Jump to content
Gameday Tigers

Old Helmet Returning Home to Leonard Marshall

The Swamp Angel

Recommended Posts

Hey, my dear LSU brethren and sistren!  (I think I just made that word up, but I like it.) Here's a story of the helmet of LSU Hall of Fame inductee, Leonard Marshall. It only goes back in history as far as when I first acquired it, so bear with me. This is gonna be rather verbose but won't cover anything prior to July of 1982 regarding the helmet.

My dad graduated LSU in 1954 with a degree in petroleum engineering. Columbia Gas System, Inc. hired him to drill gas wells in Virginia and West Virginia that year and pulled him away from his beloved southern coast. He didn't exactly love it, but he survived, stayed on, met and married my mother in rural West Virginia, fathered five of us kids (the eldest two passed away at very young ages), and raised the rest of us in eastern Kentucky. He was the hero of our family. Smart, wise, and loving. He also brainwashed us all at a very young age into being LSU Tigers, although my two siblings turned traitorous and attended college in Mississippi.

In July of 1983, Dad took us on our family vacation to visit family in Baton Rouge. We frequently went to see Aunt Jane in Mississippi for vacations, but this one was special since we would get to see Uncle Dubby and Aunt Alice. Even more special was the promise Dad made to us that we would go see Mike the Tiger (Mike IV) in real life on the LSU campus! All of us kids were bubbling with excitement and all of us were saving every penny of our allowance and paper route money to purchase as much LSU paraphernalia as we could possibly afford. (There wasn't much purple and gold to be found in Wildcat Country.)

Once on campus at LSU, we went to the Student Union and blew everything we had on T-shirts, sweat shirts, caps, cups, mugs, notebooks. . . We really loaded up on anything we could find with "LSU" on it and we were happy as could be. Then we went over to the cage where Mike resided. I'm sure y'all remember how small that cage was compared to the current tiger habitat. Mike, of course, was lounging inside the air conditioned portion and avoiding the blazing afternoon heat of a July day in Louisiana and we were a bit disappointed that he wouldn't come out to  play in his pool, but we made the most of it before noticing there was a gift shop in the northwest corner of the stadium that happened to be open. 

We kids had a few bucks left between us and it was burning holes in our pockets, so we walked across from Mike's cage and entered. I had two dollars left and cold only afford a key chain in there, but I continued to shop. Then I spotted it! There, on top of a rack of game day T-shirts from the previous season was a real LSU helmet! And I mean REAL! It had no facemask. It had no chin strap. The front padding at the forehead was missing. But it was REAL! It had been worn in real games in Death Valley. It had battle scars all over it. I wanted it so badly, but I knew that there was no way I could afford it. I imagined it would probably be thirty-five dollars. That's an enormous sum of money for a kid with a three dollar weekly allowance and a paper route where all the paper money went straight into a savings account in never into our pockets. I was jittery, but I was sad knowing that I could never afford it. But I did lift it off the rack and take a look at the price tag on the crown. . . and . . . it was FOUR DOLLARS!!! 

This was the find of a lifetime for a fifteen year old hill-billy kid who lived and breathed LSU everything! But still, I had only two dollars. 

I showed it to Dad with a hopeful look in my eyes, but Dad had already told us that there would be no more money from him on this trip. We were supposed to spend wisely, and I had already spent almost everything.

Dad looked at the price tag, then put it back on the rack and told me to go ahead and spend my last two dollars on the keychain since I couldn't afford the helmet. I was a bit crestfallen, but I had known the rules and hadn't saved anything for what would have been the pirate's treasure chest. While I was checking out with my keychain, I noticed Dad talking to one of the folks at the counter. They went over and looked at the helmet and I recall Dad saying, "There's NO WAY that's the correct price on that helmet!" The employee there assured Dad that it was indeed the correct price. 

A minute later, Dad walked over to me with the helmet and handed me a five dollar bill. "You'll need a tad bit more than four dollars if you want this. Louisiana sales tax is six percent. I'll see you in the car in a couple minutes." Then he walked outside and left me there in front of the cash register with the helmet and just enough to make the purchase.

A few minutes later, I was outside, in the car, and the happiest kid on the face of the earth for at least the next twenty-four hours! I inspected every square inch of that helmet that day, and all through the rest of vacation, and on the entire sixteen hour ride back to Ashland, Kentucky when vacation wrapped up. I knew every part of that helmet. Every mark, ding, scrape, and sticker. Even the smell of the sweat on what remained of the padding inside. There was a "97" written in marker inside the helmet and so, when I got home I went straight to the program from the 1980 LSU @ Kentucky game (the first LSU game I ever attended) and looked to see whose helmet I had acquired. 

