Gridiron Glory at Union Station: RK-Style Helmet

The exhibition, which traces the history of the game from its roots, is open daily at Union Station and closes September 7

*Included in the summer-long exhibition at Union Station of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's history of the game is a substantial collection of Kansas City Chiefs artifacts dating back to the earliest days of the franchise and the creation of the American Football League by team owner Lamar Hunt  *

Over the next couple of weeks, we'll identify some of what fans and long-time football enthusiasts might call "treasures" – some never seen by the general public before the exhibition's opening this past Memorial Day weekend.  The exhibition, which traces the history of the game from its roots, is open daily at Union Station and closes September 7.

Johnny Robinson's "RK-Style Chiefs Helmet"

Lamar Hunt didn't believe in altering the look of his team's uniforms and even with the move of the franchise from Dallas to Kansas City in 1963, the overall appearance in design and color changed very little.

When Hunt's team came into the league in 1960 there were only two helmet models from which to choose and they came from Riddell.  Most NFL teams could be found wearing the "RK" model with its flared ears and raised center ridge.  By contrast, AFL teams went with the "TK" which featured a sleeker styling.  Hunt's college team, the SMU Mustangs, had worn the "RK," and that's likely why he preferred it.


The Chiefs used a blood red color in their uniform offerings and that caused problems when the team moved to the "TK" sometime in the 1970s.  Riddell had a scarlet red and that was it.  Later, Riddell developed new impregnated colored helmets where color was added to the plastic pellets and painting was not needed.  Look at more contemporary Chiefs helmets in the Gridiron Glory exhibit and you'll recognize a brighter red than the one you see in Robinson's.  Also, the arrowhead on the helmet was slightly larger from 1963 through 1973 than ones found on later helmets.

The choices of facemasks at the time came down to a steel cage (from Schutt) or a plastic (from Riddell) composed of one or two bars – the latter favored by Robinson.  On the horizon, however, was a new aluminum/magnesium mask created by a dentist named Dunning that was very light but very strong.  It was called the "Dungard" and came in eight different styles.

If you go

Robinson's helmet may be found in the Chiefs 1969 Super Bowl case near the conclusion of the team's section of the Gridiron Glory exhibit at Union Station.

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