A symbol that is rich in tradition, success, honor, and one of the most recognizable icons in college football today is the winged helmet at the University of Michigan. One of the most famous football helmets in the country belongs to the Maize and Blue and we are taking a look at its history on this Throwback Thursday.
In 1938 football coach Herbert “Fritz” Crisler left Princeton University to become the head coach at Michigan. At his previous position Crisler designed a winged helmet and decided to bring it with him for the Michigan football team. Until 1938 the Wolverine helmets were plain black. Crisler said he wanted to dress it up a little so he added the maize and blue to the winged design. The base color for the helmet became blue and the wing was maize.
During this time period some wide receivers would wear different colored helmets but now the whole team would put on this brand new design. Crisler thought the new design would help the receivers stick out more to the halfbacks so they could complete more passes. Yes I said halfback, in his single wing offense, it was the halfback throwing most of the passes. The quarterback was more of a blocker or runner in this time period. After the inception of the new helmet, the Wolverines doubled their passing yards and cut the interceptions that season, proving Crislers theory correct.
This soon to be iconic design would be debuted in the 1938 season opener versus Michigan State on October 1. In this game Michigan went 4/8 for 46 yds with no interceptions. The Wolverines would win 14-0, beating the Spartans for the first time in four years.
As the helmet evolved from leather to a hard plastic to what you see today, the design remains the same. Not sure if Crisler thought his helmet would become a football symbol of tradition and greatness or if he just thought it was a trial, regardless, it is a part of Michigan football tradition. If he were here today and stepped onto the Michigan campus, he would see his symbol everywhere. The winged helmet is used by the hockey team, the baseball and softball catchers, the field hockey goalies and the swim team has even used it a few years ago on their caps. In a school that is full of tradition, it is my honor to make the maize and blue winged helmet of the University of Michigan today’s Throwback Thursday topic.