While the Nevada Wolf Pack prepare for the 2019 football season, behind the scenes it’s the Nevada equipment management team that keeps the program in one piece.
Kaleb Daws, Shannon O’Hair and Kristi Wirtz work 12-hour days, seven days a week during the football season to ensure the Wolf Pack’s equipment is at the top of its game for the players on the field.
“A lot of people don’t know about the stuff we do,” Daws said. “But it’s something we love doing, knowing the guys are out there playing with the equipment we set up and clean and organize is cool to see.”
Equipment management is relied upon on a daily basis from the start of spring practices until the end of the season. They show up to the facility four-to-six hours early to fix jerseys on shoulder pads and make sure each helmet is assigned to the correct uniform. Once the equipment is figured out, towels are handed out to players before the game.
“We’ll be here early to get a headstart on the day,” O’Hair said. “We make sure we’re ready to handle all of the equipment, accessories and stuff. It’s to make sure everything is neat and sound. It’s a bit tedious at times, but it must be done.”
The team doesn’t take a break once the game starts, either. They stay on call in case a piece of equipment breaks and must be repaired during the contest.
“Theoretically, if we did our job properly that’s our downtime to relax,” Daws said. “But if something went haywire, we’re doing some helmet repairs or something that keeps us busy. For the players, all they’re focused on is getting back on the field, so we fix things as quickly as we can.”
Once the halftime whistle sounds, equipment management has already set up several whiteboards for coaches to illustrate second half adjustments. A row of chairs and tables also are placed in the locker room for players and other members of the team.
No matter the outcome of the game, Daws, O’Hair and Wirtz stick to a routine for the post-game cleanup.
By splitting into three separate roles, the team gets work done faster. One staff member picks up loose equipment and trash on the field. Another member takes the jerseys off the shoulder pads and puts cleats, helmets, face masks and accessories safely away in shelves and bins.
Wirtz relies on three industrial-sized washing machines to clean jerseys, pants and other accessories in large quantities. Once everything is washed and placed into two separate driers, she organizes and folds the uniforms for the next home game.
As a whole, the team stays an extra two-to-three hours after the game.
“We use the bigger-sized washers to get almost 80 loads in after the practices and even after the games,” Wirtz said. “It makes it easier for us to just throw it in there in bulk and then to dry them all out when they’re finished…When all is said and done, we probably stick around for a while longer.”
When the Wolf Pack hit the road, equipment management is responsible for sending equipment for both the coaches and players before their upcoming game. They pack the team’s standard away uniforms in duffel bags and send it to the specific stadium they’re playing at.
“On the road we dress around 65 guys, which is like a travel party,” Daws said. “We dress 24 coaches on staff as well, so we get to set up their stuff like it’s a home game. That takes some preparation because we’re not right there to fix anything that went wrong.”
While the workday is jam-packed throughout the year, the job does come with its perks. They build a relationship with the rest of the team by working first-hand with the players and staff. As a result, O’Hair has built some long-lasting friendships with the players on the team.
“I’ve made lifelong friendships with some of the players on the team,” O’Hair said. “That’s one thing I’ll always appreciate working here.”
To cap-off a long season, the ultimate reward for both the team and equipment management staff is Nevada hoisting its first-ever Mountain West Conference championship.
“Winning the Mountain West, that’s the main goal for us,” Daws said. “It’d be a culmination of our hard work on and off the field and the same goes for the rest of the team. We put in a lot of time and effort and winning it would put it all together.”
They may not be seen on the field, but the Nevada Football equipment management team does plenty of work away from the action.
Isaiah Burrows can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SagebrushSports.