Welcome to The Vault, the weekly blog post that takes a look back at some of the best (and worst) jerseys throughout sports history. Each week, a classic set of threads each from the sports of football, basketball, hockey, baseball, and soccer will be revisited.
All submissions are welcome by messaging @tftb_smalls on IG.
Football: University of Hawaii QB Colt Brennan
The first selection in this week’s Vault is sort of a hidden gem. For many sports fans, including myself, seeing the name “Colt Brennan” probably invokes the thought, “Holy s**t, I completely forgot that dude”. Brennan, who grew up in California, originally played on the University of Colorado football team as a walk-on. However, he was dismissed from the team in 2004 after being convicted of burglary and trespassing. After being put on probation, Brennan attended junior college at Saddleback College in California where he led the school to a conference championship. Because of this success and his repaired image, he received a second chance in the form of an offer to walk on at the University of Hawaii. Once arriving in Manoa, Brennan quickly won the starting quarterback job. He broke or tied eleven Hawaii offensive records in 2005 and led the country in passing touchdowns (35) and total offensive yards (4,455). During the 2006 season, he led the nation in passing efficiency and passed for 53 touchdowns during the regular season. That’s right, 53 touchdowns. This was only one short of the all-time NCAA Division I-A record. He finished sixth in Heisman voting, behind winner Troy Smith. In Brennan’s 2007 season, he broke the record for most touchdowns responsible for in a career (135) and led Hawaii to a perfect regular season record at 12-0. Hawaii finished 10th in the AP Poll that year and earned a bid to the Sugar Bowl against Georgia. Brennan would eventually finish third in the 2007 Heisman race, behind Tim Tebow and Darren McFadden. He would eventually fizzle out in the NFL after being drafted by the Redskins. Despite going to a school that wasn’t exactly known for its football, Brennan became one of the most explosive collegiate quarterbacks of all time, and he disappeared just as quickly. If we’re speaking honestly, his #15 jersey is probably the only well-known Hawaii jersey out there. I love this jersey though, especially because of the design of the sleeve trim and the unique numbering on the front. It would be a rare find for any sports fan, and I feel like I’m nerding out just talking about it.
Basketball: Michigan State G Magic Johnson
Our basketball entry this week belonged to the man who many consider to be in the top 5 basketball players of all time. Earvin Johnson, Jr. (who was born in Lansing, MI) earned his nickname “Magic” in high school because of his unworldly ball-handling skills. He led his high school basketball team to a 1977 state championship before attending the university in his hometown, Michigan State. He picked the Spartans over in-state rival Michigan because Coach Jud Heathcote told him he could play point guard. Initially, Johnson didn’t have a professional basketball career in his sights, and instead wanted to pursue his communications degree in order to become a TV commentator. However, after an impressive freshman season where he averaged 17 points per game and led the Spartans to a Big Ten title, Johnson entered the 1978-79 season with NBA potential attached to his name. That year, Magic led the Spartans to the NCAA championship game to face Larry Bird and Indiana State. Michigan State won, becoming national champions and the only team to beat Indiana State that year. Johnson would go on to enter the NBA Draft and be selected by the Lakers with the first overall pick. Alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic would win five NBA championships with the Lakers between 1980 and 1988. At 6′-9″, Johnson was the most versatile point guard in the league and won three MVP awards during this era. After becoming one of the most accomplished NBA players of all time, the most popular Magic Johnson jersey is almost definitely the one he wore with the Lakers. This makes his Michigan State threads a little more unique, in my opinion. This no-frills green and white color scheme is beautiful, and I absolutely love the vintage Spartan logo on the shorts.
Hockey: Penn State Nittany Lions Alternate Jersey
Big shoutout to TFTB’s own Johnny Violence, because I’m sure he’ll appreciate this week’s hockey selection. The Penn State Nittany Lions hockey program is relatively new in the college hockey world. However, since being established as a Division I program in the 2012-2013 season, the Nittany Lions have seen huge amounts of success for such a young program. Terry Pegula, the owner of the Buffalo Sabres and a PSU alumnus, was a major piece in bringing D-I hockey to University Park by donating $88 million to the university for a brand new hockey arena. Pegula Ice Arena has already become known as one of the craziest environments in college hockey. I’ve been to a few games myself, and I have to say Pegula is definitely a LOUD place to watch a sporting event. It’s magnificent. The product on the ice isn’t any worse, either. Since joining the NCAA in 2012, Penn State has already made the NCAA Hockey tournament twice and is usually competitive in the Big Ten championship race. The program even had a player make it to the NHL in Casey Bailey, who made his debut for the Maple Leafs in 2015. This season, the team went 22-15-2 and unfortunately failed to make the tournament after losing to Notre Dame in the Big Ten championship. I realize I might be biased, but I still believe the team’s gray alternate jerseys are some of the best in college hockey. I’m a big fan of any hockey lace up hockey sweater, and the circular logo with the stripe through the center of the jersey kind of gives it a vintage look. I see these all the time walking into State College bars, and they’ll never get old.
Baseball: Seattle Mariners SP Felix Hernandez
The baseball selection for this week belongs to the King himself, Felix Hernandez. After lighting up with minors with his fastball, Hernandez made his MLB debut against the Detroit Tigers in 2005. As a rookie, he ended the 2005 season with an ERA of 2.67. In 2009, Felix officially became one of the MLB’s premiere pitchers at age 23. He went 19-5 with 217 strikeouts and a 2.49 ERA. Hernandez would go on to win the AL Cy Young in 2010, which was also the year the Mariners gave him a 5-year $78 million contract extension. During that season, he led the league in ERA and was second in strikeouts and complete games. He’s still pitching for the Mariners, and has made six All Star games to this point. Because of this success in the majors, Hernandez has his own fan section at Safeco Field called “King’s Court”. Despite not having a World Series to his name, King Felix is still considered one of the premier pitchers of his era. His Mariners alternate jersey is one of my favorites in baseball because it uses the team’s past color scheme, which is more attractive than the current colors, in my opinion.
Soccer: US Men’s National Team M Landon Donovan
Our final entry in this week’s vault belonged to American soccer legend Landon Donovan. After being named Player of the Tournament in the 1999 FIFA U-17 World Cup (where the US squad finished fourth), he burst onto the world stage in the 2002 FIFA World Cup. He had a major role on the American side that advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time ever. Despite the USMNT having an awful showing at the 2006 World Cup, Donovan bounced back in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa by scoring three goals and becoming the highest-scoring male American player in World Cup history. One of these goals came early in the second half of the group stage game against Slovenia where the Americans were already down 2-0 and in danger of being eliminated. The game would go on to end in a 2-2 draw, keeping the USA’s hopes of moving on to the Round of 16 alive. They would eventually go on to beat Algeria in their third game to advance to the next round, where they lost to Ghana. Despite the disappointing end to the tournament, Donovan’s performance cemented his legacy as one of the greatest American-born players ever. His 2010 USMNT World Cup jersey was an instant classic and paid homage to the 1950 American team that shocked the world and beat England. The diagonal sash and “DTOM” (Don’t Tread On Me) acronym on the jersey’s crest truly set it apart from the other kits in the 2010 World Cup.
If you have any jerseys that you’d like to see on the Vault, please feel free to message @tftb_smalls on Instagram. Input is always welcome.