The past is calling: NFL draft needs those old helmet phones


(Mary Altaffer / AP)

Over the years, there have been a number of great NFL draft moments involving phones.

There was the call to Brett Favre that resulted in this fabulous photo:

There was Andrew Luck’s $10 flip phone (hello, it’s 2004 calling):

There were the phones of Brady Quinn and Aaron Rodgers, which took forever to ring.

But the sweetest phones of all were the land-line helmet phones at each team’s desk.

Those phones, invented by a Sharp Electronics service manager named Bernie Paul, became an ’80s staple — and were one of the first pieces to be licensed by the league. Yahoo’s Eric Adelson tells the story:

“Every time they’d leave from a commercial break,” Paul Jr. said, “they would show the phone. Chris Berman even said something like, ‘Please don’t call us about the helmet phones. They’re custom-made for the NFL.’ ”

After that draft, the NFL realized it was onto something. People would spend a lot of money on licensed products. The following year, in 1983, the Pauls came to New York with helmet phones for every team.

“We used to go to the draft and set them up ourselves,” Paul Jr. says. “We had an idea of selling the actual draft day phones for $1,000. We put together a direct response commercial offering the standard phone for $249 or the draft day version for $1,000.”

Again, the demand was there. To this day, Paul Jr. wishes he had dozens of Dallas Cowboys draft day phones instead of just one. The phone used to draft Troy Aikman was auctioned for $3,000.

After spending most of her career in traditional print sports journalism, Cindy began blogging and tweeting, first as NFL/Redskins editor, and, since August 2010, at The Early Lead. She also is the social media editor for Sports.
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Matt Bonesteel · May 5, 2014