Trent Chesnut, the Illinois football equipment manager, is an expert on all aspects of the football uniform. Continuing the discussion he shares with all prospective Illini recruits, Chesnut talks about the most recent advances in helmet design.
"Xenith has a new helmet out to go along with the concussion problems in the NFL. It's at the top of the list right now because they're honestly trying to cut down on concussions.
"Justin Green wore it in the fall. He really liked it and was real comfortable with it. The founder of Xenith came in and talked to our team. Vin Ferrara is a Harvard grad, got his Master's at Columbia. Nice guy, real knowledgeable, smart man.
"He got concussions at Harvard when he played. He wondered what to do to help people, and that's what he came up with. It looks like a traditional helmet from the outside. But the guts of it on the inside is totally different.
"It's based on little shock absorbers like hockey pucks inside the helmet. Traditional helmets just have foam and air bladders which you fill up. There's no air bladders to fill up in here. These little hockey pucks take a hit, it just concusses and comes back.
"It's such a new helmet, all the new studies are not out. There are a lot of teams that aren't really jumping on board just yet because they just don't know. They hit a lot of high schools last year. NC State and South Carolina wore a lot of them. And then a couple guys sprinkled all over. I think it's gonna take off."
Illini football players have a choice of several helmet models.
"With that helmet, and then Revolution's new Speed Helmet, and then Schutt has a couple new styles too. They're going towards a concussion-reduction technology, higher end materials, better plastics and better bladders.
"I basically have six helmets to choose from. Three Revolution styles, and then I have two Schutt styles to pick from plus the Xenith helmet. They have six of the best helmets on the market to choose from."
The Illini are phasing out helmets that used to be popular. Despite tests that prove the superiority of the new models, some athletes are creatures of tradition.
"We're phasing out older styles of helmets, old Riddell helmets that guys in the NFL still wear called the VSR4. It's a very popular helmet with the pros. It's been around for awhile. But the safety of it, it doesn't test as well as the new helmets test.
"Adams still makes helmets too, but I would never put a kid back in an Adams helmet. We had a kid that played here awhile back, Marcus Mason who's now with the Redskins. He wore one when they first came out. Warren Sapp and Trace Armstrong were big into that. They were pushing them and wearing them.
"Marcus Mason took a hit in spring ball, and it actually put a dent in the plastic of the helmet. From that day on, I said no one will ever wear that helmet again."
Chesnut is a hands-on equipment manager. He studies the research, and he travels to factories to watch production. He is always looking to upgrade Illini choices.
"We got some samples in of helmets that got painted. Our helmets are molded, meaning the plastic comes in burnt orange. That's the way they come out when they're built.
"It's kind of neat to go to these factories and watch how they make them. I've been to Riddell. They'll have a five foot high box filled with ground up plastic from GE. That's how it starts. It is amazing the way it comes out."
Continuing with the subject of wearing apparel, Chesnut discusses the Nike clothing options for football players in part three of this 8-part series.