TAMPA — It started a few years ago, when Preston Battle wanted to buy an Auburn football helmet to add to his collection. He found out that it would be cheaper to get the parts and make it himself.
"I bought a used helmet, filled in the scratches, sanded it down, painted it, clear-coated it, had some decals made, and went from there." Battle said.
After making a few designs and sharing them with a few friends, the demand for Battle's helmets took off. The Tampa-native has gained more than 100,000 followers on Instagram, and he's filling requests for a number of different athletes.
"I’ve met so many people," Battle said via Zoom chat. "So many more people than I ever thought I would, doing this."
His client list includes fellow Tampa-native and Colts kick returner Isaiah Rodgers, Browns receiver Jarvis Landry, former NBA standout Nate Robinson, and former NFL punter-turned podcast star Pat McAfee. But Battle's highest-profile request came out of the blue. It was a custom order for Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady. It came shortly after the Bucs wild card playoff win at Washington. He'd already made a helmet for the set of ESPN, but the second request was a little more unique.
"The guy that’d I’d been talking to at SportsCenter actually texted me and said 'Tom Brady’s assistant is looking to get him something cool for Christmas. So can I send him your info?' Battle laughed. "I was like 'Dude, bro, like, NOW! You didn’t even have to ask.'”
Battle graduates Florida International University in a few weeks, and he already has a job lined up with Green Gridiron, a company that specialized in all things helmet.
"If it works out how I think it will it could be kind of a dream job," Battle said. "Where as I just do individual, custom projects, they have the whole warehouse. They sell helmets for game use. Also, they sell all the face masks, visors, accessories- all that."
Battle's been vocal about changing the NFL's rule limiting the number of alternate designs a team can use throughout the season. Bucs head coach Bruce Arians thinks the rule could be changed this offseason.