season with that wonderful green dot DWJOP teal mask.  Being selected in the first round of the NFL draft comes wonderful perks, like wearing facemasks that were designed at the Schutt factory and not altered with a hacksaw in the back room of the equipment department at Pitt.


Long time equipment manager of the Miami Dolphins, Bobby Monica and helmet Hut are good friends and have worked together on several projects over the  years.  We have had conversations specifically about this rookie helmet and what he did to modify it for "Danny" as he affectionately called him.  Answering this question though puts us in a dilemma.  According to past eBay sales, to date Dan Marino holds the NFL record wearing on average 736 helmets each season he played.  We know... it is hard to believe! But eBay game worn helmet sales can't be wrong?  We are always shocked and excited to find that new and different and sometimes surprising game worn model he wore.


Here is his game worn helmet during the bronze age



Game worn helmet used during the 1948 season when the NFL band plastic and bronze helmets




Here is his game worn helmet used during those numerous Monday night Football games



Game worn helmet during the 1993 season when they beat him up like a piñata




Mike...  to say we would have to kill you if we spoke of this information is just not politically correct in this day and age.  Tickling until your cry uncle is more in the line we think, but even then counseling could be necessary.  What we can say is that his rookie helmet was traded to one of his then best buddies, Ricky Jackson of the New Orleans Saints, after the 1983 Pro Bowl.  Jackson and Marino both played at Pitt during the 1980 season.  This rookie helmet eventually sold at auction several years ago for the handsome sum of over $30K.  Still inside was that "special pad" lined with mole skin that Bobby created for Danny.







Dear Dr. Del Rye:

In looking at old pictures of players wearing leather helmets, we wanted to know if there were different kinds of leather helmets. Some just seem to have a different appearance from others though we are not sure that our description of these would make much sense. We know that they sewed up sections of leather and added ear pieces but some appear to have more going on. Can you comment? Thanks.

Viraj and Nikash, New York City



Dear Viraj and Nikash,

Thank you for your question. The HELMET HUT HELMET NEWS series of four articles that were posted in February 2004 provides a thumbnail summary of the development of the football helmet for protective purposes and of course, it was for the specific purpose of head protection that leather helmets were first worn. Interestingly the history of sports related helmets harks back to military applications and warfare, spanning ancient to modern times but the helmets used in all sports and prominently for football, incorporated elements from many applications. For example, many experts believe that the widespread use of the leather football helmet derived not from injury protection during combat, but from the early, circa 1880’s and 1890’s car and motorcycle races, especially the latter. Early aviators set the pace too, wearing soft leather helmets and accompanying goggles to protect the head and eyes and also, in living up to their swashbuckling image, to keep their stylish, long hair in place. The “helmets” worn on the gridiron at the turn of the century can be more accurately considered close fitting hats made of soft leather, some lined with fur, fleece, or felt materials. At some point ear flaps were sewn on and at least in shape, we were presented with the first football helmets as most of us know them.

The change in leather helmets came with the introduction of “hardened leather”. A gentleman by the name of H.T. Gratacap had built a successful business manufacturing and selling luggage. His offerings were considered to be the very top of the line in transoceanic travel because of the water resistant and protective qualities. He had developed a method of soaking leather in boiling water and then treating it to make it harder. Referred to as “cuir bouilli,” he turned his methodology to firefighters’ helmets as he was a volunteer for the New York City Fire Department. The soaked leather was shaped, dried to shape, and baked after being coated with beeswax. The end product was a much harder helmet than the initially used leather caps and absorbed impact considerably better.

This process was applied to strips of leather that were then sewn into the “leather football helmets” that most of us are familiar with. Adding paint in the school or professional team colors gave a finished product once the helmet was lined with some type of padding. Of course, once the inner suspension system was developed, this became the primary option of choice in the leather helmets. As most of our readers know, in time, the Riddell Company developed the first plastic helmet and utilized a suspension system, eventually giving birth to an entirely new industry. Thank you gentlemen, for your question, one that made us reach back in time.

