Facemasks: A Pictorial History of Oddities
1. John Williams, Los Angeles Rams, 1978 2. Fred Williamson, Kansas City Chiefs, 1968 3. Keith Fahnhorst, San Fransisco 49ers, 1978 4. Dan Dierdorf, St. Louis Cardinals, 1977 5. Scott Player, Cleveland Browns, 2007 6. Norm Thompson, St. Louis Cardinals, 1976 7. Leonard Thompson, Detroit Lions, 1983 8. Pat Hughes, New Orleans Saints, 1978 9. Charlie Smith, Philadelphia Eagles, 1981 10. Toni Fritsche, Houston Gamblers, 1984 11. Eddie LeBaron, Washington Redskins, 1958 12. Y.A. Tittle, San Francisco 49ers, 1954 13. Doug Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1978 14. Ray Brown, Atlanta Falcons, 1974 15. Ollie Matson, Los Angeles Rams, 1959 Football facemasks have always fascinated me, particularly unusual ones. The evolution of the facemask had very humble beginnings. Starting in the leather helmet days, some facemasks were concocted on a one or two-game basis to protect a broken nose or some other facial injury. Early photos show facemasks being used as early as the 1940s. By the mid 1950s, facemasks were common and by 1960, nearly everyone used one. The 1950s saw Riddle introducing the clear lucite facemask show above by Y.A. Tittle #12. Though they gave better vision, they could shatter so, they were discontinued. The handle you see on Y.A.'s helmet was for extra stability of the facemask but Y.A. commented in an interview that it was easier for the defense to pull him down by that handle! Some of the above (#'s 4, 7, 9 13) were custom made to protect players with broken jaws while some were designed or modified to give additional protection. Some are just plain strange or totally unique with no apparent reason for the design. Today, there are specs and rules for the types of helmets and facemasks that are allowed in the NFL, most of which are to maintain safety and protection.