Dear Dr. Del Rye,

The question I have is BK or Bill Kelley football helmets. For instance in the early 80’s a lot of Southwest Conference teams were using the Kelley helmets. My question is the school emblem like the horn emblem off the Texas helmet or the ATM off the aggie helmet. Was this emblem ever a decal like today’s helmets or was the emblem always built into the shell? My experience with Kelley helmets is the emblem was always in the shell. Let me know about the emblem on the 80 through 83 Longhorn helmet made by Kelley. Thanks for your help.



Dear Kyle,

Thank you for your question. For those not familiar with the Bill Kelley helmets, his were known for their distinctive clear shell. MacGregor had introduced a clear shell helmet but terminated the manufacturing of their football helmet line after 1974. Mr. Kelley purchased this end of the business from MacGregor in 1977 and introduced his own clear shell helmets that were used by many of the Southwestern Conference teams. Because of the exposure that the BK helmets received from the high powered programs like Texas and Texas A&M, many helmet fans forget that there were other manufacturers of clear shell helmets during the 1970’s.



Marietta had presented their clear shell helmet in the early 1970’s in an attempt to compete with MacGregor and did a very good job of it. Marietta used a Lexan polycarbonate polymer produced by General Electric for their helmet shells and this was quite a bit thicker than that of the MacGregor shell. It was thus deemed safer by many equipment managers relative to the MacGregor product leading coaches, trainers, and equipment purchasers to seek it out for their squads. The Nokona Company, better known for making exceptional baseball gloves also produced football helmets and provided a clear shell design. When Marietta declared bankruptcy, they were purchased by Max Pro in 1978 and Max Pro also eventually bought out Bill Kelley in the early 1980’s. The usual procedure was to apply any appropriate striping and team decal on the inside of the clear shell helmet if a logo or decal was used, and then apply paint, also to the inside of the shell. This method of helmet preparation insured protection of the paint, striping, and decals from damage due to contact and reduced maintenance costs of the helmets. The emphasis in the above statement is “usual procedure” because at times the procedure was not always followed. As examples, the manufacturer would supply the team an inventory of painted-on-the- inside shells that included the completed helmet with the team striping and decals in place.


Gabe Rivera of Texas Tech

There perhaps would be additional helmets that were to be used for practice and/or as replacements in those cases where damage to a game helmet necessitated the in-game substitution of another helmet. In these cases, the team decal and a player’s identifying numeral would have been applied to the outside of the helmet shell as it obviously would be impossible to place it onto the inside. However, for the BK and other clear shell helmets, it could be stated that spares and perhaps practice helmets had decals and/or numbers applied to the outside of the shell but under the usual circumstances, game helmets would not have been ordered this way. Programs such as Baylor who used clear shell Max Pro helmets applied their award stickers, as did others who utilized these, onto the outside of the helmet shell.



Dear Dr. Del Rye;

I like all of the Helmet Hut features, especially the college helmets. I know that some of the college teams from my part of the country wore a triple bar mask in the old days. Can you tell me about those please? Thank you very much, keep up the good work.

Roland M.

Austin, Texas


Dear Roland,

It seems we have two consecutive questions from the area of the former Southwest Conference which is sorely missed by many. As was true of other conferences and other individual teams, every specific period of time demonstrates the use of different facemasks on any particular squad.


Reference No. MA230

Texas quarterback James Street

While a head coach or equipment manager may have had a preference for a specific facemask, much leeway was granted to provide individual players with masks they preferred, or were best off wearing dependent upon previous or current injury. In some cases the staff would primarily use the masks that were provided by the helmet manufacturer or distributor they chose as their supplier for that season.  Thus observation of film or photos from the late 1960’s for example would indicate the use of rubber coated metal, the Dungard coated aluminum, and perhaps a variety of plastic masks used by any one team. Many of the SWC teams did in fact use a Marietta three bar, white molded plastic facemask, one that was relatively lightweight for its size.

Steve Judy of TCU


The University of Texas, SMU, and Texas Christian University were three of many in the south and southwest especially, that utilized this distinctive facemask. As it has been for most helmet related components, keep in mind please that others offered similar products, and some at an earlier date. This would include the 66-407 three bar plastic mask offered by Spalding in the mid-1960’s.


