Also known as pride stickers and reward decals, helmet stickers have become an important tradition in the world of college football. In a sport that centers on team accomplishments, top programs like Stanford, Ohio State and Florida State have all used helmet stickers to reward individual achievements.
Ohio State is the most notorious for using helmet stickers, but few people know they were not the first to use the reward system. Ohio’s Miami University used stickers as early as 1965 thanks to Jim Young, the team’s assistant at the time. Young, who was a fighter pilot in World War II, based the idea off of planes using stickers to mark their kills.
Each university awards decals for different reasons. Most teams use helmet stickers to stand for specific actions like touchdowns, rushing yards and interceptions. Others award them for successes that cannot be measured by statistics, like hard work at practice. Some schools even give student-athletes decals for academic achievements.
Decals are typically made up of an iconic university symbols. For instance, Ohio State’s helmet stickers are a Buckeye leaf, Stanford distributes an axe blade design and Michigan State uses a white block “S”.
Although the use of helmet stickers has diminished over the years, coaches and players have stated they use the decals because it gives athletes something to strive for and it creates friendly competition among teammates.