The History of NFL Quarterbacks With “Signature” Shoes

NFL quarterbacks are some of the most recognizable athletes in the country. A recent Harris Poll (via ESPN.com’s Darren Rovell) confirmed that. Among the 10 most popular athletes in America, four of them — Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers — were QBs. That’s not surprising in the least. They hold the keys to success for their respective teams, often single-handedly deciding playoff games and Super Bowls.

That’s even more prominent in the modern game. Because of rule changes meant to increase scoring, limit big defensive hits, and altogether benefit the offense, quarterbacks are breaking records on an almost weekly basis. In that regard, you can’t get by with an average quarterback anymore. The 2002 Buccaneers won a Super Bowl with Brad Johnson. The 2000 Ravens won a Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer. Even the 1991 Redskins, absolutely dominant all year, won it all with Mark Rypien. Today, however, it’s imperative you have a standout at that position.

When you combine the two qualities — importance and popularity — it only makes sense that some of the league’s best quarterbacks should be sporting signature sneakers or personal colorways. Tomorrow, the new Nike Field Generals Collection drops at Champs Sports. It’ll include multiple colorways of the Zoom Field General for some of the NFL’s best, headlined by Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Colin Kaepernick, and Andrew Luck.

Like Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders, and Barry Sanders before them, those five are five of the most exciting players in the NFL and are all big-time talents with the potential to get even better. They all have legions of fans and they are all game-breaking field generals on the gridiron. And somewhat surprisingly — compared to Jackson, Deion, and Barry — they have the same footwear pedigree in their genes.

While the aforementioned skill players still have sneakers that sell long after their playing days are over, quarterbacks have a history of rocking signature shoes as well. Nowadays, Cam Newton is the face of Under Armour, and has been since he signed the largest deal ever given to an incoming rookie. Newton rocked gradient versions of the Under Armour Highlight during his first year with Carolina. Since then, he’s worn some creative customized cleats, including the absolutely incredible “Super Cam” cleats he rocked before last season’s playoff game against San Francisco.

Not far away in the nation’s capital, Robert Griffin III has his own thriving signature line with adidas. Another athletic quarterback with the charisma needed to sell shoes, RGIII and adidas recently unveiled his RG3 Energy Boost, a signature trainer that sports the Washington QB’s own logo.

Even other less popular quarterbacks, like the Lions’ Matthew Stafford, have what it takes to land player exclusive shoes. Stafford often rolled to work in the Nike Lunar Superbad Pro TD. Tim Tebow was never a supremely talented player, and even he got his own signature collection with Nike that included the Lunar Tebow.

Nike Field Generals Collection
Nike Football

And way back in the day before this year’s Field Generals Collection, there was Dan Marino and the Nike Air Max Speed Turf. Debuting in 1995 during the midst of Marino’s record-breaking career, it sported some awesome technology. While no one would ever mistake Marino for a scrambler, he had a rapid-fire release and moved so quickly down the field through the air that he set the single-season yards record in 1984. He was so “fast” it took the NFL almost 20 years to catch up to him. As for the sneaker, it was hot because it was grounded in the ’90s, with the massive Nike branding, the Air Max bag, and the mid-foot strap across the laces.

Yet all of them can probably bow down to Michael Vick‘s prowess. As a Nike athlete early in his career in Atlanta, Vick was the NFL’s most exciting player and even had his own signature line of trainers. The Nike Zoom Vick 1, 2, and 3 were all well-received and even if the line started to lose its luster by the time the 4 came along, Vick still proved he could carry it all by himself. His popularity also had Nike releasing multiple Vick-inspired Air Force Ones and the cross-training Nike Air Blacksburg.

What somewhat started with this vintage ’80s poster that showcased the original “Field Generals” (Archie Manning, Jim Plunkett, and Dan Fouts) is now continuing this week in the 2014 Field Generals Collection. With so many dynamic young quarterbacks taking over the NFL, and with the game clearly leaning towards higher scoring, spread offenses, and faster playcalling, the train isn’t stopping soon. You’d be wise to get on board.

Follow Sean on Twitter at @seanesweeney