The Michigan Company That Quickly Personalizes NFL Jerseys for Draft Picks

By Staff
4 Min Read

ST. CLAIR SHORES, Mich. (AP) — Employees of the company tasked each year with rapidly personalizing jerseys for each first-round NFL draft pick as they are announced don’t need to travel very far for this year’s player selections in Detroit.

STAHLS’ headquarters in St. Clair Shores, Michigan, sits 17 miles (27 kilometers) from the stage where NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will inform players — and the world — that they have been selected by an NFL franchise.

“The draft coming back to Detroit is extra special for us,” said Brent Kisha, the company’s vice president of strategic sales.

The STAHLS’ team has under two minutes, from the moment each pick is made until Goodell greets him, to personalize the jerseys backstage in the Nike jersey room at the NFL Draft Theater.

The draft gets underway Thursday at Campus Martius Park downtown. It marks the 13th year the apparel decoration technology, software and equipment manufacturer has worked behind the scenes at the draft.

STAHLS’ took on heat-pressing duties in 2012, quickly affixing top pick Andrew Luck’s surname to an Indianapolis Colts jersey in New York. Since then, the company’s team has traveled to drafts held in Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, Nashville, Cleveland, Las Vegas, Kansas City and now its hometown.

“Historically, the jerseys only had a ‘No. 1,’ so putting a person’s name on it was like magic to the fans,” Kisha said Monday. “‘Wow, this pick comes in, and we have literally less than two minutes to put the name on the back of the jersey. How do you do it?’

“The heat press is the secret sauce that enables us to be able to react to the actual pick itself,” he said.

That “secret sauce” is a Hotronix Fusion IQ heat press, a machine that features a high-resolution touch screen controller and is used by custom apparel businesses.

STAHLS’ personalizes two jerseys for each draft pick, including one handed to the player onstage and another that is used as part of his rookie playing card pack.

STAHLS’ creates nameplates for every potential in-person first-round draftee in all 32 NFL teams’ fonts and colors. And it will have eight jerseys per team on hand, in case there are day-of trades.

The company was born in the garage of A.C. Stahl and his wife, Ethel, in 1932. Initially known as Commercial Art Products, STAHLS’ now is a licensee and supplier to the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB. The privately-held company has about 1,000 employees in North America, most of whom are based in Michigan.

Four, including Kisha, will be on name-affixing duty come Thursday.

“It sounds like, ‘Oh, man, that’s cool.’ And it is really cool. I’m very honored that I’ve been able to do it for Nike and the team for many years,” Kisha said. “But every year, in the beginning, until that first jersey goes on the stage, you’ve got butterflies.”

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