When Eric Ebron was announced as the top pick of the Detroit Lions in last week’s NFL Draft, Stahls, a large custom garment company in St. Clair Shores, quickly assembled a Honolulu Blue and Silver jersey with the name “EBRON” on the back.
When the new offensive tight end took the stage for photos, he received the first NFL jersey with his name on the back. In fact, during last week’s NFL Draft at the Radio City Music Hall in New York, Stahls provided custom jerseys for all 32 NFL teams.
“We have six jerseys for each team (two picks in the first round and four for the others). In addition, we have extra jerseys in case the teams make trades. Also in this room are 960 nameplates, and 30 prospective names for the 32 teams,” says Carleen Gray, a spokeswoman at Stahls, a longtime manufacturer and distributor of NLF jerseys and apparel.
Gray says when a team makes a pick, the name is passed along to an NFL official, located in “the jersey booth.” At that point, Stahls has two minutes to personalize the jersey. While one worker fetches the appropriate nameplate, another is busy preparing the jersey on a heat transfer press. Because it is important to pre-heat the jersey to remove wrinkles, moisture, and any chemical treatments, the jersey is heated for five seconds at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Once heated, the nameplate is laid on the jersey above the number, followed by a Teflon sheet to cover and protect the jersey. It is then pressed again, this time for 20 seconds, so that the adhesives on the nameplate stick to the jersey. Once the process is finished, the press is lifted and a plastic strip is peeled off the nameplate.
The jersey is then passed to a fan, who passes it to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who then presents it to the player.
“There’s a lot of pressure,” says Lisa Leone, director of customer services at Stahls, who notes the process can be completed in as little as 45 seconds. “It was a very exciting, high profile event. It was very confidential.”
Later, a second jersey prepared by Stahls is passed on to a trading card company to be cut up and distributed in a set of commemorative cards. Any remaining jerseys are sent back to Nike.
Stahls was originally founded in Detroit in 1932 and Gray says the company pioneered the heat printing technology. The company, which has about 1,200 employees worldwide, also provides custom jerseys and apparel and has operations throughout North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.