Redskins TE & NFLPA Extern Ray Hamilton Chronicles Second Week at Panini America
Editor’s Note: As part of the NFLPA Externship program, Washington Redskins tight end Ray Hamilton is spending three weeks at Panini America working in the Product Development, Acquisitions and Marketing departments. Each week during his externship, Hamilton will document his time inside Panini America HQ. This is his second dispatch.
Monday, February 22
This week I spent time with the Panini America Acquisitions team. To start my week I had to grab my laptop and move over to a different area of the building and made a few new introductions that I may have missed at the beginning of last week. I had a chance to sit down with Brian Bayne, the head of the acquisitions team, to discuss my plan for the week; in the process we got to know each other a little better. It was not our first conversation as I had the chance to talk with Bayne for a bit on my first day at Panini America and I look forward to continuing to learn from him.
Once I got settled in my new desk in the football area of acquisitions, I had the chance to talk with my new neighbors — Joe White and Elizabeth Galaviz — about what was on their agendas for the week. It’s a great week to be working with the football team here because it’s the week of the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. I’m able to learn a great deal in terms of players’ autograph contracts and the deep levels of communication that take place on a regular basis between Panini America officials and the agents and marketing representatives of the players.
After getting back from lunch, White had to run over to the off-site acquisitions vault where all of the memorabilia and autographs are received. It was crazy! Just like the production facility blew me away last week, this place was a sports fan’s heaven. There was memorabilia everywhere you looked, neatly arranged and archived — and it was some incredible stuff. I had the opportunity to try on one of Shaquille O’Neal’s game-worn shoes as well as one of his game-worn jerseys from back when he was with the Suns. I consider myself a pretty big and tall guy, but his jersey fit me like a dress. It’s incredible to see how big some of these basketball players’ shoes and jerseys are. I got the chance to see pairs of game-worn shoes from Patrick Ewing, Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard and John Stockton.
Some of the cool jerseys I got to see and try on included Kobe Bryant, Steph Curry, Tim Duncan and a Garnett Olympics jersey. In terms of baseball, I got to check out some old bats used by Barry Bonds, Chipper Jones and Pudge Rodriguez. I was a huge fan of a lot of these guys growing up, so for me to check out some of their game-worn and game-used memorabilia was amazing.
While I was at the acquisitions facility, White had to check out some autographs that were just sent in from a former star college running back. Panini America is all about making sure the product is the best it can be, so White went through hundreds of autographs individually to make sure they were all up to standards. Panini America does a great job of ensuring the best possible product for their collectors.
Tuesday, February 23
To start off the day, I got to spend some time with Galaviz and go over some player lists for the upcoming NFL rookie class that will be attending the combine. Galaviz and the acquisitions team do a great job of staying organized, and making sure they will be prepared and ready to go for the trip that is coming up this week to the NFL Scouting Combine.
After finishing up some Combine lists, I went over and spent some time with Tone Stakes and Joe Reyes of the Panini America NBA acquisitions team. They walked me through the process of contracts with different players, acquiring autographs from the players, how players are compensated for their autographs and some other daily tasks. It was insightful to learn both the similarities and differences of the NBA side after being with the football team for the majority of my time here so far.
After getting walked through the process of acquiring player deals and dealing with the daily tasks, Stakes and Reyes let me sit in on a conference call with the NBA. It was cool to hear them discuss All-Star Weekend business from last week and how everything went.
Wednesday, February 24
I had the opportunity to sit with Galaviz to start my Wednesday and go through some of the veteran deals the team is working on. Most of the veteran dealings revolved around the guys’ contracts expiring from the year before; so they just needed to get new contracts done for this year. Veterans contracts are typically less hectic than doing rookie deals — unless a veteran really did something special to separate himself that would require more autographs or a higher price per. I learned a lot from just sitting with Galaviz and hearing about her experiences of dealing with these deals over the past few years.
Later Wednesday afternoon, I had the opportunity to head down to the Oklahoma City Thunder’s team hotel for player signing sessions. When opposing NBA teams come to Dallas to play the Mavericks, Panini America officials typically will go to the visiting team’s hotel to do signing sessions with guys they need. I had the chance to watch how Ivory Tabb will greet the guys right after their morning shoot around as they’re getting off the bus and have them sit down for a bit to catch up on some autographs. I got the chance to sit down with Cameron Payne and Enes Kanter while they signed some cards.
After the signing, I had the chance to go get some lunch with Stakes and the Oklahoma City Thunder equipment manager, Wilson Taylor. It was very beneficial for me to sit and listen to their relationship on the memorabilia side of the business. Stakes has a great relationship with all of the NBA equipment mangers, a very important part of business. Wilson actually brought a pair of game-worn Kevin Durant shoes to give to Stakes for Panini Authentic. After seeing the memorabilia room this week, it was cool to see an actual exchange and listen to how it all goes down.
Thursday, February 25
Thursday was a travel day for most of us as we flew to Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine. Once we got to Indianapolis, Nick Matijevich, Ben Ecklar and White already had Panini America command central all set up at the hotel right by Lucas Oil Stadium. There was a steady stream of agents coming through to either finalize deals for their guys or trying to figure out when they could bring their guys by for introductions and signings despite hectic Combines schedules.
Once we got settled in, Tracy Hackler and I set up a Twitter Q&A session. I had a lot of fun interacting with some collectors and fans trying to answer their questions. Later Thursday evening, we had a dinner that was put on by the NFL. Scott Prusha, Hackler, Matijevich and I were all there on behalf of Panini America. It was a great experience to meet different sponsors that all work with the NFL.
Friday, February 26
Friday was a cool day for me as Prusha and I got to attend the NFL Scouting Combine with behind-the-scenes access as guests of the NFL. I was tasked with taking control of the Panini America Snapchat account for the day and I had a lot of fun doing that. It was impressive to watch all that goes on behind the scenes and off the NFL Network cameras to make the NFL Scouting Combine run so smoothly.
One of the day’s highlights for me was getting to sit down and have a conversation with Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Famer Will Shields. As a huge Nebraska fan, Prusha had a great time visiting with Shields, too.
This week was incredibly diverse and rewarding for me in terms of the NFLPA Externship. I’ll spend a few more days here in Indianapolis and then return to Panini America HQ for my final week, which I’ll spend with the Panini America Marketing team. Stay tuned next week for a full recap.