September 17th the Saints took the field for their first regular season game in front of 80,879 fans at Tulane Stadium. Rookie Running back John Gilliam returned the opening kickoff 94 yards for a Touchdown. Unfortunately it was all down hill from there.
One year earlier on November 1, 1966 which happened to be "All Saints Day", New Orleans stumbled into the league as they were awarded the NFL's 16th franchise. The Team struggled for many years, employing six head coaches, posting 12 consecutive losing records, and averaging only four wins per season from 1967 to 1978.
Now for the good news...
The helmet above was there opening day resting on the head of Jim Garcia DE out of Purdue. Fortunate would be an understatement when we found this wonderful piece of history. Not only a helmet from the first game of an NFL team but one of the rarest models known, the RAC 1.5" Husky RK2. The RAC was Riddell's state of the art "Aero Cell" protective padding technology. Garcia only played the inaugural season and the helmet was reconditioned and issued to Richard Neal another defensive end. The helmet was retired in 1971 and has been sitting ever since.
The "fleur de lis" have long fallen off, the black bordering stripes are barely noticeable, the Aero Cell padding was removed and the mask is no where to be found. What a wonderful sparkling jewel this is, could we make it better? We don't think so, sometimes it's best to leave well enough alone...