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September 3, 2008

SCS.comFor most fans the game day experience starts with the tailgate a few hours before the game. For the equipment staff at Mizzou, the game day experience starts two nights before the actual game, after the final practice of the week.

On Thursday night after everyone has left the facility we began our game day preparations. In order to help us haul gear from one side of the country to another, or in this case from one side of the state to the other, we enlist our 53-foot semi trailer and cram it full of crates, coolers, tables, and anything else that could possibly be conceived as useful come game day. The crates are full of helmet decals, extra shoulder pads, polo shirts for the coaches and other items that may be overlooked by the casual fan.

Once practice is complete it is each player’s responsibility to put his gear-shoulder pads, shoes, helmet and leg pads-into his travel bag and leave it in the locker room. Once all the players have left the locker room, it is our responsibility to not only make sure that each player has a bag, but also to make sure that he packed everything he was suppose to pack. Once the truck is loaded with all of the other items we throw the bags in the back so that they are easily accessible when we arrive at the stadium.

The truck was finally packed a little after 11 p.m. on Thursday and when we departed we knew that it would not be for long as we were set to leave at 8 a.m. Friday.

By the time we arrived at the Jones Dome in St. Louis it was a little after 10 a.m. and we had to set up for a walk-thru session that was scheduled for mid-afternoon. Setting up included pulling everything off the trailer and unloading not only the player’s bags but also the coaches gear.

After the walk-thru we chained up the doors to the locker room and headed to the hotel to shower for dinner. As is customary on road trips we picked a local eater, Ozzie’s Bar and Grill, owned by former St. Louis Cardinal Ozzie Smith. After dinner we returned to the hotel where some of the guys met with friends from the St. Louis area, some went to the hotel pool and others called it an early night knowing that tomorrow would be a long day.

The time of kickoff is very crucial for any one headed to the game, but it is even more crucial for those working the game. Each kick off time has its own benefits and challenges. For the Illinois game kick off was set for 7:36 p.m., not a friendly start time.

For each game, no matter what the time, we plan on being at the stadium six hours before kick off. The nice thing about the evening kick off meant we got to sleep in, but it also meant there was an extremely long night ahead of us. On Saturday morning we woke up around 11 and went to have breakfast across the street at Denny’s.

After breakfast we went back to the hotel, showered, packed and met down in the lobby just after 1 p.m. to head to the stadium. Once at the stadium we put jerseys on the shoulder pads, wiped down the helmets down with Windex, and made sure each player had his game cleats. After we were done setting up some of us went to the field to throw the football around and call our family and friends to make sure they would be watching.

Once the players arrived some asked for an extra pair of socks, a stocking cap, or extra wristbands, but for the most part, things calmed down. Two of the equipment managers took the game balls over the referees locker room to make sure they are inflated properly and that they could be used for the game. Once the game started, our jobs consisted of running balls, catching field goals and dealing with any unforeseen equipment mishaps such as a faulty screw on a player’s helmet or anything of that nature.

The first order of business after the game was making sure the jerseys and pants were put into the hampers and that the locker room was clean and all of our equipment was in the truck. Since we knew we had to work for a while after our drive back to Columbia, we tried to do this as quickly as possible.

We left the Edward Jones Dome a little after 12:30 a.m. Sunday and headed back to Columbia. After a stop at Jack In The Box for some food we arrived back at the facility a little before three. For two hours we worked to unload the truck, put the players gear back into their lockers and make sure the jerseys and plants were washed and hanging up to dry. By the time we left the facility to head home it was just after 5 a.m. Sunday. Although nobody wanted to say it, we all knew it was just another day in the life of an equipment manager.

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