*For a full photo gallery of the K-State Football Equipment crew's hard work click here.
December 23, 2013
By Kelly McHugh
On Saturday evening, Dec. 28, the K-State football team will take on Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
The Powercat on each game helmet will be shining, the bowl's logo will be represented on each Wildcat jersey and the team will be ready to go.
The show put on between the white lines this weekend will be the finished product of weeks of hard work for the football equipment staff.
Led by Football Equipment Manager Al Cerbe, the Wildcats will be properly and safely equipped come kickoff.
"When people look at the field, it's only 11 offensive guys and 11 defensive guys and only about probably about 50 something guys playing," Cerbe said, "but there's also trainers, video guys recording it, student managers running the balls, drivers docking the truck - it's a production."
It's a production that, from the outside, may surprise people when they find out exactly how in depth the logistics of preparing a bowl trip can be.
"It's organized chaos," laughed Cerbe. "That's what we like to call it. I have lists to update my lists, and we're really going over stuff all the time. I, unfortunately, have probably taken out a couple trees in paperwork for things like this, but of course when you're traveling this far of a distance and for this long, you're packing a lot more than you normally pack."
Among the first things Cerbe did once K-State became bowl eligible was get in touch with GTM Sportswear and organize the Nike pieces (that Cerbe also picked out and ordered) in order of priority to be logoed.
Once the pieces are logoed, Cerbe, his graduate assistant Christopher Scheideman and his crew of 14 student managers organize the gear by player or coach.
Each player will receive a logoed bag with warm ups, a shirt, shoes and a bag tag ready and waiting for them in their room upon arrival to the team hotel in Tempe, Ariz., this afternoon.
"For the players, I got their travel bag back and I logoed it," explained Cerbe. "So they're not wearing their same warm ups every day like they did at the Pinstripe Bowl (2010). We came up with the idea our Cotton Bowl year (2011) to collect the sweat outfit they've been wearing all year and logo that, so now we switch each day. They turn it in to me after practice, I wash it, and we just alternate our days with it."
But it's not just the players Cerbe is looking out for - more than 300 people are traveling to the bowl game with K-State. Each person, Cerbe said, will receive a little something with the Buffalo Wild Wing Bowl's logo on it (that he also ordered and picked out) in his or her respective room. They all have luggage that will be taken down to the hotel on one of the two semi trucks that left on Saturday afternoon. Like the players, the coaches, staff and families will show up to the hotel with their luggage ready and waiting for them through the orchestration of Cerbe and his staff.
"All together there's about 33 students, then there's the team doctors, the game operation people, our Chaplin, our drivers - two per truck," Cerbe said. "With the bowls the families come too, so we're looking at, with the football families, about 20 wives, football and staff wives, and they've all got kids. That's about 84 family members, and then you've got the athletics department, our senior staff and those that run the other aspect of the football program.
"At the end of the day, it's 377 people that are getting a few items that we're ordering for and getting logoed up."
Since the coaches and staff will be in a hotel over the holidays, the equipment staff also packed mini Christmas trees for the rooms of families with children as a special surprise.
The team has two trucks traveling down and each is filled to the brim. While one is filled with the luggage of everyone traveling, one is full of equipment. From play clocks to training sleds to pads to Gatorade coolers, the equipment staff packs it all.
"About 30 tons is what we normally take," Cerbe said. "I bet we add at least 5 to 10 more tons when you talk about our play clocks, which sit about six feet tall. We'll bring two of those, our JUGS machine, a few pads. They don't weigh incredibly too much, but once you start piling it up all that stuff adds up."
This year the team will be practicing at a local high school and, fortunately for the equipment staff, it has a full weight room. A few years ago, for the 2012 Cotton Bowl, the equipment staff was in charge of bringing the team's weight room on the truck as well.
Once equipment is taken here and there throughout the week, the coaches, staff and families are taken care of and the players are issued their equipment, it's game time.
Lights, camera, action - it's now the equipment staff's time to shine.
"During the game I'm on the sideline with Al, and I'm kind of the guy on the sideline where, if something malfunctions with a helmet, a pair of cleats or shoulder pads, depending on the situation, if it's something that I can get fixed quick enough for him to get back on the field, I'll get it fixed," Scheideman said. "If it's something that he needs fixed and the player has to get right back out on the field, I typically have a replacement for everything."
It's a busy job, and Scheideman said he is always on guard making sure the equipment and uniforms of the K-State players are always safe and in good shape. When a uniform tears, it's his responsibility to get it sewn back up and get the player back into action.
"It's not seamstress-worthy sewing," he laughed. "It's just taking a fishing line to a tear and just getting it back together."
They're busy before the game, busy during it and afterwards the equipment staff must load back up the trucks and get everything back to Manhattan.
"We're very fortunate that there are a lot of good students and a lot of good support staff people," said Cerbe as he sat in his office surrounded by binders and papers helping him organize for the game. "I'd put the support staff here at K-State up against anybody. We work very well together and look out for each other and do a great job, but what really helps us is our players are just great kids. They make my job a lot easier. They are responsible because of the morals and values that Coach makes them live up to, and it makes our job easier when they're accountable for the things we're issuing them. That helps out big time."
With that, Cerbe continued on his preparation. A shipment of 200 plus Nike shoes continued to be sorted and once the trucks were packed, they left Manhattan to take on the long trip to Tempe.
And growing up I thought the planning that went into McHugh family vacations was tough.
2:36pm - K-State's Nick Lawson and Joseph Prud'homme load players practice gear bags into a semi-trailer at the Vanier Complex in Manhattan, Kansas on December 21, 2013 for the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. (Scott D. Weaver/K-State Athletics)
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