By Scott Hansen
To a lot of people, a football helmet is designed to protect the head from the violent rigors of a typical game. To small a percentage of others, the designs on the helmet open up a new world of possibilities.
For the small percentage, changes and the evolution of helmets designs are a fascination. There is a place via the World Wide Web you can go to view most of the high school football helmets in the state of Texas and other states. Thanks to helmet-crazy people like Matt Davenport of Commerce, Texas, those obsessed with head gear have a place to info snack.
Davenport originally created the Texas High School Helmet Project in 2000 after seeing some of the artwork available for college and professional helmets on various websites. After failing in his initial attempt to get the site up and running, Davenport found his epiphany in 2004 when viewing the Missouri helmet project.
“In 2004, I found the Missouri High School helmet project by Michael Kersey. I loved the quality of helmets, so I began making helmets by using his blank helmets. Mr. Kersey also had a section on his site on featuring the programs he used and how he made the helmets,” Davenport said.
Davenport still was not satisfied with some of the feedback he received on the second attempt, and again shut down his website.
After some hard work Davenport relaunched the website in the summer of 2007. He developed a template that took him less than five minutes to complete his artwork rather than the 15 minutes spent in the 2004 version.
“The template I created, in my opinion, looked better than any other on the internet. Over the past summer I found another template on the internet and with a few modifications, I have created an even better template,” Davenport said.
Davenport has upped the ante even more with yet another template that features artwork on both sides of the helmet facing each other. Davenport is hoping to have all the helmets changed over to the 2008 version by December.
To create his helmet artwork, Davenport uses Adobe Photoshop. Davenport said his template makes it simpler for him to change colors. After altering the color, he inserts the decal and rotates it 15-20 degrees. The Adobe program allows Davenport to sphere size his images, which he acquires from photos and scanned decals. By sphere sizing his images, it creates a smoother, rounder, and more importantly, more realistic look on the finished product.
Davenport became fascinated with helmet decorations when he was eight years old after receiving a pee-wee helmet and pads from a relative.
“The helmet was white with an old style gray facemask. It had a teal dolphin on the side with a teal center stripe," Davenport said. "After a while I removed the decals and stripe and started creating new decals. The first I remember was the split U from the University of Miami. I probably made this decal because of its simplicity.
“I drew and colored the U by using sheet of paper. After I created the decal, I cut it out, took a roll of scotch tape, and put it on the side. From there I would put other decals on the helmet I would create.”
Davenport’s main goal with his creation is to have every helmet available in the state of Texas on his website. After his third attempt to launch his website in 2007, he has 98 percent of the helmets (241 of 244) from 5A available for viewing. From 4A all the way down to six-man, the numbers drop.
“It is fairly difficult to keep track of some of the yearly changes. For 5A and 4A, it becomes a lot easier. The newspapers do a great job of posting pictures on their websites. But on the flip side, the newspapers don’t generally attend the small school games and don’t publish pictures. It’s difficult to get some of the information, such as yearly changes. I e-mailed all the 3A-5A coaches this past year and the response rate was probably 25 percent,” Davenport said.
Davenport gets around 150 hits per day on the site. Over the past year, 25,000 helmet fanatics have made their way to the Texas Helmet Project.
In some interesting helmet news, according to Davenport, Abilene Cooper is being forced to change its design for the upcoming season. Washington State University inquired about the similarities between its helmet and Cooper’s helmet, so a change was needed. The new design, however, does not disappoint.
“The Cooper helmet had been used for about 15 years and is a staple in Texas. It’s a shame to see it change,” Davenport said.
If you are a fan of helmets and uniforms afraid to publicly display your affection, it’s okay. There are more out there like you. ESPN brought in a Page 2 columnist in 2004 specifically to update fans on uniform and helmet changes. Paul Lukas, the 'Godfather' of bringing the obsession of uniforms into the public eye and the aforementioned Page 2 columnist, created Uni Watch in 2006. Lukas’ creation has put more emphasis towards the cult phenomena. (Link to Uni Watch located here)
Other helmet related sites are out there. Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Washington have their own versions of helmet projects.