Dear Doctor,

I am fairly new to Helmet Hut but enjoy the different features, new helmets, and looking at the contents of the helmet store. Some of those older college helmet designs are fantastic. Being new to this type of thing and not having had any helmets in my hands since my own high school football days, I am still aware of the changes in helmets through the years. I have seen a lot of old helmets for sale on Ebay for instance. You have what I will call real helmets and most of the ones for online sale even though they may be a Forty Niners helmet for example, or a Cowboys helmet, just don’t look right. Also, some of the Ebay helmets are in the $100’s and some are around $15-20. I don’t really understand that and an explanation would be appreciated. Thanks a lot and keep up all of the great features.

Malcolm W.

Sacramento, CA


Dear Malcolm,


I'm pleased that you have found a new interest and if you become like most of us who make Helmet Hut a daily stop, you will find even more to enjoy.  Your observation regarding the sale of many helmets is accurate.  If one travels to one of the online auction type of sites, you will see what I shall term "legitimate" or authentic old helmets for sale.  These could be true gems or junk.  Although very rare and expensive items are usually sold through established auctions houses, it is possible to find the occasional sterling piece of memorabilia on a place like Ebay.  Recently a restored 1960 Rawlings Cy-Co-Lite helmet was offered on Ebay.



In the past, some MacGregor externally padded and Kelley clear shell models were posted for sale. These are “real” helmets, either game worn or team issued or if nothing else, were manufactured as per their description in the time period noted by the seller. Some of these, dependent upon the desires of collectors, can sell for $100.00 to $1000.00 or more. Most of the helmets on these sites however are youth models, those made either for youth league football or at best, high school play. In the late 1950’s through mid-1960’s, some of the companies had NFL stars endorse their helmets and offered for example, a “Harlon Hill” or “Don Meredith” signed model. Obviously, these types of helmets were targeted to a younger audience and were part of the youth line that the particular company offered to the retail market. Close observation and reading of any description might reveal that the shell of an older Rawlings helmet for example, was in fact made of the same Cy-Co-LITE plastic as the higher end, professional and collegiate helmets but the interior protection system is very different. Instead of the heavy-duty suspension system and/or combination vinyl and foam padding, often lined with high grade cowhide as MacGregor and Rawlings did, the youth helmets will have minimal internal protection. The level of contact at the youth level did not require the same padding and force dissipation systems that were needed at a higher level of play, thus a described NFL team helmet that contained for example, a thin-banded four-point suspension was not going to stand up to the rigors of professional play. Some of the later model helmets offered on the Internet sites such as the HC50 line, may be presented with what appears to be a “professional mask” and thus can be mistaken for a higher level helmet but this too was a youth model piece. In the mid to late 1970’s Rawlings in particular had a very popular line of youth helmets, designated as HNFL, HC38, and HC50 that were striped and decaled as per the various NFL teams.




Pro football fans with a sense of history recall that quarterback Billy Wade was a number one draft choice coming out of Vanderbilt University in 1952. Two years of military service during the Korean War delayed his debut in the NFL but he played well for the Los Angeles Rams when they called upon him, until traded to the Chicago Bears prior to the 1961 season. A Monster Of The Midway until his retirement after the ’66 season, Wade led the Bears to the 1963 NFL Championship. As a Rams and Bears player, Wade won his notoriety wearing number 9. Going back as far as his terrific high school career at Nashville’s prestigious Montgomery Bell Academy whose school colors are cardinal and silver, Wade then wore number 12 in the black and gold of Vandy, the gold and royal blue of the Rams, and finally, the dark Navy blue and white of the Chicago Bears. At no time did Wade wear number 21 as his endorsed helmet denotes, nor play with a team wearing red, white, and blue. Thus, the endorsed Bill Wade helmet, circa 1960 which looks nothing like the finely constructed Wilson helmet that Wade wore as a Rams or Bears player, is obviously a youth level of play helmet, even without viewing the internal padding. Yet, this is the type of helmet often seen on the various Internet auction sites represented as a professional level helmet, with a price tag to match.



While the HC38 for example was more “beefed up” than the HC50, both were still youth style helmets, still far from the construction needed to be of professional play caliber. Carefully reading the model numbers for each manufacturer and examining the internal construction of the helmet should be the first steps taken in evaluating the “level of play” the headgear was designed for. It should be added that many helmet fans enjoy building a collection of youth league, NFL endorsed helmets and like any other type of collection, the joy and beauty remain in the eye of the beholder. However, these helmets would not command the price of a true, game worn NFL helmet and there are many unscrupulous individuals that offer the limited-in-function youth models as pieces of true professional memorabilia.