Homer Jones
(The original "Spike TV")




Just as the first sounds of chirping birds after a cold winter give us hope for the upcoming Spring, the proliferation of shrill whistles resonating from our local practice fields similarly convey the pleasing arrival of another glorious football season. In practice scrimmages and exhibition games thousands of players all across the country, from peewee leaguers to the pros, have already celebrated scoring a touchdown with a thunderous-like spike.
It seems quite appropriate that this month's featured helmet was worn by Homer Jones -- the player who invented the spike. In addition to introducing this long standing celebratory tradition Homer may have been one of the most interesting characters in the history of the NFL. Everything about him seemed unique including his headgear. The legacy of Homer Jones and his helmet may be one of the most character revealing stories ever featured here. He certainly played wide receiver to the beat of a different drummer.   
Homer was a unique physical specimen for his era. Standing 6' 2" and weighing 220 pounds he could run the 100 yard dash in 9.2 seconds and his had enormous size hands. When asked to describe what is was like to throw to Homer, Giant teammate Fran Tarkenton replied "He is like a man on a motorcycle waving a butterfly net high up in the air." Homer also had unique bloodlines, he was cousins to the Redskin's Hall of Fame receiver Charley Taylor and the Browns defensive end Joe "Turkey" Jones.
Homer was a track star (220 yard dash) and fullback at Texas Southern College. In 1963 he was drafted by both the Houston Oilers of the AFL and the New York Giants of the more established NFL. He chose to "stay home" and signed with the Oilers. A knee injury, originally suffered in college, hindered him in training camp. He was cut from the team during preseason on the same day and along with Willie Brown who subsequently played for the Broncos and Raiders and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame (not one of the Oiler's better days for evaluating talent). The Giants sent Homer a bus ticket to New York, arranged for his knee operation and patiently allowed him to rehabilitate for the remainder of 1963 and most of the 1964 season. He entered the 1965 season in perfect health and started to pay big dividends for the Giants. He went to the Pro Bowl in 1967 and 1968 and his career 22.3 average yards per reception still ranks among the highest in the NFL record book.
Playing statistics do not adequately capture the essence of Homer Jones. He was known for enthusiastically suggesting spontaneously invented pass plays in the huddle with himself as the intended receiver. His teammates called him "Rhino" for his fast charging playing style. He preferred wearing long sleeved jerseys while most other skill position players wore the short sleeve variety. In 1967 the Pro Bowl organization (Los Angeles Herald), in an attempt to improve the recent year's sagging attendance figures for the annual event, planned to stage a pre-game 100 yard race between Homer and the Cowboy's Bob Hayes. The race was intended to settle the long debated question of who was the fastest player in the NFL. The winner was to receive $25,000 which was a ridiculously high sum during an era where most players earned between $10,000 and $15,000 for the entire season. At the urging of Giant's owner Wellington Mara, Homer reluctantly withdrew from the race and instead accepted a $5,000 bonus from the team for his decision. Mara felt the race would not be in good taste for the league -- too much of a carnival like spectacle. Homer spent the remainder of his career being asked if he felt he would have won the race. He responded with typical Homer Jones logic, "What hurts more, getting hit by a 22 caliper bullet (Hayes' jersey number and smaller 5' 11" 185 pound frame) or a 45 caliper bullet (Homer's jersey number and reference to his significantly larger body)?"




While spending the 1963 and most of the 1964 season rehabilitating his knee and watching the Giant's games from the sidelines Homer daydreamed about scoring his first professional touchdown. He was particularly captivated by the highly charged emotional impact caused by Giant legend Frank Gifford when after scoring an important touchdown Gifford triumphantly flipped the ball to a surprised fan in the stands. Homer was determined to create a similar spectacle with his first touchdown but when he discovered that Gifford had to pay a $100 fine for throwing the ball into the stands he quickly decided that he would have to develop a more affordable routine. Hence was born the "Homer Jones (no cost) Spike." In typical Homer Jones style he saved his final career spike for the very first broadcast of Monday Night Football as he returned a kickoff for the Browns for a touchdown against the Jets in 1970.
Homer's Giant helmet is a glorious artifact that not so coincidentally reflects the charm and personality of the special man who wore it. All 1960s era Giant helmets are character filled to begin with and this one, just like Homer's playing style, takes it to the next level. The handsome navy painted Riddell "RK" shell is complete with the earlier version six rather than twelve point suspension system. The helmet is outfitted with the optional Riddell factory concussion padding as most other mid 1960s Giant helmets were subsequent to the serious head injury Frank Gifford suffered in 1960 after being ferociously "clotheslined" by the Eagle's Chuck Bednarik. The thick rubber crown piece is still intact, aged to perfection with slightly warped edges and "crow's feet" type scarring of the once butter smooth disc surface. Homer preferred the Riddell "BD-9" two bar face mask over the one bar variety which was far more conventional for a wide receiver during that era. He also had the optional Riddell rear neck pad installed to provide additional protection. Homer's helmet continues to reflect its uniqueness with the discovery of personal notations inscribed by Homer inside the shell. Reading much like the backside of a football card are the following cryptic notes: "Homer Jones" (his autograph) / "6' 2" -- 205 lb" (height and perhaps "desired" weight) / "Texas Southern" (his alma manta) / "25 years old -- 3 years NFL" (dating the writing to sometime in 1966). A final observation finds a most unusual, slightly larger, "diamond" style font numeral "5" on the rear of his helmet which contrasts with the style of the other numerals on his helmet which are the traditional "NCAA" rounded style font. This type of anomaly usually suggests that the original traditional style helmet numeral was inadvertently removed or destroyed over the years and an odd font style numeral such as this "diamond" style font numeral was substituted in a sub par restoration effort. However, an actual game action picture (see newspaper photo below) of Homer confirms that the unusual font style helmet numeral was an authentic unique feature of this most special helmet.
Just as the bulls that annually run in the streets of Pamplona, Spain violently contrast the sedentary comportment of a row of cattle following a cow path Homer Jones playing style differed from the typical 1960s style wide receiver. Although his career was prematurely shortened by chronic knee problems, he exhibited a unique combination of power and speed along with a special flair for theatrics whenever he took the field. A wonderful new football season is approaching and soon the first touchdown will be scored and followed by the now common and customary spike. When that moment occurs it would most appropriate to give a special nod to Homer Jones, a most unique player who performed in a fashion far ahead of his time.