Describe the story Diesel Films/Ford/NFL were hoping to tell throughout the series.
We were definitely trying to tell a genuine story about these 2 players living out their dream of playing in the NFL. Despite not knowing each other personally, they had a unique historical connection. Kyle was a 5 star recruit coming out of St. Edwards HS in Lakewood OH & originally committed to Ohio State under Head Coach Jim Tressell. When Ohio State was hit with NCAA sanctions and Tressel resigned, Kyle made a very bold decision to transfer to their archrival Michigan. That opening at Ohio State gave a little known player out of Pickerington Ohio, Pat Elflein an opportunity to attend his dream school, Ohio State. Needless to say Kyle caught a lot of heat from Buckeye fans about that decision. Once in college, the tables turned with Pat winning all 5 times vs Michigan in The Game, as it is famously referred to. Pat also won a National Championship & in his senior year, he won the Rimington Trophy for best center in the country. At Michigan, Kyle did start all four years at right guard, but went through a head coaching change and a few different offensive line coaches, so his career and the team’s was rather inconsistent. So now here we are in Arizona and these guys are now roommates and training under the tutelage of O-Line Guru and former Buckeye (can’t leave that out) LeCharles Bentley. That dynamic was definitely interesting to us in a variety of different ways: How were they going to get along? Could they put the rivalry aside? How competitive would it be between 2 archrivals now turned training partners on their path to fulfilling their NFL dream.
But it turned out they became fast friends & really clicked in and out of the gym. By the end of the series, they considered each other best friends, so that was cool to see. Offensive line isn’t the sexiest position as far as views and ratings, but this story definitely had us intrigued.
Were there any specific challenges you faced on set?
The biggest challenge was organically integrating the Ford brand into the shoot without it feeling too heavy handed. At the end of the day, the series became more what I consider commercial content, rather than branded content, where our thought process shifted to how can we integrate the truck as soon as possible in every episode. So I think we had to find that rhythm with both Ford and the NFL to make sure both partners were satisfied.
What was your favorite moment in the series?
For me I loved meeting the guys and getting to deep dive into their stories. Two really great guys that I was able to create relationships with and still text to this day & hope to continue as their careers unfold in the NFL. Pat is just a real down to earth, blue collar kid from Ohio, you can tell just an overachiever and has had to work for everything in his life. Kyle, a musician and an artist, someone whose talents really transcend the game of football. His future is bright with or without the game, so that was unique to see. And of course getting to know Lecharles was really an inspiration. Someone who is a trailblazer in his industry, he started the first-ever training facility just for professional offensive linemen. He takes his business very seriously and has delved into many different factions of business from product development, to public speaking, to running his facility & program, so that was very interesting to see up-close and personal. His passion to learn was impressive.
As far as one singular moment, it had to be when Pat was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings. On Day 2 of the Draft, he had over 200 friends and family over to his house for a pretty fun draft party, and while the party was great, once the draft started and picks started to roll off the board, it definitely got very stressful. Right around Pick 20 of the 2nd round, the Ohio sky opened up and it started to rain cats and dogs, so that added to the drama. At the end of the 2nd round, Pat secluded himself inside his pitch black patio with his girlfriend, so it was hard for us to cover that because of the lack of light and also being sensitive to his feelings since he was hoping to be drafted by then. Then all of a sudden, his cell phone rings and it was the Minnesota Vikings, although we thought it was the New York Jets because they were up so it was pretty chaotic, but nonetheless exciting! We flipped on our light panel and covered it and then I ran into the garage where everyone was waiting and they could sense something good was happening so all 200+ people started cheering & then Pat made his way over put on his Vikings hat and it was really just a goose bump moment. About 3 minutes later they made the announcement on TV and everyone went nuts, the DJ blasted Whitesnake ‘Here I Go Again’ and if you know that song, it was just an epic moment with everyone signing it. For me I felt like I was back home in Warwickk RI as if one of my friends was drafted into the NFL, it definitely had an awesome small town feel to it. I’ve been in NFL & MLB Championship locker rooms before, and this felt even more special. Really an incredible moment I’ll never forget.
Why is something like this series important and valuable to fans?
I think its cool for them to see the behind the scenes of what really goes into the draft process. From what Offensive Line training looks like, to the Combine, Pro Days, these guys with their families, there’s a lot on the line, so I think for the fans its cool to take a peek behind that curtain. Especially for offensive lineman because very rarely are they featured, it’s usually the glamour positions like Quarterbacks & Wide Receivers. I commend Ford for really taking ownership of bringing attention to the Offensive Line, really one of the most important positions on the field. Like Lecharles said in our first shoot, “If you don’t have an Offensive Line, you don’t have a team.” and that is clearly evident.
Describe the relationship between the draft prospects and LeCharles Bentley.
That relationship was great. Kyle had a previous relationship with LB from his days in Cleveland so they already knew each other and Pat & LB had the connection of being from The Ohio State University (as they liked to point out) and being the only 2 Rimington Award winners so of course they already had a mutual respect for each other. I think the biggest impact LB made was on their diet, you think of Linemen as being big, overweight guys but LB’s philosophy is totally different. He has these guys on a Ketogenic diet, which is primarily a protein based diet and you could see the body transformation in a very short amount of time . The most with Pat, he really leaned up since his college career finished and the couple of months we was training at OLine Performance. If you look at the veterans that train with LB, like Kyle Long & Alex Boone, you could almost mistake them for Tight Ends not Offensive Linemen so you can really see the difference that LeCharles is making.
What is something you learned, or something that happened during filming that you didn’t quite expect?
With the evolution of digital media, you hear the term Branded Content thrown out there all the time & our company works a lot in ‘branded content’ but make no mistake about it, branded content is not all created equal. It comes in many flavors, shapes & sizes. So for this series, I referred it as Commercial Content because we heavily featured the truck & Ford brand in every episode as much as possible. We’ve done it both ways, and to be honest we’ve seen more success with subtle, subliminal integrations like this piece with Kanya Sesser for Young & Reckless, 8M+ views on Facebook.
But it’s really up to the client, and in this case, Ford, as a fairly new official league sponsor, their initiative is to really own NFL Offensive Line play 365 days a year, so for them it’s essential to be upfront and bold about who they are representing in the NFL and it’s the guys In The Trenches.