You know it’s a job well done when Urban Meyer says it’s badass.
Braxton Miller and Tom Herman have heard it. So too has Sammy Silverman. Who, exactly, is Silverman? He’s a twenty-something graphic designer who’s carved out a place for himself in college football.
Silverman, an Ohio State graduate who grew up in Youngstown cheering on the Jim Tressel-coached Buckeyes, now calls Meyer his boss and has a tidy office inside the hallowed halls of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. He’s the only person to fill the position he currently occupies – athletic department graphic designer – which was created for him in June 2012.
When Silverman learned about an opening inside the football program, he jumped at the opportunity. As an industrial design student, he aspired to design athletic equipment such as footwear. Instead, he parlayed a three-month internship into a full-time job on the periphery of college football’s vortex.
“I haven’t left yet,” Silverman told Eleven Warriors. “It’s exciting and fun over here.”
His days are spent staring at a computer screen crafting the latest poster with statistics, info graphics and a catchy slogan destined to reach five-star recruits. In-home visits and simple recruiting pamphlets used to woo prospects to big-time programs. But creativity has become the latest wave.
Coaches are tapping into the right side of their brain, leaving no stone unturned to attract recruits. That became clear again this week when Georgia recruit Lorenzo Carter told the Atlanta-Journal Constitution that Raekwon McMillan may have spurned the Bulldogs for the Buckeyes after a portrait gone bad.
“I would have to say [the most creative thing was] when UGA drew a picture of me. That was pretty cool. I liked that a lot,” Carter said. “They did (the portraits) for me and Raekwon McMillan. We didn’t get Raekwon but still it was good.
“I looked good in (the portrait), compared to how I look in real life. Raekwon’s picture didn’t look good. It was ugly. He didn’t like it. That’s probably why he didn’t come to UGA.”
ESPN Recruiting analyst Tom VanHaaren tweeted this month about Silverman’s work, calling it “some of the nicer graphic design work” in recruiting. Scott Roussel of FootballScoop.com followed it up with a piece titled “The best graphics in college football,” detailing a visit to Ohio State, where he was wowed by Silverman’s work.
“Last April I visited Ohio State, and when I walked into director of player personnel Mark Pantoni's office, I immediately noticed all of the graphics he had on the wall,” Roussel wrote. “I told Pantoni at the time that their graphics were some of the best I've seen anywhere and he promptly introduced me to Sammy Silverman, a former Ohio State student…Since then, I've frequently seen Silverman's work featured by the Ohio State staff and it's clearly some of the best graphic work in all of college football.”
The walls inside Silverman’s living room are decorated with sketches, a modern-day wallpaper of sketchpads and pencil markings. He constantly critiques himself and has notebooks filled with ideas. There’s input from recruiting czar Mark Pantoni before the mouse is clicked. Then the frantic design process begins.
“The whole idea is to promote the program,” Silverman said. “You’re trying to paint their own picture.”
Promoting coaches, facilities and the tradition of Ohio State are familiar highlights. Pantoni recognized Silverman’s ability to detail Ohio State’s attractive brand and add another flavor to it. Imagination and ingenuity runs in the Silverman family.
An older brother, Shawn, is director of marketing for Comedy Central, which includes the network’s advertising and commercials, and younger sister, Jaclyn, graduated from Ohio State with a fine arts degree in photography and will get her master’s from the University of Chicago.
A legion of Twitter followers and the hashtag #SammySilvDesigns have contributed to Silverman’s meteoric rise in popularity among Ohio State fans. Social media’s reach cannot be overstated as the 21st century nears its third decade.
“To have that as a link to all of my work as a portfolio is great,” Silverman said. “The idea behind that was to try building my personal brand. There are a million Ohio State fans around, so it lets them see my designs. The coaches and whole Ohio State staff have been very supportive of that, which is awesome. It’s just like one big supportive family. We’re all trying to reach our goals.”
For now, Silverman’s goals remain pumping out graphics every day. He came to Ohio State knowing art would be a career path, but never imagined it would involve working with the football program and having Meyer approve or disapprove of his designs – or the oversized fan base latching onto his handiwork.
“I know that I’m not the best graphic designer in the land. But I feel like I create content that our audience wants to see,” Silverman said. “To get that amazing feedback and praise me for my work, it’s really unbelievable and humbling. It makes me strive to do everything better every day.”