Dr. Del Rye



Dear Doctor,

I saw the movie The Express in the theaters when it first came out and saw it again on television a night ago. Seeing it a second time reminded me how enjoyable it was and of course reminded me of a past time in college football. Your site of has run a few articles about the movie and the role your company played in it which is great [ see ]  and the story about Ernie Davis gives more information [ ]. The obvious thing about the Syracuse helmets from this time period is the off-placed or off-center numbers, and I was wondering if this was common in those days or if it was just Syracuse that had this different number placement. Thank you a lot of the answer and the movie was excellent because of the true to life helmets and uniforms.

Morris H.

Wilmington, Ohio


Dear Morris,

Allow me to agree with you that the story of Ernie Davis, as a book or movie, is truly inspiring. He was an extraordinary young man whose athletic abilities were but one aspect of his wonderful existence. He was a man of dignity who respected others, played hard and fair, and certainly seemed to embody all of the traits of an ideal All American, especially from a bygone era. I personally think the movie was made more enjoyable because those responsible were willing to utilize the resources of HELMET HUT. As the on site article stated,


“Initially, Mr. Hanley asked us to produce a sample vintage Ernie Davis era / Syracuse helmet for his review. We were dismayed to hear back from him that although he found our helmet itself to be “wonderfully authentic” in its structure, it was “inaccurately detailed” because the helmet numerals were incorrectly positioned towards the rear sides rather than the center sides of the helmet. After we quickly provided Ed with actual 1960 Syracuse game photos showing the identical and unconventional numeral placement he replied that “we were his guys.”  We further explained to him the essence or important features of the vintage suspension helmet that should be captured on film including the exterior rivets, vintage facemasks and chinstraps, leather jaw pads and shell size. Ed was amazed to learn about a suspension helmet’s distinct character. We were just happy knowing that a vintage football movie would finally use the correct vintage helmet style. Soon we had orders to produce over several hundred vintage helmet styles that were worn by Syracuse and their opponents when Ernie Davis played.”

The placement of the Syracuse University player identification numerals was unusual as they were in the rear quarter of the shell, but not exclusive to their program as per your inquiry.

Syracuse number placement in 1960 game vs. Colgate


There were a handful of other schools that “off set” their helmet numerals for a variety of reasons. In each specific case, the individuals who made the decisions related to uniform presentation would have had to provide the explanation and/or motivation for their handiwork. However, obvious reasons would include better viewing for those in attendance at the stadium, an easier manner to identify players by television announcers, the specific shape of the helmet, or the best placement relative to other helmet striping or decals. As an example, the Columbia University teams centered their numerals but placed them much higher on the sides of the helmet than was standard. The width between any double digit numbers was also quite a bit more than was usually seen.


The University Of Pennsylvania, another Ivy League program, also placed their identifying numbers in the center of the helmet as noted in the photo of their 1961 contest against Rutgers, but like Columbia, quite a bit higher than was usually seen.


Purdue University was well known for placing their numbers off center in the Jack Mollenkopf era. The HELMET HUT Purdue display

[  ] indicates that from 1956 through 1970 with the exception of the 1969 season when the Boilermakers displayed a 100 Year Of College Football commemorative decal, their player identification numbers were quite high on the helmet sides. They did this with their classic black shells and again after switching to gold helmets in 1962.



Another Big 10 team that moved their numeral placement from the standard centered position was the University Of Michigan. The famous winged helmet had identifying numerals added to the sides of the shell in 1956 and they remained there until 1969 when “The Bo Era” began. During the span of time that the numerals were used, they were not applied exactly the same in each season.  Originally, most, but not all were placed so that the center of the numerals were aligned with the center of the helmet’s wing. However, many helmets displayed numerals that were placed below the tip of the wing as is clearly shown in the photo below from the 1957 season.



By 1960, as shown in the following photo from the 1964 season, the numeral placement was standardized so that they were centered with the tip of the wing and this alignment remained until the removal of all numerals from the sides in 1969.


In the case of Michigan’s helmet, one would have to surmise that if the identifying numerals were not placed so that they were exactly “centered,” it would be due to the configuration of the anterior wing and helmet striping, another reason to off set number placement. I would think that a careful study of the helmet history of many colleges would find additional cases of helmet numerals whose placement was not standard. Thank you for your question.

Truly yours,

Dr. Del Rye