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Published: Saturday, 9/1/2012

Rockets offer fresh threads this season

The Rockets' 17 seniors gave their approval on new helmets, which dropped the 'Toledo.' The Rockets' 17 seniors gave their approval on new helmets, which dropped the 'Toledo.'

TUCSON -- If the helmets unveiled today by the University of Toledo football cause damage to your eyeballs, there are 17 people to blame.

Seniors were tasked with poring over an array of patterns and colors before they decided on a midnight blue lid -- no, that isn't black -- to make its introduction when UT opens at Arizona at 10:30 p.m.

"I love what we're going to be wearing, especially because of the fact coach [Matt] Campbell gave us a chance as seniors to be able to talk about it," defensive end T.J. Fatinikun said.

Those approving of the look are drawn to its matte finish. Critics are unhappy over the absence of "Toledo," or perhaps their hissing derives from a resistance to change. Regardless, the Rockets are concerned with more than just looking sharp.

"They fit better and they weigh lighter," running back Cassius McDowell said.

Forthcoming is the arrival of a gray alternate jersey, whose design and date of appearance are somewhat of a mystery. An anticipated home game against Bowling Green, Central Michigan (homecoming), or Cincinnati might be a good time to show off the threads. Or perhaps it would be sensible to wait for a game with fewer distractions.

"When we break it out, I don't know if it will have a significant meaning other than it's an opportunity for our kids to do something new," Campbell said.

Expect the jersey to be paired with another new helmet, possibly gold.

Jerseys are outfitted by Under Armour, the official retailer of UT football. Riddell supplies the helmets.

UT athletic director Mike O'Brien said he is in negotiations with Under Armour "as we speak" to extend a deal set to expire June 30, 2013. The current contract, for three years, was signed in 2010.

Linebacker Dan Molls got his wish when "pretty much everyone" voted for gray jerseys over a gold option. His choice of a helmet, though, was drowned out.

"I voted for the white helmets, but the ones we have now are just as sweet, and we're happy about them," he said.

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.

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