When Ohio State's kicker, Ryan Pretorius, lined up for his 1st quarter field goal attempt last night against LSU in the BCS title game, I couldn't help but notice the exorbitant number of helmet stickers he had. It wasn't so much that I didn't think he was good - he ended up converting the 25-yard attempt, and although he later had a 38-yard attempt blocked, he did hit 81% of his attempts for the season with a long of 50 - it was just a surprise that a kicker of all position players could amass such a sticker collection. Was the Ohio State coaching staff giving him a sticker for every extra point he hit or every time he got a touchback on a kickoff? Well, it turns out there is a very specific criteria to the awarding of these helmet stickers, or buckeye leaves as they are known to the Ohio State faithful.
The following website explains the whole awarding of the stickers...and it's quite a formula. Some of the main achievements that will give a Buckeye a leaf are: wins, meeting film grade standards, big plays, defensive scores, forcing and recovering fumbles, and my personal favorite - the FG/XP team displaying 100% Mechanics as a whole for any attempt.
So no need to fret bench players; everyone gets a leaf after an Ohio State victory! And not every buckeye leaf is specifically stat driven, as after each game Coach Tressel does get to award a “Big Play in Football Game” sticker to any player. I have a pretty good feeling that after the 1990 Hall of Fame bowl game against Auburn, Ohio State’s then-head coach John Cooper gave Zack Dumas a leaf for this big play, even if Auburn did end up winning the game, 31-14.
So, what’s a Buckeye and why does it have leaves? Well, you guessed it, the Ohio Buckeye, or Aesculus glabra, is the state tree of Ohio. Or maybe you didn’t guess that, as not everyone has a vast knowledge of flora like me. Anyway, Native Americans thought the trees’ nuts resembled buck’s eyes, and the rest is history. The tradition of helmet stickers, believe it or not, began with the Buckeyes. Former Ohio State head coach Woody Hayes, along with the help of trainer Ernie Biggs, devised the idea back in 1968. Since then, quite a few teams have jumped on the bandwagon, while many others (Penn State and Notre Dame) have vehemently disagreed with such actions that they feel stress individual-over-team performance as well as tamper with the tradition and history of the game. Here’s a look at some of the more recognizable, and a few obscure, helmet stickers, many of which popped up this past bowl season…
If their team name and the arrowhead on the helmet weren’t offensive enough, the Seminoles chose tomahawks as their helmet stickers. Somewhere a Native American is shaking his head in disbelief. Florida State is also one of the few schools that actually can take away stickers, for such gaffes as missing assignments, first down penalties, and general laziness…or maybe participating in a massive cheating operation.
With over 4,000 yards passing and 38 TD passes, you've got to wonder how Colt Brennan didn't run out of helmet space half way through the 2007-2008 season. And in case you were wondering, the sticker is a warrior helmet with two interlocking spears beneath it.
Georgia players are awarded bones for valiant play, just the type of thing that their bulldog mascot, Uga VI, loves to sink his teeth into...unlike the dogs at Auburn, who chew on their own players.
The Boilermakers have recently changed their helmet stickers. When they first started awarding them, each sticker was of the train from their logo, but now they are the infamous hammer of mascot, Purdue Pete. I'm not a genius, but I'd have to guess getting hit by a train would probably be more damaging than a whack from a hammer.
Although they ended ’07 in the bottom half of the Sun Belt conference, the Ragin’ Cajuns do win the award for coolest helmet sticker, a Cajun pepper! What makes this helmet sticker even more special is that it’s taken straight from the apostrophe in the Ragin’ Cajun logo on the side of the helmet. UL-Lafayette’s jersey uniformity I love, their consistent out-of-conference results this year (0-5), eh not so much.
- Drew DiSalvo