Meet the men behind the artwork on NFL custom cleats

By Gavin Porter

The NFL has strict policies on all gear worn during games.

But for one week, the NFL is granting its athletes the opportunity to wear custom footwear. The #MyCauseMyCleats campaign gives players an opportunity to design cleats that display creativity and represent a cause of their choice.

While big stars such as Von Miller, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, DeAndre Hopkins and more that will be sporting custom looks, there are two names that you might not recognize that are responsible for the custom cleat revolution.

Mohammed (Mo) and Dez have become the go-to guys for NFL players looking to have top of the line custom footwear.

Mo and Dez both started out in the shoe game, creating their own studios along the way. With their passion for art, sports and footwear bursting into their everyday lives, Mo set-up shop under the title Kreative Custom and Dez did the same under Dez Customz.

Little did they know that just a few months after combining the two businesses, the two talented artists would become the gold standard for custom cleats.

“Mo is such a high character guy with incredible talent,” Dez said. “We spoke about it for a few months before we decided to take the leap and go into the customization game full-time. And what a ride it’s been so far.”

When asked what it’s like to get requests from the likes of Cam Newton, Steve Smith, Julio Jones and more Mo and Dez can’t help but get excited.

“It’s the dream,” Mo said. “As an artist I grew up hoping that my art would be recognized by a few and some of the worlds premier athletes are enjoying it.”

The passion and the enjoyment that Mo and Dez get out of each pair of Nikes, Adidas, Jordan or Under Armour custom cleats is unparalleled. And it’s what has gotten them to this point in their artistic careers.

“It’s rare to see customizers work with another like we do,” Mo said. “But with Dez and I, its very much a one hundred percent partnership. He has the skill level and we both have the drive to make each piece of art something special.”

Set-up in Silverspring, Maryland on the outside of northern Washington D.C., Mo and Dez are swamped with work. Receiving request after request to create the hottest footwear and doing it with a smile on their faces.

An average week consists of anywhere between 5-25 pairs of cleats depending on what clients want and the difficulty of the art. But a week like week 13, where the NFL has opened up the heavens for custom artists is whole new territory for the two-customization pioneers.

To get an idea of how much time and effort goes into one pair of cleats you have to first understand that they don’t do stripes and color patterns. Each cleat is a canvas they intend to fill with “real live art”.

“We open up the box and go straight to paint,” Dez said. “No mock-ups. Our clients know the quality of our artwork and they trust us to pick designs and schemes for them. Some athletes definitely have specific requests but once we put paint on it, it’s all us.”

Mo and Dez spend hours to complete the project and make sure they get them to athletes before kickoff, that level of quality has helped them team-up with Under Armour to expand their client list and resources.

“It has been a huge opportunity for us. Under Armour caught wind of what we were doing and invited us to continue that at last year's NFL Combine,” Mo said. “It’s a customizer's dream. We are still our own artists and we don’t work for the company, we work with them. This way our artwork gets to touch that many more athletes and people. It’s awesome.”

Despite a strong grip on the custom cleats worn by NFL athletes Mo and Dez know that their humble beginnings and hard work have put them in this position.

“Art isn’t an easy thing to make a career out of and we are very humbled to have made it,” Dez said. “This is our dream job. You can’t put it into words what it means to turn on the TV Sundays and see people wearing your art and talking about it. It makes it all worthwhile.”

The two artists have also been a contributor to UNISWAG, and the UNISWAG’s Uniform of the Week awards. When a winner is announced, Mo and Dez custom make a trophy for the winning school.

“UNISWAG has helped us grow our brand. The fact that winning schools are looking forward to receiving the trophies and our artwork is exciting,” Dez said. “The people that follow UNISWAG are in our target market and we can’t put a price tag on that kind of exposure. We are blessed to be in this position and will continue to work our tails off.”

Following their passion for art and desire to work with footwear has taken Mo and Dez to heights they never could have imagined. And with their artwork being displayed on center stage this week.

“Five years ago you wouldn’t have ever thought about customized cleats on a football field,” Mo said.

Well Mo, thanks to you and Dez we will have an entire week dedicated to art.