The answer? 

Leonard Marshall.

For many years through high school and college, it was my prized possession. It had a place of honor in my bedroom at home, and in my dorm rooms when I was a student at LSU residing in South Stadium and later Pentagon dorms. But after having completed studies at LSU and returning a few years later for a home game, the helmet was stolen from me as I stayed overnight at a fraternity house at LSU. Just as fast as I had come to won it, it had disappeared forever, and for more than twenty-five years I mourned its loss.

Fast forward to Friday afternoon, September 7, 2018. 
I received a phone call from a fraternity brother I had met at Southern Miss. He had transferred to LSU from USM and had been at the fraternity house at LSU the night the helmet disappeared. He started right into the reason he called me as soon as I answered.

"Marc," he said, "I was cleaning out my attic today and guess what I found?"


We talked for awhile, and then he asked me for my address so he could send it to me via UPS. I was ecstatic! Even moreso when it arrived at my doorstep on Tuesday, September 11. 

I've been crowing about having it back for about a week now. Made a couple posts on Facebook and over on tigerdroppings.com to brag about my good fortune. I mentioned how it was Leonard Marshall's helmet, which made it even more valuable to me since all us true Tiger fans know of his great NFL career after LSU when he played with the NY Giants and collected two Super Bowl rings while he was there. But I started having doubts as to whether this really was his helmet, even though the number inside matched his LSU jersey number. So, I decided to do a little quick research which yielded a few stories about Marshall but there were very few photos of him at LSU, and only one of him playing a game wearing a helmet, and that game photo didn't provide the correct angle to compare the Tiger Head stickers to confirm it was his helmet. I was dying to know the truth though, so what to do?

I was able to find that he had a Facebook account and page and I thought I would do the inconceivable. I would send him an instant message with photos of the helmet and just flat out ask him whether that had been his helmet. He may read it and think I'm some kind of nut case and then ignore the message, but there's always that chance. I sent the IM last Friday along with photos, but never expected a reply.

Saturday was a great day for LSU fans as we watched our beloved Tigers come from behind to beat a very good Auburn team on their home field. It's hard to top a high like one gets when your team wins on a last second score in a hard fought game against a powerful opponent who was favored by double digits. It's hard to match the excitement created from many of these LSU/Auburn match ups since 1988's "Earthquake Touchdown." (Yes, I was there in Death Valley for that game and still remember that pass from Hodson to Fuller.) Such excitement could well kill me these days as I'm only fifty, but I realize I'm not young like I once was. Such excitement isn't for me anymore-

-Except for today.

I got the following response to my IM:

Yes this is my helmet Marc. I have been searching high and low for this helmet for the last 35 years and hopes that one day I would find it and make it part of my collection from my children when I’m dead and gone. Thanks so much for being a Tiger fan and love an LSU sports. As a former player and now a member of the Presidents Council as well as the diversity board at LSU I am proud to continue the legacy which pave the way for many of us. Private email is xxxxxxx@xxxxxx.com. Keep in touch and event you decide to get rid of that helmet.

I love that helmet dearly. My dad made sure that I would not leave the Tiger Stadium Gift Shop with tears in my eyes at not being able to have a real piece of LSU lore. Dad died in December of 1993 and having that helmet returned to me after all those years brought back the memory of how I came to be in possession of that helmet in the first place. It brought back so many memories of my dad and how he was always my hero. I have never parted with anything I've ever received from either of my parents, even to the degree that I have birthday cards that go back to my third birthday and every letter he ever wrote to me when I was in college at LSU so far away from home in Kentucky. But for the first time, I think I will be relinquishing a gift from my father. I'll have to just consider that it wasn't truly a purchase, but rather it was a thirty-five year rental enabled by Dad.

Leonard Marshall was indeed the Tiger that roamed the field on Saturday nights in Death Valley from 1979 through 1982 wearing this helmet and crushing LSU's opponent's dreams. He worked hard every day to earn the right to wear that helmet in front of thousands of screaming fans on those magical nights when Tiger Stadium would become the third largest city in Louisiana. It is only right that it should be returned to him.

