Prepare to be amazed (We weren't prepared).
This is an amazing story.
San Diego State has put their Aztec helmet into the Fantastic Four finalists in Helmet Bowl I. We reached out to Sonny Sanfilippo, the Assistant Director of Athletic Equipment Services and could hardly believe what he told us.
“When you walk on campus here, you pass this thing, it’s the gift the class of ’97 gave—a big circular stone Aztec calendar. It’s four to five feet in diameter,” Sony told us.
“I walk by it every day and thought it would be cool to put on a helmet and complement it on the jersey and pants.”
Equipment managers bring design ideas forward often. Nothing too spectacular there.
“I created a design and brought it to the coach. I thought it would be really neat to wear once a year and then create a sort of mystique about it. It would have its own legend and the players and fans and community to look forward to.”
Did you catch that? Sonny actually designed the San Diego State Aztec helmet himself.
“He liked it so much he gave me the go-ahead. I took it to Nike and they liked it. They loved it.”
“At that time I really liked what we were wearing—it was the Marshall Faulk look.
“But Coach didn’t like one game spinoffs,” Sonny told us. “He (Head Coach Rocky Long) said the players should be excited to wear what they are wearing every week.”
“I went to Hydrographics up in Oregon and they made it happen.”
Sonny Sanfilippo is the designer of the popular San Diego State Aztecs helmet.
“The Aztec calendar has now worked its way into other SDSU uniforms—lacrosse, basketball, volleyball. It’s gratifying to see it take off.”
“I designed it myself.”
Equipment managers never seem to cease amazing us.
Sony just finished his 10th season in the equipment room—three as a student, and seven full time.
He grew up nearby and can’t imagine being anywhere else.
“I take a lot of pride in everything we do,” he says. “It would be really, really weird to go somewhere else.”
“I don’t have any reason to leave.”
In high school, he played baseball, and still loves the game, particularly the Brewers as he spent summers at his grandparents’ in Wisconsin.
Even then, he had what he calls a “nerdy passion” for uniforms.
He went to San Diego State, studied media studies with an aim to be a play by play announcer until he realized his path would take him to the backroads for years of paying dues. He shifted gears, decided to stay in the equipment room, and now is AEMA certified.
“I’ve been in love with uniforms since I was a kid and the opportunity to work in this environment and to expand on that—that captured me as a student and kept me on full time.
“We are really happy here.”
The program, Sonny says, is improving and the equipment staff is supportive, growing, and cohesive.
“It’s a good situation.”
Now is the best time of year, Sonny tells us, the time between semesters when the facilities are still, the students are home, the staff is sparse. Now, the candy apple red helmet with the Aztec calendar is poised to enter the final matchup if they can get past an undefeated Central Michigan Chippewas’ helmet.
“We first heard about Helmet Bowl through Twitter, sent a better image in, and started spreading the word.
“We haven’t seen anything like what you guys are doing. It’s really cool.”