Darius Rucker knew at a young age that his dream of playing in the National Football League wasn’t going to become a reality. Despite his love of the sport, he wasn’t born with the size or the skills necessary to become a professional athlete.
But his Plan B worked out pretty well. Rucker became a superstar as the lead vocalist and guitarist for Hootie & the Blowfish, which sold more than 25 million albums worldwide.
But Rucker never lost his passion for football, especially the Miami Dolphins. Today, Fanatics and the NFL will unveil the NFL x Darius Rucker Collection by Fanatics, a line of officially licensed NFL apparel inspired by his love of music, football and fashion.
“I’ve been a huge NFL fan my entire life, so it’s a dream come true to see my logo right next to the NFL logo on these items,” Rucker said. “It has been a blast working with two great partners, Fanatics and the NFL, to make this project a reality.”
He said he’s never had his own apparel collection — “Just my merch,” he said of the souvenir products sold at his shows — so when BCL Entertainment, a company that specializes in partnering talent with brands, approached him about putting his name on an NFL-themed line, he did not hesitate.
”With my love of football and the NFL and to see my name next to that is pretty amazing,” he said.
Rucker said he’s been a football fan since he was five when he “fell in love with the Miami Dolphins” and some of its star players, including Art Shell — “He lived around the corner from us,” Rucker said — Larry Csonka and Larry Little. “Those guys were must-see TV,” he recalled.
Rucker himself played up until high school when he realized at the age of 13 that “I’m not faster or bigger than anyone here. Up until then, I really thought I would play in the NFL.”
Although the collection was designed by the experts within the organizations, Rucker said he did offer suggestions on what and what not to include in the line and ultimately approved all the pieces.
The assortment will feature premium items for all 32 NFL teams including T-shirts, fleece, outerwear and sweats and will retail for $29.99 to $99.99. It will be sold at Fanatics’ network of online stores as well as on the NFLShop.com.
Rucker said his favorite item in the 17-piece assortment is a winter coat in a camouflage pattern. He’s also fond of the T-shirts, sweats and button-down shirts, pointing to the fit.
Rucker, who has transitioned into country music, said as he kicks off the Darius Rucker Live “theater tour” next February, he’ll be sporting some of the pieces on stage, particularly the T-shirts of the teams in the towns he’ll be visiting.
Rucker will be joined on the tour by Caylee Hammack, an up-and-coming country artist who he said has “an incredible voice.”
Rucker has done something that few pop or rock artists have been able to accomplish: carve out a successful niche in country music. “I really think it’s because of my love for country music,” he said. When he first started exploring changing musical genres, he pounded the pavement on a radio tour speaking to program directors and the “tastemakers” who selected what would be played on their stations.
“They asked who I liked in country music and most people would say Dolly Parton or Kenny Rogers,” he said. “I said my favorite was Radney Foster.” It was the truth, and it also showed that Rucker knew country music since Foster had success but wasn’t exactly a household name.
Then he also started slow when he began feeling his way in country. “I started on the bottom,” he said. “The last shows I played with Hootie were in these big arenas and my first gig playing those same arenas, I was the baby band,” he said. But that showed his “sincerity and love for the music.”
He believes that same sincerity and love will help boost the visibility and sales of the NFL x Darius Rucker Collection by Fanatics, which he’ll be promoting on social media and out on the road.
The collection is part of Fanatics’ move to offer elevated design and price points for some of its fan product. Erin Andrews, sideline reporter for Fox NFL, launched a line called Wear by Erin Andrews in 2019, and there are also collections with Vineyard Vines, DKNY and other brands.
“Sports and entertainment have incredible crossover appeal, and this is a great example of incorporating the worlds of pop culture and music into our business,” said Vicky Picca, senior vice president of business affairs for Fanatics. “Teaming up with multiplatinum music icon Darius Rucker and our partners at the NFL has allowed us to do that through this unique, quality assortment of NFL fan gear for all 32 teams.”
Ryan Samuelson, vice president of consumer products at the NFL, said celebrity collaborations perform well on NFL Shop and he expects Rucker’s to just enhance the current offerings. “Darius’ love of football combined with his love of music made him the perfect candidate to collaborate with.”