The NFL Las Vegas store has a permanent location in The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace offering customized jerseys and other NFL-licensed clothing using Stahls’ materials and equipment. |
If you had gone backstage before the 2021 NFL Draft in Cleveland, you would have seen the letters of Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence’s last name already cut out in white letters, ready to be transferred onto a teal Jacksonville Jaguars jersey by a team of four Stahls’ Transfer Express employees.
Of course, you also would have seen Lawrence’s name in every other NFL team’s font and color, ready to be transferred to every other NFL team’s jersey on the microscopic chance that, say, the Kansas City Chiefs traded Patrick Mahomes to the Jaguars in exchange for the No. 1 overall pick.
“No matter what team he (Lawrence) would have been drafted by, we were ready,” said Jason Ziga, the senior vice president and general manager of Stahls’ Transfer Express in Mentor.
What’s more, you would have seen the same setup for BYU quarterback Zach Wilson (who ended up going No. 2 to the Jets) and Alabama quarterback Mac Jones (who went No. 15 to the Patriots) and every other first-round pick whose new No. 1 jersey needed to be ready for its 15 seconds of fame on the ESPN, ABC and NFL Network broadcasts.
Because on a night filled with uncertainty, one thing was certain: the best two-minute drill in the NFL was happening behind the scenes by a Northeast Ohio team.
Here’s how it worked. Once a team made its selection, the Transfer Express team had two minutes to apply the player’s name to the jersey. An NFL representative would then grab the jersey and hand it to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell onstage. (Alas, Lawrence stayed home for the 2021 draft, so Goodell held up that jersey by himself.)
“There’s definitely pressure, but it’s a very well-oiled machine,” said Ziga, who said his team shred all the names once the first round was over. “We do a really good job preparing, so that everyone knows their position and what they need to do. Even though it’s a tight two-minute window, it’s not insanity or crazy back there.”
Detroit-based Stahls’ has served as a licensee and a supplier of the NFL for more than a decade. Transfer Express supplies the custom screen-printed transfers used to customize jerseys. Unlike last April, this year’s draft didn’t include any Transfer Express employees. But Stahls’ was onsite at this year’s draft, which took place from April 28-30 in Las Vegas.
Not only did Stahls’ print the jerseys for the newly selected players, it also offered fans the opportunity to customize their own jerseys or shirts at the NFL Store inside The Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace using the same technology made in Mentor. Stahls’ also does a lot of business with online retail giant Fanatics and on the NFL’s online shop thanks to its 10-year partnership with Legends Global Merchandise.
Ziga, who graduated from St. Edward High School and Cleveland State, came to Stahls’ in 2013 after spending several years as an insurance adjuster for companies like Progressive and Farmer’s. He started as a sales manager and needed just six years to move up to his current position, where he leads a team of 350 people and oversees everything related to screen print transfers and digital screen print transfers within Stahls’.
“One of the things about insurance is, you’re not allowed to think outside the lines,” he said. “At a company like Transfer Express, and Stahls’ in general, you can have a lot of creativity. It’s OK to color outside the lines. It’s a family-owned company, so it’s a lot easier to innovate and try different things. There’s a lot more ability to act.”
Of course, just because Stahls’ is a family-owned company doesn’t mean it’s a small company. It touts itself as the world leader in heat print technology, serving as a licensee and supplier to the NFL, MLB, NHL and NBA, as well as many well-known retail brands.
It doesn’t just serve the big leagues, though. It serves little leagues and rec leagues, too.
“Our core business is the typical mom-and-pop shop that services the local community for things like high school sports and family reunions,” Ziga said. “And the same technology that’s used behind the scenes for the draft is used by those shops.”
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