Share this article

print logo

Strong play a sticking point at UB; Quinn brings back decals to reward UB players

Defensive end Colby Way came away from the season opener with four of them. Left tackle Andre Davis and tight end Jimmy Gordon earned two apiece. Linebacker Waylon Fink has one and he didn't even make the trip to Georgia.

Head coach Jeff Quinn and his staff have resumed the practice of awarding postgame helmet stickers at UB. And maybe this time it will become tradition instead of a once-a-decade occurrence, as was the case last time around.

The idea of awarding helmet stickers (sometimes called spirit or pride stickers) dates to the mid-1960s. They were popularized by Ohio State, in large part because the Buckeyes received much more national exposure than the actual originator — Miami (Ohio).

Nowadays a number of FBS programs award them, including Georgia (Dawg bones), Florida State (tomahawks) and BYU (gold cougars). Purdue is straying from the play on a nickname this year to honor one of its more famous alumni — late moonwalker Neil Armstrong. The sticker will feature a silhouetted astronaut holding a Purdue flag.

The helmet sticker made a short-lived appearance at UB in the early 2000s, when Jim Hofher was the head coach. Then they went by the wayside, maybe because the Bulls were new to the Mid-American Conference, regularly thrashed and the idea of bestowing recognition in the wake of resounding defeats rang hollow.

Quinn, in his third year at the helm, decided during the offseason to reintroduce the stick-on. During the Hofher era the graphic consisted of bull horns. The new ones feature the bull head from the UB logo.

"We're going to recognize players that represent the things that we want to be known for and that's our identity on the field," Quinn said. "That's a new tradition that we're establishing."

What does it take?

"If you play fast and you play smart and you play physical for four quarters and it's represented by what you display, not what you say, I think those are the things," Quinn said. "It's looked at by each position coach each Sunday. We sit down and we talk about each guy that played. It's not going to be whether you win or lose, it's going to be whether you competed at the standard we set forth. I think we had like 29 stickers that we awarded.

"It's got to be beyond just making a tackle. But a lot of tackles, you'll get some stickers. If you get a lot of tackles behind the line of scrimmage, I'm going to recognize that too. If you create turnovers, those are the things."

The players are all for it, particularly those at positions that often go unnoticed outside of the team.

"It's a great new tradition I think," Gordon said. "It gives another reason for us to work even harder, to have a sticker that shows your performance and your hard work paid off for that week."

"It's cool," said Davis, who was in for a team-high 87 snaps, including special teams. "We finally have something that we can show we worked for something, that you did something good and got acknowledged for it."

Way's big game in a 45-23 loss to Georgia made him the most decorated Bull out of the gate. He had six tackles and two sacks and was named Mid-American Conference East Defensive Player of the Week.

"We talk about it," said senior defensive end Steven Means. "We saw a few of them on Colby's helmet and we're like, ‘Oooo, MAC Player of the Week.' We kind of tease him but it's definitely a motivator now. I wish it would have happened a couple years ago. It would have motivated me to get my whole helmet full of stickers."

No one toils in greater anonymity than players on the scout team/demo squad. Their task for the week is to mimic the tendencies of the opposing player they represent and get the starters ready for game day. It used to be a relatively thankless job. No longer. Quinn said three members of the demo squad received stickers. Fink earned a sticker and the ultimate demo squad award: the safari-style scout that goes to the demo squad Player of the Week.

Fink autographs the hat and keeps it until the next demo POW is determined. Subsequent winners do the same and at season's end the signed hat goes to the scout squad player of the year.

"Right now I'm dead set on getting scout player of the year," Fink said. "That makes me want to push myself. Also to be on film, because when guys are watching film they're going to see you making plays and give good effort and you're in return going to get more time in actual practice.

"It's going to be a great tradition," Fink said. "I hope it sticks and hopefully I get many more to come."?