"Talking Helmets with the Equipment Manager"
"Talking Helmets" with Bobby
Yarborough (Part 1)
(Dallas Texans / K. C. Chiefs 1960 -- 1983)
HH - How did you originally get the job as the first equipment manager for the Dallas Texans?
BY - I grew up in the Houston area and went to college at the University of Texas. While growing up I got to know a great man named Wayne Rudy. Wayne was an athletic trainer for SMU and I first met him when he became involved at an invitational high school track meet at my high school. Growing up I was always interested in athletic training and I eventually befriended Wayne as I would see him at various Texas athletic events at least twice a year. After college I got a job as the athletic trainer for the local minor league baseball team in Houston. During that period Lamar Hunt was forming an organization for his new Texans. Lamar went to school at SMU and he knew Wayne from his college days there and he hired Wayne to be the Texan's first athletic trainer. After he joined the Texans Wayne arranged for me to come to Dallas and interview with Lamar and his newly hired head coach Hank Stram (who as a former assistant coach at the school also had ties to SMU) for the position of equipment manager. I got the job and stay there until 1983 when Lamar hired a new head coach named John Mackovic and gave him complete control of all football operations. John and I did not hit it off very well and he quickly fired me. In my opinion John was overly self centered and had an excessive ego. He alienated himself from both the players and eventually his own assistant coaches. After six months of putting up with John's peculiar leadership style even Wayne resigned. I was happy to see that the University of Texas had hired John after Lamar finally fired him. I figured my boys at Texas would take care of his ego issues. I still stay in touch with my good friend Wayne Rudy and we talk at least every week on the phone. Wayne was featured along with Hank in a recent Gatorade commercial.
HH - What do you remember about the Dallas Texan's helmet logo?
BY - The design (a silhouette of the state of Texas) was already completed when I joined the organization. I believe Lamar (Hunt) had suggested the design as he had the rest of the uniform. They were difficult to apply to the helmets. We placed a separate light gold star on the logo where Dallas was located. Lamar was a perfectionist as far as the uniform was concerned and unlike most other teams we were required to have decals on the helmets at all times including practices and pre season games. I believe we had the decals produced at a local Dallas printing company.
HH - How involved was team owner Lamar Hunt with the team's uniform?
BY - Lamar once stated that he was willing to delegate all duties for the team except for decisions regarding the uniforms. He really enjoyed this area and as a result we spent a lot of time together contemplating design changes. He is a great guy -- after practice in Dallas when almost everyone had already left for the day he would come and visit me while I did that days laundry. He would actually water the entrance to the practice field while we talked -- can you imagine that! He loved to tweak the look of the uniform while keeping the basic look. In Kansas City he asked me to have some prototype socks made that had a striping pattern like Packer socks only in the Chief's colors. It did not look good with the rest of the uniform and the idea was quickly discarded. Another time in Kansas City we had about 10 unique prototype uniforms made up each with a small change from the existing uniform. Lamar had me dress each of the uniforms on a mannequin and set them up in the stadium when he could evaluate them in the perfect environment. In the early 1970s Riddell started to impregnate the helmets scarlet during the molding process. During the transition to these newer color impregnated helmets we used both the older painted helmets along with some of the newer helmets. Lamar was the only one to correctly notice that the shade of the painted helmets was darker than the impregnated helmets. I immediately had the new helmets painted with the darker scarlet paint and also had Riddell tweak their impregnated scarlet color to match our original darker scarlet painted helmets. Those are only a few examples of how much he cared about uniforms. I really admired and appreciated his interest.
HH - Did you have help in the equipment room?
BY - I sure did. The team "hired" school age kids to live with us in camp and help with the duties. Jack Rudnay nicknamed me "yard dog" and these kids became known as the "yard puppies." At first the "puppies" were brought in on a volunteer basis but eventually the local unions forced us to pay them which I thought was the right thing to do. Unfortunately the team's general manager decided to deduct from their new wages an almost equal offsetting charge for room and board. I was really mad when I found out about this and I got the kids together in a meeting and shared my feelings with them. Clark Hunt, son of Lamar, was one of the kids that assisted me and, seeing him in that meeting, I said, "Clark even if your dad fires me for saying it, I have to tell you that the team is taking advantage of you kids and I don't like it."
HH - In addition to Clark Hunt wasn't Dale Stram, son of head coach Hank Stram, one of the "puppies"?
BY - (Laughs). Well, Dale was a great kid and he enjoyed helping with the laundry but when his dad had something more interesting going on Dale rushed to his dad's side. Clark really enjoyed all of the equipment room duties and was a great worker -- you would have never guessed that he was the owners son.
HH - You were actually the first equipment manage hired by the expansion New Orleans Saints tell us about that.
BY - As much as I enjoyed working with the Chiefs I was hired on only a six month basis each year and I had trouble making ends meet under those circumstances. In 1967 the Saints offered me the job on a 12 month basis with a bonus and moving expenses. From the start I did not get along with the Saint's general manager and he fired me after the final exhibition game. Before my dismissal I remember spent a lot of time in camp with Paul Horning who was acquired from Green Bay in the dispersal draft. He did not dress for practice because he could not pass the physical (due to a prior neck injury) but he hung around camp for the entire pre season. I also remember actor Charlton Heston visiting that first camp and working with Billy Kilmer in preparation for the movie "Number 1." Team owner John Mecon paid me off for the entire 12 month contract including the bonus and also paid to move me back to Kansas City. When I got back to Kansas City Hank called to find out what was going on and I told him I no longer had a job. He replied, "Sure you do -- come back to our camp." Hank got my job back and saw to it that from then on I would have a 12 month contract each year. Needless to say Hank was a great guy.
HH - Did Hank get involved with the team's uniforms?
BY - Oh yes! One of Hank's college classmates at Purdue was head of Rawling's football division and prior to Super Bowl lV he had his friend make us brand new jerseys and pants for the game. Unfortunately the uniforms were made too large but Rawlings had them remade overnight and delivered just prior to the game. We ended up wearing those new jerseys but we still chose to wear our old pants because they fit better. Hank asked me to collect all the helmets prior to the game and have them repainted. When the players found out about this there was a near revolt -- they wanted to wear their helmets complete with that season's war wounds on them. Hank relented and let the players have their way and all he asked was that I would clean and polish the helmets prior to the game which I did before each game anyway.
Hank started a new trend when he asked Addis to custom make shoes for the Chiefs in two different styles (red with white stripes and white with red stripes). Initially I used a marker to color one of the stripes gold to match our sock striping. The following year the shoes came from the factory with the gold stripe. The shoes were great looking but they were not ventilated. I punched air holes in the leather and it really helped.
After getting permission from Lamar he also introduced the red pants in the late 1960s. The players hated the pants because the red dyeing process added significant weight to the pants. Unlike when he gave in to the player's desire to not have their helmets repainted prior to the Super Bowl, Hank simply stated, "I don't care how much they weigh the Chiefs will be wearing red pants."