Even the toughest football players prefer to keep their teeth and facial bones in their proper places. Football face masks are meant to protect your face without hindering on-field performance, but understanding the subtle differences between several types of facemasks is not many people's expertise. Finding the right facemask depends on the helmet you have and the position you play because there is no "universal" facemask that fits every helmet and is right for every position. This article will teach you everything you need to know about football facemasks.
Isaac Clark is a Philadelphia-based writer for SportsUnlimited.com. He loves Bo Schembechler quotes and the University of Michigan. He runs his company’s twitter account @SportsUnlimited or you can keep up with his literary blog YellowTypewriter.com.
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What type of helmet do you have?
Each brand of helmet requires that brand's facemask and not all facemasks within that brand will fit on every helmet shell made by that brand. Confusing. I know, right? For example, popular helmets Schutt Vengeance and Riddell 360 use only facemasks designed for those specific helmets. Also, note that most Riddell helmets come with a facemask attached to the helmet upon sale, but most Schutt helmets do not come with one. Even if a helmet comes with a facemask, don't assume that it is the right one for you! Once we determine what kind of helmet we have, then we can move onto the next step of the process, which is what configuration is best for my position?
The Quarterback and Wide Receiver
You might think that protecting the quarterback at all costs is the mentality to use when finding a facemask, but in actuality, the most important quality in a quarterback facemask is field-of-view. The same goes for wide receivers who need to see the field and the ball in order to make plays. The ROPO (Reinforced Oral Protection Only) facemasks from Schutt are designed with this idea at the core. The ROPO from Schutt is equivalent to the 2B from Riddell, which provides a very wide area for the QB's eyes to scan the field. Many defensive backs use this face guard style as well.
The Running Back
The running back's most popular facemask is the EGOP (Eyeglass & Oral Protection), which is quite similar to the ROPO, but adds a vertical bar on the outside of each eye. This protects the running back from tacklers' hands reaching in and poking an eye. This idea is replicated in the 2EG and 2BD from Riddell. Although this obstructs the wide view provided by the ROPO/2B, the running back is tackled more often than the QB and WR and needs a little more protection around the eyes.
Linemen are those on the field who need the most facial protection because every snap linemen battle with their hands on chests, shoulders, necks, and faces. Depending on the preference of the player there are many configurations that work. In all lineman facemask types, there will always be 'jaw' protection. This means that there is an extra horizontal bar added. If you look at the difference between a ROPO or EGOP from a lineman face guard, you will notice an entirely extra bar constructed to protect the jaw area. Schutt's linemen facemasks include the RJOP (Reinforced Jaw & Oral Protection), and the RJOP-DW (Reinforced Jaw & Oral Protection + Double Wire) and from Riddell you have the 3BD. All of these facemasks are meant to protect linemen from opposing linemen's hands and fingers from getting to their jaw, neck, and face.
Linebackers, Fullbacks, and Tight Ends
These positions use many of the facemasks that have already been mentioned and are more determined by the style of play and the player's preference. Sometimes these positions even use specialty facemasks like the "Bulldog" and other interesting configurations to bring extra protection the middle of the face. There is nothing particularly wrong with straying from norm, but keep in mind that these facemasks were designed by experts to protect in different ways.
After you have decided what helmet you wear and what configuration is best for you, then you have to determine the material you want. This will not affect the appearance of the facemask, but rather the weight and strength.
Schutt uses three types of material for their facemasks, carbon steel, stainless steel, and titanium. Each one of those materials is better in every way from the previous and also more expensive. Carbon steel is the industry standard and is by far the most popular, but stainless steel is a bit lighter and stronger and more expensive. Titanium is used in the NFL, college, and elite high schools because it is 60% lighter than stainless steel and almost twice as strong. If you can dish out the cash for a titanium facemask, you will be boosting your endurance on the field through its lightness and also getting the strongest material available.
Riddell makes facemasks of two materials, steel and a mystery material that they label Lightweight Technology. The LT (Lightweight Technology) facemasks come standard on the advanced Riddell helmets like the Revo Speed and 360, and are stronger and lighter, but more expensive. These are akin to the titanium facemasks, but it is hard to tell since we don't know the material. Carbon steel is the industry standard, above that is stainless steel, then the Lightweight Technology, and the best option (which you will have to pay for) is titanium.
Facemasks are integral to the safety of every player on the field, but they are not simple to understand. If you are so lost and refuse to do the research to find the very best facemask specific to you, you might as well get the titanium 'Big Grill' from Schutt and look like a complete badass regardless of position. Maybe you are fighting zombies or are deep inside Jurassic Park. In those cases, the Big Grill is right for you! Now that you've seen it, would you disregard all that you've learned from this article? Hopefully not, and you can find the biggest selection of facemasks over at SportsUnlimited.com