By Dr. Ken 


Our HELMET HUT offices received a very nice communication from a former Mississippi State football letterman after he read last month’s feature on the 1965 Mississippi State team and helmet [ see  http://www.helmethut.com/College/Miss%20State/1965bulldog.html ]



Thanks.  I was probably a bigger State fan in the early 60’s than I am now, and that article brought back a lot of memories.  There was a popular song at that time by The Dave Clark Five called “Catch Us If You Can” --- coming off the 7-2-2 season and with the speed of the Bulldogs, the marketing people at State used that in promoting ticket sales.  When the team got off to a 4-0 start, there was a lot of “buzz” about the team, and the song was heard a lot more.  Of course, there were the inevitable jokes as the six losses occurred.


Paul Davis’ replacement, Charley Shira, was head coach my first two years, and athletics director after that. 


I would like to encourage all of our readers to regularly check the Additions section of our web site for continuing features about many specific helmets from the suspension era.



I can of course trace a lot of my football related excitement to individual players, specific teams, or meaningful games that struck a chord with me or left an indelible memory. Certainly by the end of my high school days and entry into college and college athletics, I was so “dyed-in-the-wool” regarding anything related to football and weight training that I didn’t need an external boost. However, this didn’t prevent me from responding very positively to certain players or their own stories of “making it,” and the more difficult their climb to success, the greater a source of motivation it was for me. Dick Hart of Morrisville, Pennsylvania was one of those stories, and if not quite an athletic ugly duckling who overcame the odds to start in the National Football League, it was still a heck of a climb to what others may have seen as his very improbable goal.


Dick Hart had an early start on athletic stardom as a member of the 1955 Little League World Series Championship team from Morrisville, PA. Hart is the large youngster in the middle of the back row


The tightly knit group of youngsters that took Morrisville, Pennsylvania, a borough closely associated with the Philadelphia – Trenton, New Jersey area, to the Little League World Series title in 1955, formed the nucleus of the Morrisville High School athletic teams into the early 1960’s. Dick Hart was a key member of that Little League team and matured into a dominating high school athlete. Big for the era at 6’2” and 245 pounds as a high school fullback, he was outstanding, just as his older brothers had been. He followed in their footsteps, not only on the gridiron, but on the track as a shotputter. All three brothers, Lew, Robert, and Dick won the Lower Bucks County Shot Put championships with Bob and Dick reigning as Pennsylvania State High School champions too. Dick won states twice and his best throw of 64-3” earned him a track scholarship offer to Kansas University. Having started his weight training regimen in an era where participation was limited among athletes, Dick was exceptionally strong for both his age and his size, allowing him to dominate on the football field. Notre Dame’s head coach Joe Kuharich put a full court press on Hart to become a member of what unfortunately were sub-par Fighting Irish gridiron squads and Dick gave them a lot of consideration among numerous football scholarship offers. Still considered to be the greatest all around athlete to come out of the Lower Bucks County high school ranks, Dick was of course, the 1961 County Player Of The Year, an Honorable Mention High School All American, and earned entry to the Pennsylvania Track Hall Of Fame. With so much talent, and so many paths to choose, in the end, he decided to pass up the Notre Dame offer and pursue baseball, signing a contract with the Milwaukee Braves.


Assigned to their minor league system, Hart spent four years as a catcher in the minors, playing and living in various parts of the country and eventually tiring of the lifestyle. Deciding to give football another chance, he wrote to Kuharich who now was the head coach of his home area Philadelphia Eagles. Kuharich of course recalled Hart’s athleticism, strength, and work ethic and despite having no college experience, signed him to an Eagles’ contract. Dick spent time in 1966 on the defensive line before being switched permanently to offensive guard and settling in at a playing weight of a muscular 253 pounds. He learned, as a member of the Eagles taxi squad and improved in spectacular fashion while continuing to slavishly lift weights. He noted that throughout his professional baseball stint, weight training, unlike today, was very much discouraged and during his four year sojourn in the minor leagues, he had completely ceased lifting. He quickly however, made up for it and was, due to his strength levels, featured in Strength And Health Magazine as one of the strongest football players in the NFL. During the Eagles pre-season camp of 1967, Hart battled for and won the starting guard position and was named to the NFL All Rookie Team.


Tough and strong, Dick Hart, number 71, overcame the odds to start for the Eagles in 1967


He remained a starter from ’67 through camp in 1971 but in the final pre-season game, suffered a severe injury to his left knee, causing him to miss the entire ’71 season. He rehabilitated the knee, continued to build his strength, and took the opportunity to sign with the Buffalo Bills when the Eagles weren’t sold that he would make a one hundred percent recovery from what in those years, was often a career ending injury. Hart came back in spectacular fashion, at least for a while and won the starting guard position in Buffalo. However, in the fourth game of the season, he re-injured his left knee and retired to the ice cream business he and his wife had purchased in their hometown of Morrisville, Sweet Hart’s Ice Cream And Yogurt.

Number 71, guard Dick Hart, leads Eagles fullback Izzy Lang through the line


With the birth of the World Football League, Hart was convinced to give football one more attempt and he signed with the New York Stars. Upon being announced by name, number, and college attended, he gained a new nickname as the players good-naturedly responded to the announcer’s call of, “Dick Hart, No College.” “No College” Hart started for the Stars until again calling it a day to devote himself to the successful ice cream and later, frozen yogurt business. The Harts sold in 2003 so that they could retire to the Syracuse, New York area to be closer to their children and grandchildren.

Dick Hart, offensive guard with the WFL New York Stars, follows the action with head coach Babe Parilli


In an era where almost every NFL and AFL player had collegiate experience, Dick Hart beat the odds and not only made a squad, but became a league-wide, highly respected starter. In an era where few professional athletes devoted time to weight training, Hart spent hours making up for a lack of college experience, lifting weights and running sprints. A favorite of Eagles fans because he represented the blue collar, hard-working, underdog who became successful, his story is on many levels, as inspiring as that of Vince Papale whose journey became the subject of a movie but for those of us who clearly recall the saga of Dick Hart, we also know that Hart came first and was an inspiration for many who had the odds stacked against them.