Miami and Nebraska are first teams to all wear custom cleats

Marcus Rivero
In this photo taken Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015, Marcus Rivero poses with some of the cleats he painted for Miami football players at his home in Miami. Rivero put in about 400 hours painting about 120 pair of customized cleats that Miami will wear for Saturday's NCAA college football game against Nebraska. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Oregon and Nike have the market on eye-catching uniforms cornered.

This weekend, Adidas is making sure that Miami and Nebraska will be the stars of college football when it comes to shoes.

For the first time in college football history, each player from both teams will wear custom, hand-painted cleats when the two Adidas schools meet at Sun Life Stadium on Saturday.

The Hurricanes will wear Soles By Sir designs by Marcus Rivero and the Cornhuskers will have Mache Custom Kicks by Dan Gamache.

“You would think a school like Oregon that has had a million uniforms would have done something like this,” Rivero said. “But they’ve never really had custom cleats. So for Adidas to be able to do this, make history since this has never been done in any sport, college or professional — it’s crazy.”

It’s Nebraska’s first trip to play the Hurricanes in Miami since the 1995 Orange Bowl when the top-ranked Huskers beat No. 3 Miami 24-17 for the national championship in the old Miami Orange Bowl.

The inside of Nebraska’s cleats features 17 “N’s” and a palm tree design to commemorate the Huskers’ 17 trips to the Orange Bowl. The outside of the shoe has the word “Nebraska” and each player’s number, the school said.

Miami’s shoes are much more complex and personalized to each player.

The orange and green paint was made to look like a snake’s skin peeling off because Rivero wanted to symbolize the evolution of the program. He is a 2005 graduate of Miami and a die-hard fan.

“We understand where we came from,” Rivero said. “We understand we have a rich history, but we also want to make our mark here.”

Rivero, who has customized cleats for about 400 NFL players, asked each Hurricane two questions to determine what he’d paint on their cleats.

“No. 1, what was the player from the past Hurricane roster that made me say: ‘I really love the University of Miami. I really want to be a Hurricane,'” Rivero said. “And two, if it were your shoe and you were painting it what would you put?”

The answer to the first question is featured on one of the shoes that pays tribute to the past and says “Thank U,” with the U painted as Miami’s logo followed by the former player’s name. There were many predictable picks like Reggie Wayne, Andre Johnson, Frank Gore and even Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. But there were other choices, too.

Tight end Standish Dobard and fullback Walter Tucker were among those who picked former Miami safety Sean Taylor, who went on to play for the Washington Redskins before he was killed in a 2007 shooting. Offensive lineman Hunter Knighton picked Brett Romberg, the starting center on Miami’s last national championship team in 2001. Another lineman, Jahair Jones, went with Ed Hudak — the team’s longtime head of football security.

Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya picked Jake Heaps, a quarterback on last year’s team who helped Kaaya learn the playbook quickly. Kaaya wound up beating Heaps out for the starting job.

“He was a huge help to me, and I haven’t forgotten that,” Kaaya said.

Many of the players chose someone who plays their position, but receiver Darrell Langham and tight end Jerome Washington picked 325-pound defensive tackle Vince Wilfork instead.

“That tells me they know a little history of down there and the Miami Hurricanes,” Wilfork said after a chuckle.

Wilfork, now with the Houston Texans, likes the fact that each shoe serves as a tribute to players who paved the way for those on the current roster.

“One of the things we take pride in as a Hurricane, no matter where we at in the NFL, we family,” Wilfork said. “Just for them to do something like that really shows us that they appreciate what we’ve done for that school.”

The other shoe features the answer to the second question and elicited a variety of different responses, but the most popular choices revolved around family. Some players wanted their shoes to say: “Thank you Mom” or “Rest in peace Grandma.” The hashtag “Be Great” was also a popular choice.

Rivero left the three stripes of the Adidas symbol untouched on every shoe to showcase the brand. He’d never done shoes for an entire team before.

“It was scary,” he said. “It was exciting. I was petrified getting the order because I didn’t want to disappoint.”

He finished the project in about two months and estimates that he spent about 400 hours making approximately 120 pairs of shoes. Rivero enjoyed the challenge and has aspirations of doing another set for the team.

“We’re hoping to make this a tradition at the U where it becomes an every year thing,” he said.

Adidas considers itself a leader in the “cleathead” movement and prides itself of innovations such as this.

“Nebraska and Miami represent two of the most historic NCAA football brands in the country,” Adidas director of communications Jeremy Darlow said. “It’s our job to make that history tangible to every generation.”


AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.

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