University Of Southern Mississippi

1969-71 Golden Eagles
(Authentic Reproduction)




P.W. “Bear” Underwood was one of the tough but loveable old-school coaches who entered the U.S. Army after his high school graduation and became a Military Police Officer. Thus he was older and tougher than his teammates when he enrolled at Mississippi State for one season and then transferred to Southern Miss. He entered school and became one of the best linemen of his era, later named to the USM Team Of The Century. Drafted by the Bears in ‘54, he instead completed his playing eligibility at Southern and after the ’56 season, played with Hamilton of the CFL as a guard and tackle for only two seasons but performed so well that he was named to the CFL Fabulous Fifties Team. He was an assistant for Coach Vann, directing the Vandals defensive units to their three-year national ranking until becoming the linebackers coach at Tennessee for two seasons. With his introduction as USM’s new head coach, Underwood introduced an alteration to the helmet that Coach Vann had unveiled in ’68. He maintained the Green Bay gold shell, one-inch white center stripe with three-quarter-inch black flanking stripes, and replaced the player identification numerals on each side with a black USM logo that featured an enlarged “S” between a smaller “U” and “M.” To note the centennial year of collegiate football, like many schools, Southern Miss featured a “100” decal that was placed at the bottom rear of the helmet, and black player identification numerals were placed to the right of the centennial decal. Improvement was obviously expected from Coach Vann’s final, sub-par season and there were some successes in the 5-5 finish that seemed like a tale of two different seasons. An opening day win was followed by four consecutive losses, “low-lighted” by defensive breakdowns against Alabama (63-14) and Ole Miss (69-7), another loss to Mississippi State, and a surprising beat-down by Idaho that exposed a poor Southern secondary. Winning four of the final five games showed promise for the future but more had been expected. 160 pound Rick Donegan took over the quarterback spot by mid-season and led the strong finishing charge, with receiver Billy Mikill catching forty-seven passes. Larry Moulton was the primary rushing threat piling up 604 yards and returning kick offs for almost twenty yards per attempt. Underwood’s switch to a five man defensive front did not produce the expected results despite the presence of 260 pound Rex Barnes whose many fans filled the air with the chant, “Blood makes the grass grow, kill Rex kill!” Barnes three year’s of service brought him a spot on the USM Team Of The Century but the Dadeville, Alabama native had little help from what was usually a tough unit.

For the 1970 season, Coach Underwood utilized the same helmet with “USM” black logo he had placed onto the field in ’69. He removed the “100” year commemorative sticker from the rear of the shell and the black player identification numerals were applied lateral to the right flanking stripe on the helmet’s posterior side. Integration came to USM as early as 1965 but the varsity football team would feature its first African American player, Willie Heidelberg, in ’70. The Pearl River JC transfer was a 145 pound bundle of speed, personally doing enough damage to pull off an historic upset of Archie Manning led, number four ranked Ole Miss 30-14. Coach Underwood was named UPI’s Coach Of The Week and defensive end Hugh Eggersman the Lineman Of The Week for consistently shutting down Manning. Quarterback Donegan ran an inconsistent offensive show as effective tailback Moulton completed his excellent career with 1875 rush yards and as usual was indispensable as a receiver and returner. Despite the work of Eggersman, linebackers Dicky Surace and Ken Burgo, and safety Ray Guy whose 45.3 punting average was second best in the nation, the defense was again under par, giving up 456 yards to Auburn, 514 to a Brian Sipe led San Diego State, and fifty-one points versus Memphis State. The 5-6 finish was a disappointment. With the defense of his first two seasons well off the national-best pace set by his mid-sixties Vandals, Underwood switched to a 4-3 Rover for 1971, utilizing 190 pound Fred Meyer as the monster back. In what amounted to a tale of inconsistency, Southern played their first six games on the road and lost five of them though only the 42-6 defeat by Alabama got away from them. The 27-14 loss to Auburn was tough to take as quarterback Donegan, team passing leader for the third straight year, completed twelve consecutive passes, a record that stood until 1996. They closed the season with five consecutive wins to finish at a respectable and improved 6-5. The offense finally came together under the direction of Donegan who finished his career with 3753 passing yards, and the rushing of Doyle Orange who posted 565 on the ground. Former Mississippi High School All Star Game MVP Buddy Palazzo often sparked the team coming in to spell Donegan. Sophomore linebacker Mike Dennery debuted nicely and defensive end Fred Cook had some big moments with his record eighteen sacks, but the leading tackler was Kyle Gantt, a 199-pounder who made 130 knockdowns and with safety/punter/placekicker Ray Guy, and center Jimmy Hayes, was named as an Honorable Mention All American. Steve Broussard, the 200 pound rover who had transferred from Auburn in time for the ’70 season, was utilized as a punter by the Packers in 1975 and had the unfortunate distinction of having three punts blocked in the same game.

If interested in any of these Southern Mississippi helmets please click on the photos below.