PSU Uniform Watch: History of the Changes With Brad “Spider” Caldwell

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University Park, Centre County -- For Saturday's game with Indiana at Beaver Stadium, the Penn State Nittany Lions will take a stroll down memory lane with their Generations of Greatness uniforms.

Elements of Blue and White History from the 1940's to the present will be featured, and will certainly bring a bit of nostalgia to everyone around the program.

FOX 43's Andrew Kalista caught up with the team's former equipment manager, Brad "Spider" Caldwell, to find out about some of the decisions that changed the Nittany Lions' style over the years.

Black shoes,  basic blues, no bling and all game -- that's the Penn State style. Yes, it has been tweaked over the years, and there are a lot myths and legends about why, but one man knows it all -- Brad "Spider" Caldwell, who spent 31 years as the Nittany Lions' equipment manager.

"We thought it was a way that we can really embrace our traditions but give us a little bling for one day, we'll say," Caldwell says of the Generations of Greatness event.

Any uniform change is a big one for the Lions -- remember when former coach Bill O'Brien allowed names on the jerseys?

This week, there will be several changes, from socks to stripes to helmets. Even the trim, partially back on the jersey sleeves, is a new touch.

And hard as it might be to believe, it was JoePa's idea to add the stripes in the 1980's!

"We asked Coach Paterno, we made a mistake, should we take it off?" Caldwell recalls.  "He said, 'Nah, the players want me to bling it up, so we will leave it.'"

Caldwell takes responsibility for the switch from gray facemasks to the current blue ones.

"You can probably blame me for the transitions to the navy facemask, in 1987," he says. "We went to thin wire facemasks, they started making really thin ones, and the charcoal grey started to look white. So I suggested to the head equipment manager 'Why don't we just go to navy, it looks almost black, and matches the stripe.'

"He said, 'Yeah, let's do it.'  So we did, and no one really noticed. We've done it ever since."

In another tweak on Saturday, Penn State will bring back stripes on the side of their pants. That's a combination of two different eras.

The numbers on the helmets make a return. Caldwell says it was Joe Paterno's call to remove them.

"Coach Paterno comes walking in the office one day and he says, 'Take those numbers off. I'm tired of looking like Alabama,'" Caldwell says.

I have always suspected that -- what a reason.

In perhaps the biggest oddity of this week's uniforms, Penn State will wear white shoes. The Nittany Lions have only done that once before, in the 1979 Sugar Bowl against Alabama.

Here's why: The shoes, provided by Adidas, were free.

"We were playing on turf in a dome," Caldwell says. "We accepted the shoes from Adidas (and) got the free shoes. We played with them, and we technically did wear them, and we did lose 14-7."

That could be a bad omen, but not one that will dampen the spirit of the faithful as Penn State goes completely retro -- as if they ever were modern.

In addition to the retro uniforms, Saturday will feature other throwbacks -- like music and different painted patterns in the end zones.

Hey, diamonds are forever, I'm told.


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