A look at the loud new off-field trend being set by NFL wide receivers. Plus what has players giddy at training camp, readers share shirt suggestions, 60-year-old Carolina Panthers branding, a surprise puppy and more
Good god, do you people love T-shirts. The response to last week’s debut Football Lifestyle column was overwhelming. Shoutout to NFL Network’s Good Morning Football crew for the game ball and to the nice woman who accosted me at my local coffee shop to discuss the Ickey Woods shirt selection. I know some of the smaller brands had a hard time meeting demand, which is a very good problem to have. So thank you.
This week, I will have more T-shirts recommendations, take a look at training camp care packages and tell the story of a puppy surprise. But first, here’s how NFL wide receivers are shouldering the load off the field…
FOOTBALL’S BOLD BACKPACK TREND
The requirements to be an NFL wide receiver include possessing speed, good hands and … a colorful backpack?
That seems to be the trend these days as the above photo shows. The players are drawn to the bright bags because they stand out and—as the diva wide receiver stereotype goes—they like the attention.
For the Giants’ Odell Beckham Jr. and the Steelers’ Antonio Brown, the backpacks are also a business opportunity. They both have sponsorship deals with Sprayground, a streetwear-inspired accessories brand, which has recently released a special edition backpack for Beckham. Dolphins wideout Jarvis Landry and Bengals running back Jeremy Hill also work with Sprayground. Panthers WR Ted Ginn prefers carrying a MadPax backpack because “nobody else has it.”
It’s not just players, either. NFL Media news-breaker Ian Rapoport recently tweeted out his love of backpacks. For his training camp tour, he ditched his usual laptop bag and is now carrying around a silver Sprayground with blue lights.
“I never really thought about backpacks being very stylish, but these are clean and cool. It’s just a fresh way to look at something that was just kind of perfunctory,” said Rapoport, who recently was contacted by Sprayground’s owner and given some product. “My kids love them too—they like the lights and the ones that have wings.”
And there is it is: Kids. It’s back-to-school time, after all, so you can see why brands like Sprayground are targeting NFL players and others associated with football to help get the message out about the products.
Personally, I prefer a simpler, understated look, like these new daypacks from New York-based Hudson Sutler. Speaking of that bag brand…
TRAINING CAMP CARE PACKAGES
Two years ago, I wrote a story about how one sports agency set itself apart by sending its NFL clients care packages, which they received after arriving at training camp. The goodie bags were a hit, and led to Colin Kaepernick taking one of his camp gifts, a bright yellow Hudson Sutler duffel, on 49er road trips.
The woman who spearheaded that effort, marketing guru Emily Ries, is still at it, now for Clarity Football. She recently sent out a couple dozen packages to Clarity clients, including Kaepernick, Eagles LB Connor Barwin and Titans RB Bishop Sankey, and they arrived in locker rooms this week. Here’s what was included:
• Ninja Blender Pro Complete
• Moshi Avanti headphones
• Treason Toting Co. duffel bag
• Quip toothbrush
• Chef's Cut jerky
• Walton Wood Farm grooming products
• Performance Health stretching products
• RVCA hat
Ries begins contacting brands in February and takes pride in discovering under-the-radar products, in addition to a few mainstream staples. The players appreciate the effort and have to ward off jealous teammates once the packages arrive.
“If I open it in the locker room, I’m done for,” says Panthers kicker Graham Gano, a Clarity client. “Everybody wants to stick their nose in it and see what I get. It has all kinds of cool stuff in it and I look forward to it.”
T-SHIRT BRANDS I MISSED
After last week’s T-shirt column, you guys and gals lit up my inbox and Twitter mentions by sharing your own favorite tees. Below are 10 independent brands, submitted by readers, that I missed and would be great additions to your gameday gear. For even more choices, I’m also a big fan of Nike’s Historic Logo collection (seen above) and the NFL offerings from ’47 Brand. (Click team name for link to product.)
• Texans: This makes me miss the Oilers.
• Dolphins: 80s superstar + Nintendo branding = Amazing shirt.
• Browns: Humor is key for coping as a Cleveland fan.
• Steelers: Pittsburgh fans care about two things: Rings and Busts.
• Bears: I like it when team and city pride collide.
• Vikings: If I could have one do-over from the original list…
• Titans: As Nashville reader Erin N. accurately noted, those seagulls should be Ducks.
• Patriots: Says reader and Pats fan K. Turcotte, “A bit busy, but it speaks to and for the fan base.”
• Lions: Former Lions WR Nate Burleson nails it with his Detroit-based apparel line.
• Panthers: The Roaring Riot lived up to its moniker with their displeasure of my original Panther pick. (See next item.)
WE COOL, CAROLINA?
Carolina fans were not at all happy about my selection for the Panthers. Two thoughts: 1) Settle down. We’re talking T-shirts here. 2) To make it up to you, here’s my favorite Panthers thing on the web.
It’s called “Founded in ’55” and is North Carolina designer Matt Stevens’ interpretation of what Panthers branding would have looked like had the 1995 expansion franchise started 40 years earlier. Stevens, 44, published the project in 2013 after his friend Ryan Kalil, the Panthers center, suggested it would be fun to see Carolina throwback designs. Stevens eventually created a shirt, pennant and most recently an Ebbets Field Flannels hat featuring his Panthers logo. They quickly sold out and Stevens says he might do more in the fall. Be on the lookout.
THE MMQB PET OF THE WEEK
This is Miles. He is a Mini Goldendoodle. He was a gift to Laura Buscher from her boyfriend, Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin, this summer. Barwin surprised Buscher over July 4 weekend at a house where they were staying at the Jersey Shore. According to his marketing representative Emily Ries, Barwin was on the hunt for awhile, searching online for various dogs, but couldn’t decide because they all were “insanely cute.” Miles more than meets that criteria, as evidenced by Buscher’s Instagram page.
HELMETS AND STRIPES
Ideas for football T-shirts for fans without a specific team ... Jacksonville’s Jared Odrick, whose offseason life is awesome, was spotted wearing an even more awesome shirt ... A whole Tumblr devoted to reporters holding footballs ... Love these limited editions cans of Bud Light featuring NFL teams ... The NFL needs to bring back an official illustrator.
The MMQB Football Lifestyle column is a curated list of links to what’s catching Dom’s eye off the field. The MMQB has affiliate deals with some of the brands featured and receives commission on certain purchases. Have an item for consideration? Share it.