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“Like, a tennis court shoe,” said a smiling Spencer Farley, one of the team’s assistant equipment managers.
Nike has stopped making his game shoes, and Miles, 61, goes through two to three pairs per season. LSU ordered 24 pairs of the shoe when Miles moved on from his last style in 2012. Saturday in Tiger Stadium. The afternoon locker room preparation is an efficient and ritual like occasion. the day before a home game and ends at about 5. Trunks of football equipment and clothes are transported from the football operations building to Tiger Stadium in a 10 foot moving truck. It takes three trips.
The trunks are unloaded and unpacked, and their contents are dispersed through LSU’s newly renovated stadium locker room.
“This is where the magic happens,” Farley said as he walks into the equipment room.
The equipment room is located across a hallway from the team’s plush locker room. All of this is beneath Tiger Stadium’s north end zone seating area. A glassless window opens from the equipment room to the locker room, making it easy for players to swing by for what Farley calls “their swag.”
This includes white towels emblazoned with the LSU Tiger head logo the one you see dangling off the hip of quarterback Brandon Harris. It also includes things like gloves and socks, in some cases more than one pair. Some players wear two pairs of socks during games. Farley shook his head.
“Their superstitions,” he said.
A 20 year old sign graces the wall of the equipment room. It’s easily seen from the locker room through that gaping window: “We issue everything except guts,” it reads.
On this Friday afternoon, Grigus is unpacking a giant black trunk full of the coaching staff’s game day attire. Like the players, the staff members have lockers, too. They’re small and shoved in a tiny cove off the equipment room and adjacent to a country club style sauna.
Grigus rolls a rack of hanging clothes into the small area and begins placing the staff’s game day uniforms, so to speak, in their lockers: white polo shirt, pair of khaki pants, gray Nikes and two hats. They get the option of purple or white hats.
Grigus is playfully annoyed as he’s unpacking the gear. He has just one hat for Steve Kragthorpe, Miles’ special assistant and the chief of staff.
Kragthorpe forgot to return his purple hat to Grigus after last week’s game. Grumble.
“Most equipment people are OCD,” said equipment director Greg Stringfellow, referring to obsessive compulsive disorder. “(Grigus) is the most OCD person we have here.”
Stringfellow is the godfather of this group of equipment guys, 16 in all. There also are about 10 volunteer students who help once a week throughout the season; they’re working to become full time student managers.
Farley called that group “the minor leagues.” Becoming one of the 12 full time student managers is nothing to sneeze at. Each is receiving some scholarship money, and it’s all based on experience. The two head student managers are getting a full ride.
One of them is Jack DeGeneres, a 22 year old fifth year senior. DeGeneres and his brother are both student managers. And their father? He was a student manager back in the 1990s.
The DeGenereses are one of two sets of brothers on the equipment staff. Patrick Hood and his brother are student managers. Their dad? You guessed it: a former manager.
“Every game day when I was a kid, my dad would take me down here,” Hood said, glancing around LSU’s locker room as he hung up jerseys, pads and pants.
Indeed, there are legacy student managers.
“This is like a fraternity,” DeGeneres said. “It’s like a brotherhood.”
It shows. On the wall of the equipment room, a photo of each equipment staff for the past 20 years or more hangs, side by side. Farley pointed to the 1994 photo.