I'll be letting him know that it'll be coming home to him this year, but I can't guarantee that it'll be before the season ends. I credit that helmet sitting in my living room as the gris-gris that helped LSU defeat Auburn this past weekend. I kind of want to hold onto that magic for just a tad bit longer before sending her back home to her rightful owner. I think about how nice it would be for our Tigers to make the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta this year and I could hand it to him personally before game time. Not sure if our Tigers can make that game, or whether Leonard Marshall would attend it if we did, but a half-century-old man can dream, can't he?

Photos follow:

Leonard Marshall 1982 Press Program.jpg

Leonard Marshall Press Program 1982 Season.jpg

Leonard Marshall Tackle against FSU.jpg

back side 1.jpg

front side 1.jpg

inside crown 1.jpg

inside left side 1.jpg

inside right side 1.jpg

left outside 1.jpg

right outside 1.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm glad to have it back as well. I have so many memories of listening to LSU games on the radio while wearing that helmet and living and dying with each play as Jim Hawthorne announced it through the static of a thousand miles that separated New Orleans (WWL) from eastern Kentucky. It's going to be hard to give it up after getting back after all these years, but it should go home to its rightful owner. At the very least, I have had the opportunity to communicate with a member of the LSU Football Hall of Fame!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's one of the best stories of fandom I've ever heard. I think it's great that you are considering returning it to him. IF you think it means a lot to you (and I can tell it truly does) just imagine the memories it will bring to Leonard when he slips it on again. I understand the Karma of it being reunited with you...so maybe at the end of the season is soon enough.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Leonard Marshall is apparently suffering from CTE and has become an awarenesss and educational advocate for head trauma and concussions.


Marshall was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in 2013, a degenerative brain disease afflicting many retired football players that has been linked to repeated head trauma. Tests for the disease were performed at UCLA using newly developed technology that allowed detection in living patients for the first time. Marshall says he began to notice symptoms such as memory loss, severe headaches, and mood swings in 2006, and that his erratic behavior took a major toll on the personal relationships in his life, including his marriage.[35][36][37]

Marshall was part of a class action lawsuit against the NFL that initially resulted in a $765 million settlement, but was later amended to allow for a payout expected to exceed $1 billion.[35][38] Marshall is involved with efforts to educate the public about concussion and head trauma issues, serving as a speaker for both the Practice Like Pros[39] and Brain Unity Trust[40] organizations. He was featured in the documentary United States of Football examining the subject of concussions in the NFL and youth league football.[18] Marshall also founded the Game Plan Foundation to provide assistance for former athletes suffering from neurological disorders.[41]

He's been a leader on and off of the field.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

One hell of a story and one hell of an unselfish act from an LSU fan!  I always enjoy hearing stories about how much people love LSU. My dad (1958), my three brothers and I, my two children and 2 nephews and one niece all graduated from LSU.  Lots of love in our family for the Ole War Skule. Swamp Angel thanks for sharing that wonderful story and I will pray that you have the opportunity to hand that helmet over to Leonard Marshall at the SEC Championship game this year. Go Tigers!

PS I'm about 3 years ahead of you and yes the excitement can be tough to handle at our age!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, we’ve been shooting IMs across Facebook a couple times now. I’ve told him that he’ll be getting his helmet back this year for sure.  After last IM from him he sent a FB friend request as well. I’m just about as giddy as a school girl. 

 I’m gonna miss that helmet, but he is the one who earned the right to wear it and its rightful place is on a shelf at his home sitting  next to his Giants, Jets, and Redskins helmets to make his collection complete.

The past seven days have been full of wonderful LSU related events for me!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, The Swamp Angel said:

Well, we’ve been shooting IMs across Facebook a couple times now. I’ve told him that he’ll be getting his helmet back this year for sure.  After last IM from him he sent a FB friend request as well. I’m just about as giddy as a school girl. 

 I’m gonna miss that helmet, but he is the one who earned the right to wear it and its rightful place is on a shelf at his home sitting  next to his Giants, Jets, and Redskins helmets to make his collection complete.

The past seven days have been full of wonderful LSU related events for me!

This whole story is amazing!

I can't wait to see pics and updates when you finally get it back in his hands.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just sent the email to him that I never thought I’d send.  It would be wrong of me to withhold it from him any longer since he’s been looking for it for 35 years.

I’m just awaiting a response from him now with an address to send it to.

i never thought I would willfully part with this helmet, but I have never felt so good about giving something away. Of course, it isn’t giving it away, it’s simply returning it to the man who earned the right to wear it.

