Tom Nowatzke - 1970
(Game Worn)





Tom Nowatzke football accomplishments as a football player are startling considering the relative lack of publicity he received during his eight year pro career with the Detroit Lions and Baltimore Colts. Tom was University of Indiana's MVP as a junior in 1963. The following year he was the Big 10 rushing leader and first team All American. He was actually drafted ahead of Joe Namath in the first round of the 1965 NFL draft. In that years separate AFL draft the Jets, holding both the fifth and six choices in the first round, selected Namath immediately followed by Nowatzke.  The Lions were so excited about their chance to draft big Tom that they asked the legendary writer George Plimpton (see Helmet Hut feature "Paper Lion") to make the actual selection for them at NFL draft headquarters in New York City. Tom was the leading rusher for the Colts in Super Bowl V. In the third quarter he caught a key 45 yard pass out of the backfield from Earl Morrall. He scored a critical fourth quarter touchdown that tied the game and allowed for the well publicized winning field goal with five seconds remaining by teammate Jim O'Brien. Tom had a reputation within the NFL as a bruising fullback, tenacious blocker and excellent receiver coming out of the backfield. Unfortunately he played the majority of his pro career in the post "Jim Brown" era where the historical importance of the fullback position was overshadowed by the media focus on the subsequent windfall of "glamour" halfbacks such as Leroy Kelly, Gale Sayers, O. J.  Simpson and the Lion's own Mel Farr. Today, Tom is a highly successful businessman and stays connected to his football roots as the Vice President of the Detroit Lions Alumni Association.

This is Tom's actual game worn Super Bowl V helmet, the Riddell model "TK" suspension. The rear of the shell is stamped with the 1969 introduced, all capital "stencil" style font Riddell trademark along with the "KRA-LITE - 8" trademark (the dash "8" designation was removed after 1970). The Riddell warranty label remains intact inside the shell and the F-70 code reflects the helmets February 1970 manufacturing date which properly predates the January 1971 Super Bowl V event. The helmet's slightly wider classic style Colt horseshoe logos are complimented by the its simple but elegant 1" navy stripe (look for this years Colts team to scrap their contemporary royal shaded logos and striping and return to the navy hue they used during their "glory" years). The 2.5" tall rounded style rear number "34" player numerals (which replaced the previous 2" style in the later 1960s) are correctly positioned in their traditional location just above the "RIDDELL" and "KRA-LITE-8" trademarks. A number "34" is also handwritten in green ink inside the shell above the ear hole. Tom's helmet had a front leather nose pad/snubber rather than the standard rubber nosed snubber.  This Riddell accessory provided more protection compared to the standard rubber snubber but became obsolete subsequent to the introduction of the Riddell "Wildcat" sweatband design. (Click on the "Accessories" button on the Helmet Hut home page to see a full picture of the front leather nose pad/snubber.) Like most 1960s era fullbacks Tom used a standard Riddell "BD-9" plastic two bar face mask. Tom continued to wear this style face mask into the 1970s decade while most other running backs shifted to the more protective Schutt vinyl coated steel cage type mask
Helmet Hut is privileged to have a close association with both Tom Nowatzke and the Detroit Lions organization. Tom and Lion's executive Tim Pendall worked enthusiastically with Helmet Hut to customize actual reproductions of 1960s era Lions style suspension helmets for the former Lion players returning for last years "Paper Lion" reunion. The reunion was an overwhelming success. The highlight of the event was the emotion filled, on-field, half-time presentation of these nostalgic helmets to the former Lions in front of 70,000 roaring fans expressing their heartfelt gratitude to their past heroes.