It was 2004 and JP Andrews had been working in corporate for a company for ten years. Exhausted of making money for other people, he decided that it was time to start in own business and he knew exactly what he wanted to do.
“I wanted my high school football helmet in a mini-helmet,” said Andrews.
And that’s how Gridiron Helmets was born.
Andrews took $20,000 out of his 401k and found suppliers who made blank shells and masks. He also found some decal companies and started his company by targeting local high schools.
“Instead of just getting a Giants or Jets or Syracuse helmet kids can get their local high school helmet as an award to have on their desk,” said the founder of Gridiron Helmets (www.gridironhelmets.com).
Gridiron has thousands of high school mini-helmets in stock at their warehouse in Sanford, Florida, but don’t worry if you don’t see your high school on their website or at their store in Cape Canaveral.
(East Islip High School on Long Island, Boomer Esiason’s alma mater)
If someone wants to have a mini-helmet of their high school football helmet produced, all that has to be done is to provide Gridiron with a photo of the actual on-field helmet and they’ll make a mini-helmet as exact as possible to the real helmet. The minimum amount to order a helmet is two but Gridiron also works directly with high schools on mass quantities.
There’s also fundraising opportunities for high schools.
“They can do one helmet and we’ll do a program where they don’t have to inventory and they’ll make a percentage off of every helmet to give back to their program,” said Andrews.
The program is also available for middle schools and local youth football programs. And about six years ago, Gridiron also began working with colleges.
“Just as we found that there was a niche on the high school market, we started having some smaller colleges contact us,” said Andrews. “We started providing to their bookstores and their alumni programs.”
Gridiron also provides helmet collectors the opportunity to purchase throwback league mini-helmets as well as mini-helmets from football movies. They offer helmets from the United States Football League (USFL), the World Football League (WFL), the original XFL from 2001, the Alliance of American Football (AAF) and the World League of American Football (WLAF).
(NJ Generals helmet from USFL)
As far as movies are concerned, Gridiron has mini-helmets from “Any Given Sunday” (Miami Sharks), “The Best of Times” (Taft Rockets), “The Longest Yard” (Mean Machine and Guards), “The Waterboy”, and “Friday Night Lights” (Odessa Permian Panthers).
(Miami Sharks helmet from the movie “Any Given Sunday”
And soon they will unveil mini-helmets for the West Canaan Coyotes from the movie “Varsity Blues”.
“I’ve been wanting to do that helmet for a number of years,” said Andrews. “We actually will have that helmet available in about two weeks.”
Gridiron also sells Canadian Football League (CFL) mini-helmets, as well as NFL mini-helmet. You can also find mini-helmet accessories, shells, face-masks, full-size chin straps and display cases as well as full-size NFL helmets on their website.
But the bread and butter of the company are the mini-helmets for the high schools, middle schools and youth football leagues as well as for the collector who wants the helmets from defunct leagues and movies.
“We’re not the first ones to do those but I like to say that we try to take it to the next level and try to be as detailed and correct with the font and the artwork and the sizing as some of the other collectors that paved the way,” said Andrews.
What high school or youth football player wouldn’t want a mini-helmet of their team on display in their room or home? What avid collector wouldn’t want a helmet from a defunct team or a great football movie in their collection? It all started with JP Andrews’ dream and it resulted with Gridiron Helmets.