The uniform, the one that made Husker football fashion the water cooler topic of Thursday, was made with “cutting edge, proprietary yarn blend,” with a “bodymap fit." And, dang right, that jersey provides “maximum ventilation” to a player.
That's what the press release told us.
If all these descriptions of Nebraska’s 2015, mostly black alternate uniform put you on the brink of letting your snark out — “it’s just a uniform!” — first hear from a man at Adidas so enthusiastic about his job that even the biggest uniform curmudgeon on the block might find himself nodding his head while being told about the advantages of a jersey with “knit structures to provide different levels of body mapping.”
Mark Daniels, Adidas vice president of U.S. Team Sports, loves his work. Very much so. On Thursday, when the Husker uniforms were unveiled, he tells you he was “like a kid on Christmas morning.” He still seemed on a high even late that afternoon as he talked about a football uniform as something much more than just a fashion statement.
No, this isn’t a repeat story about the look of those alternate uniforms. You either like them, you don’t or are willing to go with the flow so long as the kids think they’re cool.
This is about a uniform as a tool.
And when it comes to that, Daniels strongly believes the newest Adidas uniform is “the most technical uniform system” out there. Having been in the business since 1989, and at his current role at Adidas the past six years, he states the mission right off the bat: “We set out to build the highest performing products for athletes anytime we build anything.”
It’s not just about making uniforms that look cool to a 19-year-old, and maybe a 49-year-old. That counts for a lot, sure.
But to Daniels and crew, it’s just as much about making a uniform that gives a player an advantage over the guy on the other side of the ball.
“So I can talk to you about how it’s 30 percent lighter, it has a 17 percent greater range of motion,” he said. “It helps maintain a core body temperature because it’s a compressive uniform, because the uniform is up against the skin, helping speed the rate of evaporation, helping cool the body. But that isn’t really what the athletes care about.”
What does the athlete care about besides the looks?
“What the athletes care about is, it’s the only true compressive uniform today made in football,” Daniels said. “And what that means is, it fits very, very tight against the body. What you can’t grab, you can’t tackle. So that’s more first downs, more touchdowns, more wins.”
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What some may call a uniform’s design, Daniels calls engineering.
“What’s really cool about that is when you show that uniform to the athlete, it looks like a T-shirt. And they’re like, ‘There’s no way in hell that’s going to fit me when I got my pads on.’ We’re like, ‘Go get your pads and you try it on.’ And the very first thing they do when they get their jersey on is they start torquing their torso, rolling their shoulders, moving their arms around, acting like they’re receiving or catching a ball. And their answer is, ‘I feel much less restricted than I ever have in any uniform.’ And that gives the players an advantage.”
Even the big red numbers on the alternate jersey have a purpose beyond just appearances. They're made from a metallic material that is serrated, which is important, Daniels said, because it produces “better breathability” for the athletes. “You’re allowing the uniform to work the way it was engineered. So a player is lighter, faster and stronger with a better range of motion as to where they are.”
And while Nebraska’s standard red and white uniforms won’t change in look, they are made from the same “engineering” template as the alternate ones.
It is a collaborative effort between Adidas and the university in coming to the final product. Daniels explains that there's an “entire review process” of a uniform before it goes public. Athletic department officials, coaching staff members and even some players get a chance to “check the work and make sure we’re headed in the right direction on all levels.”
Whatever was thought of those outside the program walls, and there was naturally some criticism, with one writer comparing them to a “jersey version of Space Invaders,” current players and recruits seemed to approve.
Daniels said those initial responses from players when seeing a new uniform are "what we live for."
Seeing those reactions also make it easy to understand why Nebraska has settled into a routine of having one alternate uniform a year.
You can do that, Daniels is sure, without losing a grip on a proud heritage.
“Even for people who adamantly hate any change in any uniform, there’s no denying the fact it’s a recruiting advantage for the institutions,” he said. “So it is a necessary part of what you need to do to get the right kids to their school."
Just make sure your proprietary yarn blend is on point.