When Miami takes the field against Nebraska on Sept. 19 in Sun Life Stadium, Adidas and Marcus Rivero, the man behind Soles by Sir, want fans to notice feet.
“When watching games on TV, the last thing fans look at are cleats,” Rivero tells SI.com. “They look at uniforms, helmets. Nobody is playing without shoes, and in this game people are going to be looking at cleats.”
Rivero, a Miami graduate who customizes cleats for NFL stars, partnered with Adidas to customize a pair of cleats for every Hurricanes player. He turned just over 100 all-white cleats into a themed individualization, the first individualized customization, he says, ever done for a full football team.
“Every single pair is going to be an individual,” he says. “When I throw them all in and throw one cleat that does not belong, one should be able to spot it. They are all in the same family, but all one-of-one individualized.”
To accomplish this, Rivero will put the player number, his Soles by Sir brand and a tribute to a past Miami player on the right cleat of every player.
“I asked every player, 'What player motivates you?'” Rivero says, “'What makes you want to rock a ‘U?’”
From Reggie Wayne to Frank Gore to Sean Taylor to Warren Sapp, the current roster had a variety of inspiration to draw from.
The left cleat will feature a tribute to “the U,” the player name and two or three phrases that symbolize the player. Popular choices for the personalized verbiage were area codes, interstate exits and tributes to family members or friends who had passed away.
Every cleat will have the same six elements, just personalized. And to ensure they work together, even as Rivero designed on six different styles of Adidas cleats, he left the front toe section white, left the three stripes noticeable—this is an Adidas project, after all—and used orange and green in “what I like to call a skin-cracking design, like a snake,” he says, across all 100-plus designs.
Rivero says the skin-cracking mix of orange to green was meant to tie together the school’s rich history with its new breed of athletes.
Having a mix of cleat designs, including low tops and high tops, presented a challenge for Rivero, but one he enjoyed. “I appreciated having the six different body styles,” he says. “They are all individuals and like different things, but I can unify them with my artwork and the original white. It is a cool way to do it. It was a cool merge of Adidas and the customizing stuff I do.”
And while a last name is a last name and a number is a number, Rivero says those three phrases or words really let the individual come out. Throughout the team the athletes put a distinct focus on location, family and friendships.
The team’s defensive back corps, led by Deon Bush and Tracy Howard, have a handful of guys from Miami. Those players all chose—without working in cahoots, Rivero says—to place "Exit 1" on the cleat, symbolizing Dade County on Interstate 95.
“All these players have a common interest,” Rivero says of the entire team. “While all individuals, there are a lot of similarities. Guys from the West Coast, guys from Jersey, they are saying the same thing. What mattered to them was the exact same thing. Family, where you are from and friendship bonds you built.”
And fans can see it all, if they look at feet on the Sun Life Stadium turf.
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, sneakers and design. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.