All of y’all have been such good examples of true LSU Tigers here and have played a huge part in this decision to relinquish this trophy possession .  May each and every one of you be blessed, and may our Tigers continue on to a great season.

To quote the last line of our Alma Mater,

”Forever LSU!”

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 9/16/2018 at 3:36 PM, The Swamp Angel said:

Eq, I'd love to publish this story and enjoy all the accolades of fifteen minutes of fame, but truth be told, it's just to be shared with the few Tigers that are on this site. I thought about posting it on tigerdroppings.com, but thought better of it. It'll be more than satisfying for me to see that LM97 gets it back in his hands and in his home with only a few of us knowing the story unless he wants to tell it to someone other than his kids. I wouldn't have posted this anywhere else other than here amongst these true Tigers whom I've grown to love over the past several years. There are no "nega-Tigers" here and it's like family between us. I just had to share my good fortune with someone other than my immediate family and that someone is all of y'all. I truly didn't intend to brag about anything, but I was so excited I couldn't contain myself, so y'all got the full dose. (Yes, in my excitement, I have probably piddled in more than one or two pairs of my shorts over the past several days, but I'll never admit it publicly.)

I'll let y'all know how it turns out ultimately. I'm just happy to know that I have an opportunity to return something to someone who has been searching for a long lost item for more than three decades. It's such a satisfying feeling that is even more gratifying when it involves The Ole War Skule.

And, to quote Coach O, "GEAUX TIGERS!"


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Packing up the helmet today to ship it to its rightful home. Yeah, I think I’d like to keep it to the end of the season, but I’m too excited about returning it to Leonard Marshall to hold onto it any longer.

He was such a great Tiger and had such a memorable NFL career. He’s also a good and humble man.

Melissa and I went to the FedEx store last night to get a box for it. I’ll include a note about its history since I first acquired it. Essentially he’ll be getting a copy of the first post in this thread with a few edits to personalize it for him.

Our deal for him getting it back is that he has to send me a photo of it sitting on his shelf with the high school and NFL helmets he played in.

I’ve never been so happy to part with something in my life. It’s good to know that he will continue to cherish it just as much as I have, and probably more.

Ill see y’all in chat for the game this weekend. Hopefully we’ll be spelling








a lot this Saturday evening!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

FedEx store in Snellville, Ga and Leonard Marshall’s helmet being weighed for postage.

I still have to print out a copy of the first post of this thread to include with the package so he has a record of what his helmet has been up to for the past 35 years.

Maybe another post or two, then this thread will have reached its end and I will have had my fifteen minutes of fame amongst my Tiger brethren here. Then I’ll go back to my fishing page and brag about Paducah Michael. (Y’all do realize the PM is the world’s foremost expert on restoring bamboo fly rods, don’t you? And if not, I’d suggest doing a google search on him to discover that we already have a Tiger hero for n our group here.)



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow! This has been a good post so far. I get to include to if my heroes in it with a mention of Leonard Marshall and Michael Sinclair.

Leonard should have his helmet back by 4:30PM Saturday before game time according to FedEx. (It had damned well better be there by then! That was expensive!)

As far as Paducah Michael goes... well, everyone here knows what a legend he is now. It’s long since time that he got his prop’s too.

Thank y’all for bearing with me in this. I feel like a step-father who is letting his step-daughter walk down the aisle with her real dad after this exchange. I actually teared up pretty significantly as the lady at the FedEx counter took away the box from the register to the shipping room.

She asked if I wanted it insured, and for how much. I told her, “You’re damned right I want it insured!” 

I wanted to insure it for 2.5 billion dollars, but settled for $500.

This has been great for me. I have been able to meet one of my heroes via electronic media and maybe one day we’ll meet personally. But all in all, I feel like maybe, just maybe, I have done something right in my life.

One other thing though... I’d like y’all to remember Leonard Marshall in about a month when he turns 57 years old on October 22nd this year.


Geaux Tigers!




Link to comment
Share on other sites

Marc, thanks for all the nice words - I sincerely appreciate them. Yes - The photo in the fur baby post is in my shop/office. I do love old bamboo fly rods and enjoy restoring them. I've met a ton of nice folks in that hobby/obsession.  Sadly very few of them are LSU fans. Just in case anybody is interested, here are a couple more pics of the shop.




Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...