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Today's Tidbit... The Man from Mars
Gale Kirkpatrick was a footballer for Tulane during a transition era. As a freshman in 1948, Kirkpatrick played for Henry Frnka’s Greenies during their last year of single-platoon football. During his varsity years, Tulane used the two-platoon system, but even then, teams often had a few players go both ways or switched top players between offense and defense depending on the opponent.
The details of how often Kirkpatrick played one or the other are not clear, but as a 6-2, 207-pound junior, he played offensive end, catching a 14-yard touchdown pass versus Navy. Unfortunately, a leg injury sidelined him for much of the year.
Kirkpatrick returned for his senior season, earning a starting role at right defensive end, but the injury bug slugged him again when he broke his jaw against Baylor early in the season. Fitted with a face mask and guard that some might describe as jaw-dropping, the following image of Kirkpatrick wearing the device appeared in sports pages across the U.S. and Canada, often accompanied by the caption, the Man from Mars.
Unfortunately, the injury kept Kirkpatrick out of the lineup most of the year, and though he started versus Vanderbilt late in the year, he missed the season-ender versus rival LSU.
Best as I can tell, broken jaws occur far less often now than before. Plastic helmets with face masks and mouth guards lessened their frequency, as have penalties for head slaps and other blows to the head.
Please comment below if you have other information about the historical reduction in these injuries.
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