college football helmet stickers

What Do The Decals On College Football Helmets Mean?

If you watch college football, you’ve probably wondered why individual players have stickers on their helmet. No, they’re not there for aerodynamic purposes and corporate advertising on football helmets is still not permitted. There are many collegiate teams who award stickers, and each college has its own criteria such as offense, defense, or special teams achievements. The players themselves view the stickers with honor and reverence – a sort of rite of passage and sacred ceremony all rolled into one. We’re going to look at what do the decals on various college football helmets mean so the next time you see your favorite college football team out on the field; you’ll know which players are performing at their very best.

History of College Football Stickers

In the fall of 1968, Ohio State football trainer Ernie Biggs was looking for a way to motivate his players during the championship campaign. He decided on giving them a sticker that indicated various in-game achievements. Many colleges around the country soon followed suit, with each college having their own set of criteria for awards. They’re usually given out to players to reward them for special achievements that might otherwise go unrecognized, such as a critical block on a touchdown run.

Ohio State Buckeye Helmet Stickers

The Ohio State Buckeyes are named after a tree (Buckeye) that’s native to the Midwest and contains anywhere from three to six points on each leaf. There was a small controversy a while back in which some moms on social media thought it resembled a marijuana leaf. There are a few ways a player can win a Buckeye sticker. If the defense racks up at least five three-and-outs, players will get one. Or if the offense executes ten plays in which 12 or more yards are gained, each player will also be awarded. Ohio State nowadays focuses more on team performance than individual performance. Studies have shown that players are more motivated to forgo personal achievements instead of making decisions that benefit the team as a whole.

Michigan State Helmet Stickers

Michigan State distributes a block S and a Spartan Spear sticker to football players. Each player gets an “S” every time the Spartans win, and it’s applied to the right-hand side of the helmet. The spear is awarded for production points and excellence on the field.

Florida State Helmet Stickers

Florida has given their athletes a somewhat elaborate way of winning – and losing – stickers. What the head coach giveth, he can also taketh away. Players are awarded stickers for outstanding plays which are broken down into further categories in both offense and defense. On the other side of the coin, poor penalties, fumbles, and other whoopsies can cost a player one or more stickers.

Georgia Bones Helmet Stickers

Georgia started using stickers as far back as 1971 but the program was discontinued a few years later. The stickers saw a resurgence in 2001 with the “Bones” stickers being awarded for merit. Unlike other schools, Georgia doesn’t have a scientific system of awarding stickers. Basically, if the coach thinks you earned one, you’re given one.

Northwestern Helmet Stickers

Northwestern only distributes stickers during winning seasons. Players accumulate stickers much more slowly, and they’re are kept on their helmets throughout their collegiate careers.

Purdue Train Helmet Stickers

Purdue stickers are called the “Boilermaker Special” and are given to players for excellence in on-field performance. The train stickers were discontinued in 2006 but returned as a memorial when alumni Neil Armstrong passed away.

Stanford Axe Helmet Stickers

Players are awarded a Stanford ax sticker when the team wins the annual game against longtime rival Cal. The tradition began in 2009 with awards being given for both practice and in-game performance.

Tennessee “63” Helmet Stickers

The “63” sticker on the Vols’ helmet indicates “six seconds, three great efforts,” according to head coach Butch Jones. Athletes are awarded a sticker every time each play takes six seconds, and three efforts.

Duke Grim Reaper Helmet Stickers

Only defensive players can win a grim reaper helmet sticker at Duke. They started giving out stickers to players due in part to a weak defense that caused a long losing streak. The stickers did their intended job as production from the defensive unit increased exponentially over the next few years.

Clemson “Paw Print” Helmet Stickers

Clemson started with awarding skull and crossbones stickers but ultimately decided to tone it down a bit. They now give out paw print stickers for excellence in on-field plays.

BYU Cougars Helmet Stickers

BYU stickers are awarded in two colors. The color gold is awarded for personal goals, and the color blue is for team goals. The sticker program has been discontinued several times over the past few decades.

Vanderbilt “Ship Anchors and Stars” Helmet Stickers

Vanderbilt gives out two types of stickers, ship anchors and stars. Anchors are awarded for both defense and office achievements while stars are for outstanding special teams plays.

Quality Football Helmet Decals

If your college team needs helmet decals and stickers, or you’d like to buy the same stickers that your favorite football player is sporting, give us a call at (800) 435-6110 or visit our online shop. At, we’ve been helping both college football teams and fans alike with their sports decal needs since 1972!
Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.