NFL Illustrated

So I’m watching the Cowboys and the Saints on Thursday Night Football halfheartedly when on the screen pops up a comic artist’s idealization of some National Football League player.

“The whole mission is to exaggerate features of players,” Hartley said. “There’s no way Drew Brees is that buffed out, but [we wanted to] kind of exaggerate them and make them bigger than life.”

Turns out Fox Sports has been doing this since last year.
(So I must have seen them before now.)

“That portrait is really cool,” DeAndre Hopkins said when we asked him about his picture. He was even fooled for a second: “And really lifelike. At first I thought it was an actual photo. But they did a great job with this one and all the others.”

Fans have ranked the graphics, tweeted about them, and noticed when one changes. Illustrations of football players is the sort of thing to which I pay way too much attention (anyone who remembers my deep dive into Tom Brady’s social media is like, “We know.”), so I’ve loved watching the evolution of the fascination.

Who made these? I wondered. What’s the deal?

Last December (2020) Fox Sports’ Charlotte Wilder gave us the background.

© Fox Sports/NFL

Unfortunately none of the individual artists are named.

The graphics team hired the production company Engine Room, which finds illustrators around the world to contract for illustrations. The image each artist works from informs the direction of the whole look.

It took about a month to get all of the illustrations done. Hartley’s team worked with Engine Room and anywhere between 20 and 50 artists at a time.

Seems Fox Sports started this, without the exaggeration, for the 2020 Super Bowl.