Dandy Dozen: College football's best helmets

Updated: September 24, 2010, 4:59 PM ET
Associated Press

The story goes that the first football helmet was worn in 1893 by Admiral Joseph Mason Reeves, who was playing for Navy against Army.

The Admiral donned the leather harness contraption because doctors told him another kick to the head could kill him or permanently scramble his brains.

Helmets have come a long way since. The best helmets catch your eye and easily identify the school wearing them.

Here are the 12 coolest helmets in college football, according to The Associated Press and its college football poll voters.

1) MICHIGAN. Coach Herbert O. "Fritz" Crisler came up with the idea of the "winged" helmet when he came to Michigan from Princeton in 1938, so that the Wolverines' receivers would stand out down field. Little did he know that it would still look awesome more than 70 years later.

From the panel: "I'll bet the Wolverines get 10-15 percent of their recruits based on helmets alone." -- Bob Asmussen, Champaign (Ill.) News-Gazette.

2) TEXAS. Back in the day, Texas had numbers on its helmets above the logo. Now the burnt orange longhorn stands alone on that pristine white helmet.

From the panel: "Simple ... but also offers the quintessential symbol of the Lone Star State -- as symbolic of a state team as any other helmet." -- Randy Rosetta, The Advocate (Baton Rouge, La.).

3) ALABAMA. Those digits on the helmets look even better when the team is No. 1.

From the panel: "Even when they've gone through lean times, they didn't 'shake things up' by changing the helmet. It's not the helmet's fault." -- Rob Long, FOX-1370 (Baltimore) Radio.

4) NOTRE DAME. During coach Joe Kuharich's tenure at Notre Dame from 1958-62, the Fighting Irish at times had images of shamrocks on their helmets. As if that 17-23 record wasn't reason enough to fire him.

From the panel: "Copy a campus landmark. Great idea and a lot harder to steal than a logo." -- John Shinn, The Norman (Okla.) Transcript.

5) PENN STATE. Nothing never looked so good.

From the panel: "Wearing a lid with absolutely nothing on it sends a message, that you've done enough and been around long enough that there's no need for gimmicks." -- Travis Haney, The Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier.

6) CLEMSON. Even when the Tigers wear those awful purple uniforms, the helmets are in style.

From the panel: "When your name is common like Tigers, you've got to stick out somehow. The paw print is a nice touch." -- Jon Solomon, The Birmingham (Ala.) News.

7) OHIO STATE. Points for having the best helmet stickers, those buckeyes that players rack up when they make big plays.

From the panel: "The cool-shade-of-gray helmets with the red stripe get even cooler, one buckeye leaf at a time." -- Tom Keegan, Lawrence (Kan.) Journal World.

8) AIR FORCE. Those lightning bolts make the Falcons' triple-option look even faster.

From the panel: "Who doesn't like lightning bolts on their helmet?" -- Jon Solomon, The Birmingham (Ala.) News.

9) FLORIDA STATE. The spear is sharp and those tomahawk stickers are almost as good as Ohio State's buckeyes.

From the panel: "Gold catches your eye, but the feathers really make it pop and sizzle." -- Rosetta.

10) WASHINGTON STATE. If not for the cool crimson and gray helmets with the unique logo, the Cougars would be completely unwatchable these days.

From the panel: "It spells out WSU and resembles a Cougar. It's artistic. What more could fans of the school want, besides more than one football win per season?" -- Mike Hlas, Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Gazette.

11) ARKANSAS. No cartoon boars or caricatures of a wild pig on those red helmets. That's one realistic looking razorback.

From the panel: "There are plenty of horses and birds and ferocious animals on helmets. But there's only one pig, and this one's coming after you." -- Hlas.

12) KANSAS STATE. As part of Bill Snyder's Miracle in Manhattan turnaround of Kansas State's sad sack program in the early 1990s, the coach even helped design a new logo for the Wildcats. And it turned out really cool.

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Others receiving consideration: Syracuse, Texas Tech and BYU. Also, Oregon, because as Bob Condotta from The Seattle Times put it, "If you don't like the one they are wearing just wait a week and it will change."


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index

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