In every major sport, the star players will always attract the attention of corporate heavyweights looking to align their product with popular and marketable athletes. Footwear is no doubt a common denominator among all the sports and the big name brands have been scrambling to sign the big name players for decades now. Tennis and basketball were the industry pioneers when it came to introducing the concept of the signature shoe, but in the ’80s the spectrum broadened significantly into other sports with football emerging as one of the prime targets for market expansion.
Bo Jackson emerged as the prototype for transitioning football stars into the sneaker market. Selling football cleats is great, but it’s a small slice of the market. The idea of a versatile multi-purpose training shoe, however, crosses over into all different consumer demographics. As a result, the precedent was set and brands started scooping up fan-favorite football phenoms to endorse their training models. By the ’90s, gridiron superstars like Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Junior Seau and Deion Sanders among others all started finding themselves attached to one shoe or the other.
adidas didn’t dive right into the signature football fray, instead choosing to wait for the right athlete and opportunity to plant their flag in the market. In 1996, the stars aligned just right and the
Three Stripes made their move, signing a brash young football star just as they were on the verge of announcing an innovative new technology perfect for the training category.
Keyshawn Johnson was the first overall pick in the 1996 NFL Draft, and adidas wasted no time beating out the competition to bring him on board. Between his engaging personality, abundance of confidence, and dynamic style of play, Keyshawn was a perfect fit to be the football ambassador for their forward-thinking Feet You Wear initiative. Featuring chunky rounded outsoles designed to mimic the contours of the heel and balls of your feet, the unorthodox Feet You Wear line would introduce a number of future fan favorites like the KB8 (now the Crazy 8), the Top Ten 2000, and the EQT Elevation.
Historically overshadowed by the wealth of FYW basketball offerings, Keyshawn’s EQT Key Trainer is finally getting some overdue recognition nearly twenty years after its 1996 debut. True to its original form, the Key Trainer is returning to retailers this weekend in its OG Jets-friendly colorway and still sporting his logo above the toebox. We had a chance to talk with Keyshawn about the retro return of his sig, the dilemma of wearing your own shoe and more, so continue on for the full interview, and keep an eye out for the EQT Key Trainer hitting adidas Originals retailers this Saturday, April 5th.