NEW YORK -- If you watched the first round of the NFL draft Thursday night, you might have wondered how the league had ready-made No. 1 jerseys with the players’ names across the shoulders.
Were they Velcro nameplates? Were the picks made far in advance?
No, it was a little NFL magic, with an assist from Nike.
For the second consecutive year, the NFL had a hot jersey press backstage at Radio City, the nameplates of all 23 players in attendance at the draft, and a Nike employee at the ready to produce a newly minted XL jersey.
When Commissioner Roger Goodell was handed the name of the selection backstage, so was the jersey jockey who quickly lined up the last name and pressed it onto the shirt. The speed record Thursday was 30 seconds, from getting the name to having a jersey ready to go -- 30 seconds!
There was time to spare too, because Goodell read the name, then the player got time to celebrate with his family. Then, someone from the NFL staff would walk the hot-off-the-press memento onto the stage.
The players also got custom-fitted hats from New Era, caps that arrived by special escort before the draft and got carried down the red carpet outside the theater.
“That’s part of the overall shock and awe of draft day,” league spokesman Brian McCarthy said. “It’s what they see from the time when they get picked up at the staging area at Rockefeller Center. From the time they arrive at the draft until the time they’re picked, it’s first-class treatment.”
Four players who came to New York for the draft were not selected in the first round: West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, Alabama running back Eddie Lacy, SMU defensive end Margus Hunt and Mississippi State cornerback Darius Slay. Smith originally said he’s not sticking around for Day 2, but ESPN reported that he changed his mind Friday morning and has decided to attend after all.
Those players will get a hat but no jersey if they elect to come on stage. The league debated whether jerseys should be made for Day 2 players but ultimately decided it might be awkward to distribute jerseys with No. 2 -- or, gasp, No. 3 -- on them.
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