NFL Draft – Player Names on Jerseys

Posted on April 28, 2012 | in Defects, Football, Inventory, Lean Wastes, Motion, SMED/Setup Reduction, Sports, Transportation | by

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 for the Michael Floyd picture, Darren Rovell of (edit: now for sharing the hot press picture, and Melissa Heyboer of Aerys Sports for tipping me off about the hot press)

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10 Responses to “NFL Draft – Player Names on Jerseys”

  1. Mark Graban says:

    That’s really cool, I was wondering about that. I thought they had an inventory of pre-named jerseys (including a RGIII jersey for the Colts, just in case there was a surprise). I bet they made the Luck and Griffin jerseys in advance 🙂

    Do some teams use different fonts for the player names, like the Steelers? I guess they had uniform block letters that would look OK on any team’s jersey?

    You should submit this post to Uni-Watch for a mention…

    • Chad Walters says:

      Without having yet dug that deep, I believe so – off the top of my head, I thought the font for Justin Blackmon’s nameplate on his Jaguars jersey was different, and the Steelers would also be an excellent example of a different font. I’ll research and get back.

      Either way, this is pretty much the process I’d like to see championship game operations take. Sure, there might be a slight delay in getting the gear onto the court, but it’s better to lose a bunch of non-ironed screens than a whole lot of t-shirts.

      And yes! I will certainly send this to Uni-Watch! Thanks for the suggestion!

    • Chad Walters says:

      I sent this post to Paul Lukas at Uni-Watch and he wrote back with “Good stuff!” Pretty cool to hear from him.

      I looked at photographs of many on-stage jerseys from the draft and there were lots of different fonts used. As a result, there were a lot of pre-arranged name blocks not used… but better than having oodles of unusable jerseys resulting from incorrect name/team combos.

      And S. Jones, what can you tell me about the processes your company uses? Do you use continuous improvement principles such as lean or six sigma? Thanks for commenting and sharing your “inside info” on the post!

  2. S. Jones says:

    I usually don’t watch the draft. I decided to watch this one just because it’s kinda work related for me. I work for a different division of the company that actually decorated the jerseys for Nike. I didn’t even know that personalizing the jerseys had never been done prior to this year’s draft until I heard it on SC this morning. To my surprise, after doing a few key word searches I discovered how much of a big deal it was.

    On draft night I thought they cut the name in the team’s typeface as soon as the pick was announced. But, after seeing the pic above (and after asking around at the office yesterday) it does make more sense to have each potential 1st round pick’s name already cut in each team’s typeface (i.e. have a Colts, Skins, and Vikings Blackmon) so that when the pick is announced all they would have to do is grab a “Redskins Griffin III”, or a “Jaguars Blackmon” and seal it to the jersey, which literally takes about 10 seconds. The jerseys were probably still warm then the players got them.

    It was pretty cool to see though. Maybe next year they’ll personalize the caps (we can do that too).

    • Chad Walters says:

      Because Luck and RGIII were set in where they’d be drafted, I believe Nike went ahead and created jerseys with projected uniform numbers (i.e. Luck will be #12, I guess). I’m a little surprised that, because they knew this in advance, Nike didn’t make the stitched letters on the nameplate. I do believe that game jerseys use stitched numbers onto the mesh fabric instead of just the plastic (nylon? vinyl?) iron-ons.

      Also, many thanks once again to the suggestion to submit to Paul Lukas – he included this post in his article!

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