Look! My Uniform's on TV!
Arundel senior Brandon Lemon was lying in bed, in that hazy zone between the tail end of "SportsCenter" and slumber, when a Nike commercial featuring NFL stars Michael Vick, Brian Urlacher and LaDainian Tomlinson prompted a double take from the wide receiver.
"Those definitely look like our uniforms," Lemon recalled thinking. "But I don't know. They wouldn't have our uniforms in a Briscoe High commercial."
Oh, yes they would. The opposing team's uniforms in that spot, which also features Jimmy Johnson as a teacher and Don Shula as the coach at the fictitious Briscoe, are Arundel's green and white unis.
The Wildcats were one of 10 programs selected for Briscoe's "schedule." DeMatha also is part of the ad campaign -- the team is listed on the Web as Briscoe's fourth opponent -- but no television commercial will feature Stags gear, a Nike spokesman said.
The spots -- there are shorter and longer versions on the Nike Web site -- have not made Arundel, which is in Gambrills, a household name. In fact, at no point in the commercial is "Arundel" visible, though some players heard from relatives who recognized the uniforms.
But that doesn't mean it's any less cool for a bunch of high school football players to know that their jerseys were used in a star-studded Nike commercial. We won't rain on the parade and question Nike's putting its firm footprint on two area programs, further eroding the line between sports for fun and sports for business.
For now, let the Arundel guys enjoy the spotlight.
"When the TV is on and everybody in the world is watching a national game and you see your uniforms on there, it's pretty neat," sixth-year Arundel Coach Chuck Markiewicz said. "We're just a public school over here in Arundel County, and they're playing DeMatha and Lakeland" of Florida. "But I don't think anybody else knows besides our kids."
"You don't see any of our players on there," Lemon said, "but when you figure out it's our team, that's big time."
For Arundel, which uses Nike apparel, the commercial deal came about when a Nike representative with Arundel ties asked if the school was interested, Markiewicz said. The school sent off about 60 helmets, pairs of pants and jerseys. "They said [the gear was] gone, but they didn't tell us what for," Nick Elko, Arundel's junior quarterback, said of his coaches. "They kind of kept that secret."
Markiewicz said that Arundel was not compensated by Nike. (The school already received a 40 percent discount on Nike merchandise under a deal in place before the commercial began airing.)
DeMatha Coach Bill McGregor said he and representatives from 17 other schools were invited to Nike's headquarters in Oregon and were asked whether they would like to be Nike-sponsored schools. After accepting -- McGregor said he is not permitted to discuss the details of the deal -- he was asked if DeMatha would like to be part of the advertising campaign.