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David Hayes

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The Evolution


As we approach the 20th anniversary of The Georgia High School Helmet Project, I thought it'd be fun to take a look back; from where it all began until now. As I state in my bio, my inspiration was Charles Arey's “The Helmet Project” site. No need to go into detail on his site because it's the only one of it's kind. After visiting it for the first time back in 2002, the idea was planted to do my site. The first graphic I used was a copy of the same thing Charles uses. It was VERY pixelated, but it's all (we) had to work with back then.

Not being website savvy, that first site was very plain Jane! I put it together with a “free” web builder app. It wasn't much, but it got it out on the web. I couldn't figure out how to display the helmet AND describe who's it was or where they were located in a separate frame, so I had to combine the two in one image. This caused me to have to make the helmet image smaller to fit everything in. This in turn caused me a LOT of problems because it wasn't much to work with even at it's original size. But squeezing a logo down to that small of a size really distorted it. But, I did the best I could with it and made it work.

It amazes me now, that such a pixelated little image was so overwhelmingly popular! I had 2 news articles written about the site. One was from the Athens Daily Banner in Athens, Ga. and my local paper here in Dalton, The Daily Citizen News. There wasn't much out on the web in terms of good football helmet graphics for several years after the site went live in February 2002 with 45 helmets. Around March of 2002, I met Johnny Walton of LincolnCountyRedDevils.com in Lincolnton.

He offered to host my site as a companion to his Lincoln Co. high school site under the domain of FootballFridayNight.com. It was a tremendous success! I can't count all the emails I've received saying how much the people loved it! It stayed this way until 2009 when The Gahelmetproject.com domain was born. Johnny has provided ALL of my website resources over the years and I thank God for him! He was and still is a TREMENDOUS partner in taking care of the website part of it. That allows me to concentrate on just doing the helmets. He has ALWAYS done what I've asked him to do, no matter what it was/is! I graciously give him all the credit for the website and ALL it's content! So, don't just thank me for the site, he deserves JUST as much credit!

From around 2009 to 2012 I had noticed some more clearer, crisper helmet graphics beginning to hit the web. I found one I liked that didn't have that annoying shadow behind and underneath it. With Johnny’s help and website prowess, I was able to create an image without the text underneath it. This allowed me to make the image a little larger which helped out the folks doing their publications. I've always been kinda partial to the (three quarter view) of a football helmet. That gives it a more realistic look in my opinion; even though at the time, they were pretty much still 2D. I had thought long AND hard about re-doing the helmets, but I steered clear of it because of all the work it was gonna take; but that nagging feeling I get when I'm just not satisfied with something would NOT go away! So I decided to go through with it and change them all over to this new helmet design. But this time, I chose to do a helmet facing in each direction. I had seen folks doing their schedule matchups and it just didn't look right to me with both helmets facing the same way. So I upped the ante and did two sets this go 'round. Now that WAS a LOT of work! As long as a logo didn't have any text of any kind, it was just a matter of doing a simple“mirror” image and it was good. Otherwise, it required repainting the logo completely a lot of times to make it look right if it contained text. I was using the only program I had EVER used for the graphics and that was Paint Shop Pro. However, I was very satisfied with the results and it stayed that way until roughly 2015.

Again, newer, more sleek designs began to emerge. After looking over the crop of helmet designs, I chose a three quarter view 2D version of the Riddell Revolution helmet; and the redesign started again a third time. As more schools were constanly joining the GHSA, it would take longer each time to complete the process. And again, I did two sets of helmets which eventually would become the standard in future upgrades. Finally, I got them all done and uploaded them to the site. Each time a new helmet template was uploaded, the excitement would regenerate as well. It remained that way until 2019.

By this time, graphics had improved exponentially! GPB television began using a template, the Riddell 360, on their website and my mouth began to water! I WANTED that helmet template BAD! But I had no idea where they got it. I had done work for them in the past and had come to know some of the people that worked there in their graphics department. So, I reached out to one of them and asked him what it would take to get a copy of that template? I didn't really expect to get it, but he DID send me the helmet files! BUT, they were in Photoshop format. Even though my PSP program could open them, and I could work with them, there were certain things I COULD NOT do as opposed to Photoshop. At this point I had considered going through the learning curve and learn Photoshop. But I figured it would take TOO long to learn it. Patience is NOT one of my virtues! When I set my mind to do something, it's gotta be done like, RIGHT NOW! So, I worked with those templates day and night in PSP for several weeks until I became comfortable knowing I could put out a quality image for the site.

Well, here I go making the change once again. I was really motivated this time because I didn't think you could get a better, more realistic looking design than this one. THEN....I discovered Ali's Sports Templates! After looking around on his site, it became clear where GPB got their template and I knew at that point I was gonna have to bite the bullet and learn how to do these things in Photoshop. His templates were created with it and there was no way I could do what I needed to do without it. So I got a copy of it and went to work learning it. By this time, when I finished this next upgrade, little did I know the Riddell 360 (which came out around 2010) wasn't being worn anymore. At least in the main conferences of the NCAA, the NFL, or even high school for that matter.

After visiting Ali's site, I signed up for his email alerts. Less than a year later, after redoing the helmets for the fourth time, Ali offered 2 more helmet templates. The Riddell Speedflex, and the Schutt Vengeance. I really wasn't crazy about either one to be honest. I loved the look of the Riddell 360, but since it wasn't being worn for the most part, I just couldn't have the site “dated” because of it. This time I purchased the helmet template package which included all 3 designs. I did a little research and found out the Riddell Speedflex IS the helmet of choice for most all NCAA teams, the NFL and high school. So guess what, I went through and changed them ALL again a fifth time! I'm thinking this is gonna be the last upgrade however. I'm much older now and even though I can still see good, and have steady hands, my patience is a tad thinner than it used to be. It never was much to be honest anyway, but even less now!

So this is how the GHSHP began and has developed over the years. I wanna say thank you to each and every person that has helped me with this. Whether it be actual helmet decals, helmet pictures or even descriptions and suggestions. You are as much a part of this site as myself. For without you, it wouldn't be where it is today! It does my heart good to know that all the hard work I've put in has not been done in vain. I know lots of people over the years have used them in their publications or whatever, and that's all I ever really wanted anyway. I have no plans to quit maintaining this site until the day I become physically unable to do it...whenever that might be. A lot of high school sites like this have popped up and gone since I started mine due to the complexity of helmets & graphics nowadays. But there's only a very few remaining that have hung in there as long as I have and NONE of them have graphics as good as ours! I love high school football so much, that alone keeps me motivated to continue. Thanks everyone, take care and God bless!

David Hayes