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NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Interviewing The Guys Behind The Uniforms

By Huskerlocker @huskerlocker

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By Erin Sorensen
Over the last few months, one of the most popular Twitter accounts associated with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has been @NUEquipment. It gained the attention of Darren Rovell, CNBC’s Sports Business Report, who commended those behind it. Who exactly is behind the account that has spent the last couple of months warding off uniform rumors, while sharing the everyday happenings of an equipment staff?
Led by Equipment Manager Jay Terry, the staff consists of Chris McQuillen, Terry’s assistant, Blake Lange, Pat Norris, and a handful of students including three for football alone. While Nebraska fans know what the staff does, they don’t hear about the little details. For instance, if you tweet the @NUEquipment account, the response will most likely come from Norris. Curious what the staff is listening to? “Right now, it’s Eric Church,” said Terry.

NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Interviewing The Guys Behind The Uniforms

Chatting with Terry, who has been with Nebraska since 2002, provided a deeper look into what it takes to not only outfit the football team, but also the other 22 sports his team takes care of.
Q: Whose idea was it to start the Twitter account?
A: It was all of us but mostly me and my assistant Chris McQuillen. Then we have two guys over at the Devaney Center so we’ve kind of made it so it will be an all-around equipment Twitter. It’s not just going to be football.
Q: What is your weekly routine like and how do you keep track of so many sports?
A: We all have it split up. I work with football and women’s soccer. Chris helps me with football, but he also does volleyball, baseball, and softball so they’re pretty busy right now with baseball and softball having their fall season. He’s over there doing laundry in the mornings.
For volleyball, Chris pretty much does their game laundry and they do all the rest of their own laundry over there at the Coliseum. Then Pat and Blake handle everything over at the Devaney Center. Basketball just started up for women so they’re going. We’ve been issuing out track gear. I mean, it’s pretty much non-stop. With those three students that we’ve got for football, they help me out with women’s soccer and help Chris with baseball here and there.
Q: What is the most rewarding and most challenging part of your job?
A: As far as rewarding, I’ve done this since I was 21. This is my 15th year working it full-time. I feel somewhat like I haven’t had a “real” job because it’s always been something I’ve wanted to do. I was just thinking about (the challenges) this morning, which are the times you miss with your family. For us with football, Thanksgiving Day is when everyone else is home, and we’re usually in here working.
We’ve got practice that day. It’s just a normal day. I’ve traveled on Christmas day while my wife and kid are still at home. A lot of the family type stuff. That goes for all four of us, depending on the sport because basketball is going at that time. I’ve told my student managers that if you think you’re going to be leaving for Thanksgiving to go see your family, you’re in the wrong thing.
NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Interviewing The Guys Behind The Uniforms

Q: What goes into uniform maintenance?
A: For football, we got back Sunday morning this past week. The truck got here at 7:30 A.M., so we started laundry right away. We washed the jerseys and pants. We pretty much go through all of the jerseys and check for holes, rips, and tears. With our new jerseys, we ordered 300 of each color so we have 300 white and 300 red so we’ve been sending a list in of jerseys to be remade each week.
Then we’ve also taken those ripped ones out to a lady here in town that fixes them up. That way, we’ll have a nice new one and one as an emergency backup if something really nasty happened to it. The pants have held up well; this year. I think we’ve replaced one pair of pants this year – Rex (Burkhead)’s.
Q: What is the most unpredictable thing you have faced in getting equipment together for a game?
A: The biggest one, and I don’t even remember the year, was when we played at Iowa State and Cody Glenn was still at running back. We didn’t have his jersey and we couldn’t find it. It wasn’t there. We called and checked in here. It wasn’t here. It wasn’t packed. It wasn’t anywhere. Luckily we take extra jerseys.
They have names on them but there was an 84 in there that was about three sizes smaller than what Cody would normally wear, but we cut the eight into a three. We took off the nameplate and found Glenn on one of the other nameplates. I then stitched the letters and we sewed that on. Cody got there and was so mad. He said, “What is this?” He then ended up being the MVP of the game, had a touchdown or two, and then wore that jersey the rest of the year.
Q: How many pairs of shoes do players go through in one season?
A: That’s all personal preference. We have some guys who have gotten a new pair every week over my ten years here, but not many now. It kind of depends on if they are playing, playing, playing. We’ve also have had guys that wear the same pair of shoes all season long.
Some of the big guys will wear a pair of shoes, we use the word “roll,” and they will roll on the side of them, so we get them another pair. We haven’t had a lot of that this year, but over the years we have. Guys like Adam Carriker got new shoes every week but he was just a big guy. He broke them down pretty quickly.
Q: Do players get to make personal requests and alter uniforms (i.e. Taylor Martinez prefers to wear 2010’s pants and Kenny Bell wears the blue jersey under his uniform)?
A: Taylor, that’s what he wanted to wear. The older style pants. It’s not a battle worth even fighting. Kenny, he has something with that blue shirt, just superstition. I would love to throw it away but I have a feeling that wouldn’t go over really well.
It’s just not worth the argument. I don’t want everyone different, but as long as you don’t have a coach coming and saying what they want, it’s not a big deal. It’s one of those things where is it really worth knocking your head against the wall for?
Q: What’s the story behind Kenny Bell’s blue jersey?
A: He got that as a freshman on the scout team. The receivers wear blue jerseys. He just keeps wearing it.
NEBRASKA FOOTBALL: Interviewing The Guys Behind The Uniforms

Q: If you look at the equipment from the1990s versus today, the pads appear much smaller. Is the new compact gear really safer for athletes as they are getting bigger and stronger?
A: I’ve watched the old ’94 ’95, ’97 stuff and everyone had huge shoulder pads. That was the trend. Everyone in college football had huge shoulder pads but now everybody wants smaller pads for more mobility so they can turn their heads. It’s just as safe.
The game has changed a bit with all of the passing and the lineman are not blocking the same way they used to, so you’re not needing the same kind of coverage with the pads as you did then.
Q: Do players ever ask you about switching from Adidas to something else?
A: Yeah, but the grass is always greener. We have a friend who is the Duke basketball trainer and obviously, they are Nike. He talked about their guys always wanting to wear Adidas. It’s whatever you don’t have, people want it.
Q: What is your opinion on all of the remix and pro combat uniforms?
A: I think it’s cool for some of those schools. Now, that’s what Oregon is known for. A school like Alabama, they’re not known for that. They are known for their uniform and look. I think about us, them, and Penn State, and down the line of certain schools, and that’s just what they’re known for.
Then for some schools, it’s all right to do because that’s just what it is. I don’t want to say they don’t have an identity, but it is their way of getting flash and recruits.
I’ll be curious to see if the NCAA comes in with another rule saying you can only have so many combinations. I don’t know the amount of money these people are spending to do it. I also don’t know how you would store it all.
I have a heck of a time already. I would love to see the equipment rooms some of these people have, because I think we have a pretty good one, but I would love to see the space these people have to store everything.
Q: Who has the biggest helmet or head on the team?
A: We have a couple of guys in XL, but that’s about it. Nothing outlandish. Nothing like when I first started, it was Toniu Fonoti. He had a huge head and there was only one helmet that would fit him. Now we don’t really have much issue at all.
Q: Since starting the Twitter account, what has the interaction been like?
A: Everybody wants to know about the new gloves and where we are hiding the black uniforms. I don’t know if the rumor started from that one picture, but it just took off.
Follow the equipment guys on Twitter: @NUequipment
Follow Erin on Twitter: @helloerinmarie
Follow us on Twitter: @huskerlocker
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