The first-ever NFL helmet with a logo was hand-painted by the Rams' Fred Gehrke in 1947

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Thursday, February 10, 2022
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LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- When you consider the 100-plus-year history of the NFL, a lot has happened and a lot has changed. But could a single Rams helmet perhaps be the most historically significant artifact of the last century?

It dates back to 1947, back when helmets didn't provide much either in the form of safety, or in this case, team identity.

Former player Fred Gehrke wanted to change that with a team logo. As an art major in college, he went to the coach.

"He kept asking the question and the coach just kinda kept pushing him off until he finally got upset and handed him this helmet - and just said go home and paint," said Keven Pederson, the current owner of the historic helmet.

That helmet is believed to be the first of 75 that were hand-painted that year in Gehrke's garage. He was paid on the side at $1 per helmet.

"Fred carried a can of blue and yellow paint with him all through the next season, and after the game he would take your helmet and if there were scuffs on it, he would fix the yellow and fix the blue."

Pederson believes the helmet changed the game and helped the NFL evolve into a multi-billion dollar industry - not to mention the other sport leagues that followed.

"You know the Rams because of that horn, you know the Lakers because of their logo," he said. "If you say L.A., that doesn't mean anything."

While the helmet, part of Gerhke's estate, cost Pedersen and his partners $40,000, there's the belief that it's worth much more. So what now?

"Well, that's been a contentious thing with these guys because I would love this to just sit in my living room and not share it without anyone."

But they feel that's not where it belongs.

"For the true sports fan and somebody that's into football, it's awe-inspiring."

Whether it's the Hall of Fame or Rams corporate headquarters, they're open to letting it go.

"The world needs to appreciate it and understand the innocence of how this started," Pedersen said.