New England Patriots Prototype
1979 Prototype helmet
For many of the National and American Football League helmet prototypes that occasionally surface either in drawing or actual decal form, there is always a great deal of speculation surrounding the origin, creation, and ultimate fate of a design that never became part of a team’s actual uniform. In the case of the proposed change in the New England Patriot’s helmet and official team logo, there is a story, there is verifiable information, and there are individuals that have revealed the so-called back story.
In the September 18, 1979 edition of the Boston Globe newspaper, an article appeared under the by line of sportswriter Michael Madden with the headline “Fans to choose Patriots’ logo.” The Steve Grogan and Sam “Bam” Cunningham led Patriots would be facing the Chargers at Foxboro Stadium on September 23rd and the fans were being invited to “tell the New England Patriots exactly the way you feel…and this time, we’re listening.” The article made it sound as if 61,000 art designers would be able to inject their opinion and input to a new team logo that would replace the iconic “Patriot Pat” or “Hiking Pat” as he was affectionately known throughout New England. The Patriots’ helmet design in their inaugural 1960 season had been a tri-cornered Patriots hat, a design submitted by a fan, Walter Pingree, who had brought it before team owner William Sullivan who liked it. Because fans and television commentators either were not certain what the design was supposed to represent and often referred to it as a “flying saucer” or worse, the team made this a one year helmet decal and changed to the beloved Pat.
Sullivan’ son-in-law Miceal Chamberlain who served as the team Director Of Marketing believed it was time for a new logo. He had noted that the Pat design, as popular as it might have been, was a “complicated” piece to reproduce which often caused problems during the reproduction process. Over the course of three or four years, he worked in concert with NFL Properties and his father-in-law to both develop a new, vibrant, and exciting team design with the former, and convince the latter, team owner Sullivan, that the team in fact needed something new. Chamberlain takes credit for “fine tuning” the final logo but the development was done by NFL Properties and depicted a Revolutionary War era soldier standing before a flag of the United States.
The Madden article preparing the fans for the vote and the expectation of a new logo, also showed the new design and explained that fans could literally voice their opinion and a decibel reading machine would determine the loudest cheers, and the ultimate fate of Patriot Pat.
What fans did not know was that Billy Sullivan and Pat’s General Manager Bucko Kilroy in truth, did not want to change the team logo that had been representative of the organization since 1961. Though Sullivan had agreed to the change, his heart wasn’t in it and as Chamberlain explained many years later, he knew that his father-in-law’s “test vote by the fans” would immediately shoot down his proposed change. At halftime of the Chargers game, and with approval of any new design necessary by an October 1st deadline in order to introduce it for the 1980 season, the fans had the opportunity to examine the old, standard Pat in one end zone, and the new Soldier And Flag design in the other. To further assist the voting, the Patriots’ cheerleaders “waltzed around the field” hoisting cardboard signs with each of the logos displayed upon them. The vote, predictably, was not close as Patriot Pat’s supporters “knocked the needle right off the meter” while the new proposed logo barely registered a peep.
Thus the New England Patriots prototype helmet design one that featured the attractive blue center stripe with white and red flanking stripes, and the proposed blue “soldier” in front of the billowing red stripes of the flag, never made it to production.