NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — During the regular season, the Tennessee Titans give out two commemorative game balls to the best offensive and defensive players of the game. But the tradition changes once the Titans make it into the playoffs. If they win, the whole team gets their own custom ball with their name on it.
That means, Signs Now Nashville is on standby to see if they'll be working hard Monday morning. "It’s all hands on deck. We all grab the brush and grab things of paint and we just start applying paint," said Neil Finnell, operations manager for Signs Now. "It’s like fourth and goal, yes."
Every member of the Titans organization, on or off the field, gets a ball — which means they've already started purchasing and primer painting 108 balls. "Ryan Tannehill or AJ Brown on down to the 53rd man on the roster, everybody gets one," said Finnell.
Just like the team itself, they have a winning game plan to pull this off. First, they use a thermal printer, older than most of the current Titans players. "If it’s not broke, don’t fix it, so we continue to use the same machine," he said.
Then Neil uses transfer tape to methodically and meticulously attach the design onto the football. "You don’t want it to look like a sticker, you want it to look like something that’s being applied to a football with precision," said Finnell.
He then rubs and warms the ball, to keep it smooth. "We take the heat gun and we heat it up. So we make sure nothing is going to come off there when they hand it off to the wonderful people," he said.
If Neil makes it look easy, it's because he's had plenty of practice. "Probably about 3,000 by now," said Finnell.
Neil has been designing custom game balls since the team moved to Nashville, including taking a football that running back Eddie George scored with in Super Bowl XXXIV and turning it into a custom-painted commemorative keepsake. "Being a part of that part of history is kind of cool, it’s kind of a feather in the cap if you will," he said.
It's an honor for any professional, but a real thrill for this Titans fan. "Until COVID, I hadn’t missed a home game, always been to every home game at the stadium," said Finnell.
Which is why he's excited about this weekend's game, but even more so for an extra busy Monday morning. "I’m hoping that we’re just covered up in paint and footballs and we have no idea how to get them done. I really do. It’d be a wonderful problem to have," he said.
Perhaps the biggest achievement of Neil's career: he's had three footballs he's designed inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. One honoring Bruce Matthew's consecutive games played streak, and two honoring achievements from late kicker Rob Bironas.