Thursday night featured the first round of the NFL Draft in New York. One of the most notable things about the prime time coverage of the draft was the players standing on stage with jerseys of the teams that drafted them featuring the player’s last name.
What’s special about this is that this was the first time the players received personalized jerseys onstage during the draft, mere seconds after being drafted. Previously, players might not see personalized jerseys for days or weeks because manufacturers would wait until after a player was officially drafted before beginning production.
So how did the NFL pull this off? Well, backstage at the draft the league had someone operating this:
That is a hot press, regularly used for melting designs/iron-ons onto clothing. Obviously it is regularly used for jersey production to put players’ names and uniform numbers in place.
The operation consisted of the hot press, a large clothing rack featuring 4-5 blank jerseys of each team (in case a team somehow collected a whole bunch of first round picks in the middle of the draft, the presser would be ready), and a series of prepared last name formations of potential first round picks (see names on white board in picture).
The above photo was taken right before the Arizona Cardinals drafted wide receiver Michael Floyd from the University of Notre Dame. As soon as his name was announced, the operator grabbed the pre-formed “FLOYD” and properly pressed it on the jersey. Between setting, pressing, and cooling, the process might take thirty seconds (totally guessing here). Between Michael Floyd standing up, hugging family, kissing his mom on the cheek, shaking hands, walking out of the “green room” and receiving his new Arizona Cardinals cap (not personalized) the operator has plenty of time to get the jersey finished and hand it to commissioner Roger Goodell.
This process worked because it wasn’t for production – everything pressed was a single unit, based on a speedy process started as soon as there was a known commodity (player + drafting team).
This was a neat little feature and nice personalized touch to the draft. In addition, the operation produced limited process waste – maybe some of the players whose names were pre-formed didn’t get drafted on the first night and the big rack with blank jerseys didn’t get completely consumed but these pieces will surely be sent back to production because they aren’t scrap. Compare that to championship games featuring pre-formed merchandise featuring each participating team and having to scrap half of the merchandise.
(H/T to WSBT.com for the Michael Floyd picture, Darren Rovell of CNBC.com (edit: now ESPN.com) for sharing the hot press picture, and Melissa Heyboer of Aerys Sports for tipping me off about the hot press)