BYU football prioritizing player experience with uniform updates
The BYU football program unveiled two alternate helmets on March 1 to be used during the 2021 season and beyond. The additions include both a royal and a navy blue option.
But that is only half the story.
While exciting, this is about much more than new helmets.
“The purpose of this is to create a canon of uniforms that ties all of our tradition together, allows us to be innovative, and heightens the player experience,” BYU Interim Director of Equipment Operations Billy Nixon said.
These helmets have been in the works for a lot longer than one might expect. Nixon was made the interim director of equipment operations just prior to the season last year. Drawing upon the skills he learned as an experience design major at BYU, Nixon formulated a plan to enhance the players’ experience, a goal he believes should be at the forefront of the program.
Last year, Nixon granted the football players total creative freedom, allowing them to pick their uniform combinations for each game. This resulted in an unprecedented season that included 10 different style combinations.
Following the successes of last season, both stylistically and on the field, Nixon elected to keep the momentum going. He approached David Almodova, director of marketing and promotions, with an idea that had been formulating in his mind for nearly five years: royal and navy blue helmets.
Nixon had noticed a disconnect between past players and the current BYU football program. Most don’t realize that, although the white helmets have been the standard for many years, the royal and navy blue helmets are not a new idea. BYU football players throughout the last century have worn both royal and navy helmets.
“Our first football conference championship was in a royal helmet, with Virgil Carter,” Nixon said. “In fact, LaVell Edwards was on staff for all three of those helmets, which a lot of people don’t know. He was an assistant with the royal helmet, he was a head coach through the glory years with the white helmet, and he capstoned, he finished, with the navy helmet. If we talk about history, we cannot get rid of those helmets.”
Other notable players over the years have worn helmets of both colors. Brandon Doman and Doak Walker Award recipient Luke Staley were both pioneers of the navy helmet. As mentioned, former NFL quarterback Virgil Carter wore the royal helmet. This resurgence of classic helmets is not solely about innovation, but reconciling BYU’s past with its present and future.
Nixon said he hopes bringing back these trademark helmets will allow football alumni to feel more connected to the program, and allow current players to feel more connected to the storied past.
The new helmets feature a satin finish, which has become the standard among big conferences like the Pac-12 and Big-12. The designers played around with other concepts, including chrome and matte, but ultimately decided that satin matched the uniforms the best.
A little bit of innovation came into play when determining the facemasks. Last season, the team donned grey facemasks, affectionately called “The Giff,” in honor of the classic look of former quarterback Gifford Nielsen. Nixon elected to keep this look, but spurred by Dave Broberg, the BYU Athletics creative director, decided to include a royal facemask as well.
“The royal facemask was really not on the agenda because it’s not traditional,” Nixon said. “But Dave Broberg was like ‘No, no, no. The royal facemask on the royal. You have to make that available, Billy, because that is a gorgeous look.’ And I completely agree.”
A committee consisting of Nixon, Almodova, Broberg, and Director of Football Operations Jon Swift presented the new look to Athletic Director Tom Holmoe. Holmoe loved the marriage of innovation and tradition, eagerly giving the approval to move forward.
Former players Zach Wilson and Isaiah Kaufusi were consulted on the project as well, also voicing their resounding approval.
Nixon is confident that this is not the end of uniform innovation for the BYU football program. There will continue to be changes and innovations, but BYU fans can rest assured knowing that the tradition of BYU football will only be honored and magnified going forward.