A Deeper Look at the Sickest Helmet in College Football

Hello, consumer of online sports writing content. It is a pleasure to have you as a visitor to our defunct, yet once again animated-undead blog. What a glorious time to be alive! Everything is great and there are no disturbing societal or environmental trends to worry our little heads about.

All that stress-free easy living has made watching the current season of San Diego State University football a real joy. The Aztecs are 11-1, ranked in the the very fair and unbiased Associated Press Top 20, and playing for the Mountain West championship. SDSU plays host to the Utah State Aggies for the conference crown this Saturday on an actual over-the-air broadcast network. Two weeks in a row on big TV for our favored squad of student athletes! Truly a golden era in all respects.

The unsullied grandeur of modern life, and the rampant football success of the universally-beloved local institution of higher education, led us to sentimental contemplation of the vestments and ornamentation that adorn those athletes in their competitive events. The sick uniforms. The killer kits. So we went straight to the source for greater knowledge.

SDSU was kind enough to grant access to a central figure with his hands on that sweet Aztec gear on a daily basis. Sonny Sanfilippo, friend of the blog and modern renaissance man, graciously agreed to shine a light toward deeper understanding.

What follows is a verbatim transcript of the interview, lightly edited to make our questions seem smarter. 

K30: Sonny, thanks for taking time to answer a few uniform-related questions. Please tell our adoring readers who you are and what role you have on the SDSU equipment staff.

SSF: My name is Sonny Sanfilippo. I’m the Assistant Director of Athletic Equipment Services. I was born and raised in San Diego and attended SDSU. I graduated in 2010 and worked as a student equipment manager.

San Diego State women’s basketball

K30: Right on. First off: The men and women’s basketball uniforms got an update this season, with thick trim and a cleaner look than the previous set. The women’s road uniform has red trim, but so far we’ve only seen MBB in their home whites and the (excellent) red on black alternate. Does a new men’s away uni with red trim exist, or did the alternate replace it?

SSF: Yes, a new men’s black uni exists with red trim.

K30: Nice. The trim on the home kit seems to match the emphasis on black featured on the new Steve Fisher Court hardwood floor. Were the updates to the uniforms and the floor color-coordinated?

SSF: Not at all. They were not done to match the new court. Now that you mention it, it does look like it was intended, but that’s not the case.

K30: Got it. Were the new basketball uniforms driven by SDSU wanting to update the look, or did the Aztecs just come up in the regular rotation for an update by Nike?

SSF: Matt Soria, our Director of Men’s Basketball Operations, and I work on the uniforms together. We don’t have a timetable on the uniforms. If we feel like we can change up the look after a season or two, we will.

K30: At the Wooden Legacy this past week, Matt Bradley forgot his jersey and wore Demarshay Johnson Jr.’s no. 11 against Georgetown. In recent seasons, when a player didn’t have their jersey, the player suited up in a no-name number 30; the “blood jersey.” Does the equipment staff have an emergency blank version of the new uniform?

SFF: No comment.

K30: Okay. Our big, burning question is about a football throwback or alternate. San Diego State fans have long pined for a throwback uniform. Basketball has had a throwback. Baseball has six different kits! When is the football program, with its 100-year history, getting a throwback or at least a fauxback?

SFF: Great question! We check on ways to incorporate a throwback look from time to time. We wanted to establish our Aztec Calendar design and we felt like it is one of the most recognizable kits in the country now. With the upcoming 100 year anniversary, we will continue to explore some potential opportunities.

K30: Excellent. That widely-praised Aztec calendar helmet got an update this season, with thicker lines that make the detail easier to see. Was this update driven by the athletic department or by Nike? Was that the only update to the football gear this season?

San Diego State football

SSF: That was the only update this season. That update was actually made by me. I was not satisfied with the first rendition, felt like it got lost a lot. I discovered a new company out of Wisconsin that has been working with a few other schools. I met with them, came up with a few rough drafts and finally settled on what you see now. We changed the red to more of a Ferrari red and beefed up the weight of the lines on the design.

K30: That is awesome. Well done! Is the Aztec calendar a decal or applied directly to the helmet? It looks painted on, and I can’t remember seeing any part of the helmet art fraying off like a decal.

SSF: The design is actually hydro-dipped into water. The helmet is painted red initially. Once painted red, the Aztec print is laid upon a tank of water. Each side of the helmet is then dipped, one side at a time.

San Diego State football helmet hydro-dip design application process.
Photo: Gemini Technology Systems

Once dipped and the print is on both sides, the black middle stripe is painted on. Followed by a clear coat at the end.

K30: Wow, I’ve never heard of that process. Thanks for the explanation.

SSF: I flew to Wisconsin in May to see the helmets painted. It’s incredible to see in person.

K30: Very cool. Is there anything else about SDSU or yourself you’d like to mention?

SFF: Being born and raised in San Diego contributes to the passion I have for my job. I don’t think I could do this at another school. After getting my degree from SDSU and being involved with the department for so long, I couldn’t see myself anywhere else. This is where I want to be and what motivates me to keep working hard. With the addition of the new stadium, this program and department are going to keep taking the right steps into making SDSU the place to be.

K30: Thanks so much for the interview Sonny! Really good background. Can’t wait for those football throwbacks. 🙂

SFF: Hahaha. We’ll see. No promises.

Our sincere thanks to Sonny Sanfilippo and the SDSU media relations department for granting an interview.

The San Diego State football Aztecs face Utah State for the Mountain West championship this Saturday, December 4 at 12:00 PM Pacific on FOX. Good seats are still available.