Outside Dave Gerson’s office, where his name tag is supposed to be, is a yellow sticky note. Scribbled on the note is the word “SWAG.”
Gerson, who has been with the football program for the past six seasons, was a graduate assistant in football operations for former coach Matt Rhule last year.
On Feb. 13, coach Geoff Collins made him the first S.W.A.G. coordinator in college football.
“I don’t know who did it, but it’s funny because I’m the one who makes the name tags around here,” Gerson said of the sticky note. “I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. I kind of like it. It’s different.”
Gerson’s official title is multimedia coordinator and specialist with advanced graphics — or S.W.A.G. for short.
His role is to “develop and showcase an array of graphic designs for social media usage” and “personally assist Collins in showcasing Temple Football to fans and recruits,” according to a university press release.
Gerson said he considers himself the “lens” through which Temple fans and recruits view the program. Collins calls him the “front door to the inside of Temple football.”
“Everybody’s got that position, but I wanted something that would stand out,” Collins said. “The word ‘swag,’ we create swag or he creates swag. How could I get that without it being so over the top? Specialist with advanced graphics. I thought it had a nice little creative ring to it.”
Collins’ vision of a S.W.A.G. coordinator began in 2007 when he was the director of player personnel at the University of Alabama.
When he walked into the video room during one of his first days in the building, Collins spotted graphics hanging on the wall created by one of the young members of the staff. They were the works of Buddy Overstreet, whose title was creative media specialist.
Collins liked what he saw in Overstreet’s designs. He would bring Overstreet ideas, and Overstreet would turn them into graphics to mail out to recruits. Sometimes it would be something as simple as putting the Nike swoosh on a picture of a recruit and sending it back to him.
Collins only spent one year at Alabama, but Overstreet’s role continued to grow before he left in 2012. Overstreet started his own company, which focuses on graphic communications and branding. He has worked with top football programs like the University of Notre Dame and the University of Florida.
“I’d like to think that I was the original S.W.A.G. coordinator at Alabama,” Overstreet said. “It’s only fitting that he was able to get some buzz and really legitimize that position because it really is an important role. It sets the tone for what you want to do and pushes your message.”
“He kind of got my brain going with, ‘If we’re going to send stuff out, we need to make it look right and appeal to these kids,” Overstreet added. “Because that’s the message he wanted to send. We’re marketing to 17 to 18-year-olds. We need a different look. He really kind of empowered me to do that.”
Before he was Temple’s S.W.A.G. coordinator, Gerson was Temple’s “superfan.” When he was 13 years old, he began making YouTube videos and started a website analyzing the football team’s games and recruiting. His familiarity with the Owls’ coaching staff, like former coaches Al Golden and Matt Rhule, eventually landed him a job when he began attending Temple in 2010.
Gerson started out as a video assistant the same year. His career in graphics began when Rhule took over the program in 2012. He graduated with a degree in marketing in 2015 and has stuck around as a graduate assistant.
“When coach Rhule came back he said, ‘We gotta get you involved in some recruiting,’ because I knew him for a long time,” Gerson said. “I dove into that a little bit, whether it be social media and stuff. Then I started playing around with graphics right around then, playing with Photoshop.”
Collins and Gerson have worked closely together since Collins was hired in December. Collins texts and calls Gerson with his next set of ideas. He’ll describe what he wants designed, send a picture or sometimes draw one of his infamous doodles, similar to what he did with Overstreet at Alabama.
Gerson’s job is to turn that into something that will attract Temple recruits and fans, or an illustration to hang in the practice facility that delivers a message to the Owls’ players.
One design the two are particularly proud of is an image of football players on the practice facility of Chodoff Field painted on the side of a SEPTA train. The slogan, “#Temple MADE” and “#Temple TUFF,” runs across the top and bottom of the graphic. It hangs next to a window in one of the stairwells of Edberg-Olson Hall. Often when someone walks by, a SEPTA train is passing on the train tracks outside.
“He’s the brains behind it, and he says that I’m the wizardry behind it, like the magic,” Gerson said.
“My little visions of things, he took to an even higher level than I would have even imagined,” Collins said.
Owen McCue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Owen_McCue.