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Today's Tidbit... 1966 Football Practice Equipment Catalog
Football teams practice four, five, or more times more often than they play games, so the methods and equipment used in practice are vital parts of the game's history. Today we review an eight-page catalog released by Premier Products in 1966 that touts their blocking sleds, dummies, and a few miscellaneous items.
Besides the period aesthetic, the catalog cover shows seven players enjoying themselves pushing the sled past the 50-yard line. I don’t know about you, but I never pushed a sled on an actual football field. Sleds were used on the bumpiest and least attractive bit of land within jogging distance of where the skill positions plied their craft. (Click the images to enlarge.)
The catalog's second page includes freight handling information and the Table of Contents, which is almost as boring as pushing the sled.
Now we are getting somewhere. Page 3 shows off The Dipper, a two-man sled with a perfectly balanced and shaped steel pan. Compared to the seven-man sled, this beauty absolutely skipped over the field, provided the line coach or player riding the sled weighed less than 250 pounds.
Back to the Blocking Sled with the T-Pad Option. Page 4 tells us about its exclusive coil springs, which were adjustable based on the size and strength of the players. They made the spring action realistic for both shoulder and forearm blocking.
Page 5 shows Premier Product’s latest dummies, which were of the lightweight variety. (Page 6 has the old school, heavy dummies.) Whereas the heavy dummies remained stationary, the lightweight handheld shield and standing dummies changed how teams used dummies in practice. Lightweight dummies could be moved in multiple directions like an actual defender, and blockers could drive them further than the heavy set.
Page 6 gives us the “Univerisity” Nylon Blocker, which they called the Greatest Football Dummy Ever Made. It weighed in at 75 pounds, compared to 16 to 32 pounds for the standup dummies on the previous page. It is unclear what made it the greatest dummy ever made, but it is tough to argue that point today.
More interesting is item No. 567, the Nylon Blocking Armor. As covered by an earlier Tidbit, some teams wore blocking armor or aprons well into the 1960s.
Page 7 offers several other dummies, including a two-legged tackling dummy that was popular after 1910 or so. Ropes, equipment bags, and an official’s indicator were also available.
The back cover featured the Instant Cold Pack. The cold pack and similar products were innovations in their day since the training staff no longer needed ice to be available on the practice field or sideline. A separate Tidbit may be needed about those.
Premier Products appears to have gone out of business several decades ago. Whether they were acquired or simply faded away is unknown, but I’ll bet a few of their dummies are sitting in the back of storage sheds across the country, and there may be a few sleds still in use as well.
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