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How Does the NFL Have Jerseys Ready at the Draft so Quickly?

Stahl, a company in Detroit, has assembled the jerseys at the NFL draft since 2012. Once a player has been drafted, Stahls has less than two minutes to use a heat gun to apply the proper name to the correct jersey. Every year, the team brings six jerseys from each team and makes two jerseys for every player, one for the draftee to hold on stage with the commissioner, and another that can be cut up and put into packs of trading cards.

Growing up, I fantasized about being picked in the first round of the draft and holding a Minnesota Viking jersey with my name on it. Of course, I was far too slow and unathletic to even reach the college level, but I can still imagine the thrill of hearing your name called and walking onto that stage.

Let’s examine the machinations and coordination that go into getting those jerseys together at a moment’s notice. Previously, Stahls would bring only four jerseys per team until my beloved Vikings screwed all that up in 2014. What do you do when you run out of jerseys? You steal one off a mannequin of course!

Key Takeaways

  • Since Nike became an NFL sponsor in 2012, the Detroit-based company Stahl’s has been responsible for assembling jerseys for the NFL draft.
  • A heat press is used to add the name after a player is drafted and the group usually has less than two minutes to get the name on the jersey.
  • The company will make two jerseys, one for the player to hold for photo opportunities and the other to be cut up and put into packs of trading cards.

Two Minutes and Counting

Stahl, a Detroit-based company, has assembled the jerseys at the NFL Draft since Nike became an NFL sponsor in 2012. Sequestered away in a small room near the draft stage, Stahl’s team can have as little as two minutes to assemble a jersey with the player’s name correctly.

That’s not enough time for even the fastest sewer to stitch the name onto the jersey. Instead, the team is armed with a heat press and a pile of letters that allow them to slap the proper last name in a matter of seconds. 

While the first jersey is assembled as quickly as possible, Stahl’s has more time to put together a second jersey for every player selected in the opening round. This jersey is typically cut up into small pieces so that it can be inserted into packs of trading cards. [1]

With 25 or more draft attendees every year, the team has to be prepared for those players to be drafted by any franchise. Organization is important with the player’s names and piles of letters meticulously ordered so that everything is ready at a moment’s notice.

Ready for Anything

A huge part of any NFL draft is trading as teams wheel and deal to acquire more draft capital or move up in the draft to grab that final missing piece for a championship run. Stahl’s team has to be prepared for every contingency. Just because a team enters the draft without a first-round pick doesn’t mean that they won’t trade into the opening round. 

To ensure that they’re prepared for any surprise, the team brings multiple jerseys for each team. Before the 2015 draft Stahl would bring four jerseys for each team, enough for them to make customized jerseys for two potential first-round picks. But the Minnesota Vikings put them in a bind in 2014 when they traded back into the first round to make a third selection. Luckily a spare jersey was hanging on a mannequin at the Radio City Music Hall in New York that they were able to grab and get on stage just in time for Cordarrelle Patterson. [2]

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One of the most momentous events in a player’s life is standing on the stage with the commissioner holding their new team’s jersey. The last thing the NFL wants is there to be some sort of mishap that screws up this great photo opportunity. Luckily Stahl’s group of letter assemblers has turned into a fine tuned machine that can handle the improvisation necessary for this process to go off without a hitch.


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