University Of Southern Mississippi

1972 Golden Eagles
(Authentic Reproduction)




The helmet demonstrated some modification for 1972 as the white one-inch center stripe was now flanked by one-inch black stripes, a slight increase in width that made for an attractive appearance. The black “USM” decal remained on each side of the shell and Underwood moved the player identification numerals to the left of the flanking stripe, from the right side location of the previous season. The staff also placed award stickers at the rear of the helmet in recognition of outstanding plays. In a disappointing 3-7-1 year where many very good players could have been overlooked, All American punter Ray Guy wasn’t but few realized he was a sure-tackling safety who already had ten interceptions entering the season. He continued his legal pilfering with eight more and led the nation in punting before becoming the first punter and first USM player to become a first round draft choice. Excellent was also the correct adjective for linebacker Mike Dennery who posted 185 tackles and was named an Honorable Mention All American. With super defensive end Fred Cook, another Honorable Mention All American, and defensive backs Eugene Bird and Doug White, the talent was better than the inconsistent play. The same could be said of the offense led by quarterback Buddy Palazzo, who later played for the Blazers and Vulcans in the World Football League. He threw for 1888 yards and finished his career with a fifty-four percent completion rate. Doyle Orange rushed for 905 yards which made the team’s losing record a mystery to many supporters. On a positive note, the Homecoming game against Chattanooga was the occasion of announcing that the university had voted for a new athletic team nickname and mascot. When Southern Miss entered the field to play Utah State on November 18, they were officially The Golden Eagles.


William Ray Guy was a reliable place kicker, the nation’s leading punter in 1972, and had driven one punt ninety-three yards against Ole Miss his senior season. Almost every media reference notes that he was “the first punter to be drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft,” an honor given to him by the Oakland Raiders in 1973. What is overlooked is the athleticism that allowed Guy to serve as a back–up and emergency quarterback, hard-hitting and ball-hawking safety with eighteen career interceptions, and a defensive leader while at Southern Miss. His record setting sixty-one yard field goal against Utah State in a snowstorm was but one place kicking highlight. A Unanimous All American pick as a punter, the Raiders staff knew he could do much more but his Pro Football Hall Of Fame entry as its first punter and statistics that are as towering as his booming kicks, made him too valuable to utilize in other roles. Guy remained with the Raiders for his entire thirteen season pro career, and his punts are credited with introducing the term “hang time” into the sport’s lexicon. His 1049 punts traveled 44,493 yards for a 42.4 average and he put more than 200 of them inside the twenty yard line. Chosen as the punter for the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team, he was also the NFL leader three times, a six-time All Pro, and seven-time Pro Bowl choice. He occasionally served as the Raiders kick-off man and was always available as an emergency quarterback, the role he had played at USM. Guy was also a fan favorite for hitting the “unreachable” Louisiana Super Dome scoreboard with one of his sky-high punts. With the College and Pro Football Halls Of Fame as career highlights, Guy was also inducted to the Mississippi and Georgia Athletic Halls Of Fame and the National High School Hall Of Fame for his play at Thomson High School in Georgia where he also starred in baseball and basketball. He led his team to playoff championships by literally doing it all on both offense and defense including a key extra point blocked kick that sealed a State Championship. Guy was an invaluable all-around player for Southern Miss, has had his number 44 retired permanently, and was an outstanding pitcher on the baseball squad. The nation’s best collegiate punter receives the Ray Guy Award and Guy still teaches his unique skills at his punting/kicking camps.

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