words // Matt Halfhill:
Since its very beginning, Nike has been a brand that celebrates the athlete. Blue Ribbon Sports and Nike founding father Bill Bowerman uttered a famous quote I have heard repeated with pride by countless employees of the brand:
If you have a body, you are an athlete.
Those words are still as significant today as they were when Bowerman first shared them nearly a half century ago.
From its beginning through today, Nike has contributed as much as any organization to the world of sports and athletics. Through innovation and design, Nike has elevated the athlete to be able to run faster, get stronger, and train harder year after year, generation after generation.
In commercial and marketing campaigns, Nike has put the athlete at the forefront as any brand ever has across all industries. While Nike has shoes, apparel, and equipment to sell, the brand has perfected the formula for celebrating the talent of the incredible athletes of our time and associating the brand with their athleticism.
By the mid-80s, Nike was a dominant force in running, was gaining momentum in basketball, but one simple question from a new face in the footwear design world inspired what is today a multi-billion dollar apparel and footwear category.
Though a force in sports, in the summer of 1985, Nike did not have a work out facility for staff at their corporate headquarters. While working out at the newly built Portland YMCA, Tinker Hatfield noticed members of the gym bringing multiple shoes for multiple sports in rather large gym bags.
“Running | B-ball | Weights | etc” read a memo from Tinker Hatfield to Mark Parker penned June 18, 1985. Tinker’s closing thought on the memo, “Have sketches for something new. Give a call when you get a chance!”
The shoe to conquer the problem and become a solution for the athlete in training would be the Nike Air Trainer 1 and the start of Nike Training.
When Nike Training got off the ground, the Nike Air Trainer 1 was associated with one of the fittest, all-around, multi-sport athletes man had ever seen – Bo Jackson. Nike Training could have followed the formula that every other sports brand had done and marketed the revolutionary breakthrough of this new shoe, but Nike opted instead to celebrate the athleticism of the athletes on its team.
Over the years Nike has had a roster of Hall of Famers in their respective sports including tennis, baseball, and football to name a few. From John McEnroe to Andre Agassi, Nolan Ryan to Ken Griffey Jr., Bo Jackson to Deion Sanders, Nike Training celebrated some of the best to play their sports. But one often forgotten soul from the list could arguably be one of not only on of the greatest football players at his position, but on the entire field – Hall of Famer and NFL’s leading receiver Jerry Rice.
Since the launch of the Nike Trainer 1 and what many argue to be the relaunch and refocus of Nike Training, Jerry Rice has been a celebrated athlete by the brand. Beyond limited colorways and personal appearances at press conferences, Nike Training has told the story of Jerry Rice and his athletic excellence. Without looking at a minute of NFL game footage or career highlights, Nike Training brought to life the abilities and die-hard commitment to training that Jerry Rice had in him.
As a California born 80’s baby in 49ers country, I was very familiar with Rice’s accomplishments, but in 2010, I got the opportunity first hand to witness and experience the caliber of athlete that Jerry Rice is.
A decade and a half past his final Super Bowl win, Jerry Rice lead a select group of media to his old training grounds on the trails and hills above Palo Alto adjacent to the Stanford University campus. Division 1 athletes a year removed from varsity play, professional trainers, and two sneaker bloggers in their mid-20s were no match for the workout we endured under the lead of Jerry Rice running strong at then 47 years young. By the time we had enough, Jerry smiled before letting us off the hook to let us know that what we just experienced was only his warm-up for his daily workout routine.
Rice was the son of a brick mason in rural Mississippi where he and his brothers often assisted his father in his work. Rice was celebrated for having developed strong, reliable hands by catching bricks that his brothers threw to him. It was his natural abilities, rigorous training regiment, and developed catching abilities that landed him a scholarship at Mississippi Valley State University where he would set an astounding 18 records in Division I-AA football.
Drafted in the first round of the 1982 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers, Jerry Rice continued to excel with career highlights that include 13 Pro Bowl selections and three NFL championship rings. Like in college, Rice would go onto set NFL records as a receiver leading history in career receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns.
Nike continues to tell the story of football’s greatest receiver to this day including with a new shoe paying homage to the roots of where Jerry Rice began developing the greatest hands in all of football with the “Brick Layer” Nike Air Trainer 1.
These Air Trainer 1s sport San Francisco 49ers colors with the unmistakable combination of white, red, and metallic gold. Calling out the inspiration of the “Brick Layers” is the red toe cap and heel panels textured like the rough, uneven surface of a red brick along with a heel hit of a pointing trowel. Finishing off the storytelling, Nike illustrates the insole with a photograph of a pile of bricks with one hidden gold brick in the stack – a nod to the gold miner inspiration in the 49ers name.
Get your pair of the “Brick Layer” Nike Air Trainer 1s tomorrow, May 1st at bay-area based retailer Shoe Palace for 0.