Nov. 21, 2011
For the University of Georgia football team, looking sharp on gamedays starts with the uniform. Making sure that everyone's looks good and working properly is a full-time job for Equipment Manager John Meshad and his staff. Getting prepared for a home game takes a lot of time and effort from the equipment room.
After a Saturday between the hedges, game helmets, cleats, pants and jerseys are all collected and what needs to be stain treated is done immediately to get any stains out. Everything is then organized that night into piles of dirty clothes and towels from the stadium and washing will begin and continue on through Sunday into Monday.
Once everything is clean, student managers come in Monday afternoon to start putting everything back up in the players' game lockers. Pants are folded and placed in the lockers while jerseys are hung and helmets are cleaned off. Mondays are also another day when Meshad makes sure that they have all the travel suits that the guys wear to the hotel. After they are collected, Meshad has a checklist to make sure they have every item back from the players.
With travel suits collected, Meshad takes them to the dry cleaners on Tuesdays. "If I wash them myself, I tend to shrink those things, and they are so expensive that we don't even mess around with them anymore."
Tuesdays also mark the day that the equipment team will get a bone list from academics to start putting them on the helmets. They then clean up the `G' and stripe all the game helmets that need it, and put them back in the players' game lockers and get out the practice helmets, as each player has one of each.
Meshad will have to work with CoachComm as well to make sure that the coaches can communicate on Saturday from on the field up to the boxes. "We have a frequency downloader that we have to do, and I have to get a microchip that will download the frequency. That's on Tuesdays when they usually email me the frequency."
While making sure that the team has everything they need for practice, preparing for a Saturday game has to stay at the forefront of Meshad's mind. Preparing starts with taking such items like soap and as many as 300 towels to the stadium Wednesday afternoons and Thursdays.
On Thursdays, Meshad will pick up the travel suits from the dry cleaners and organize those by arranging them in numerical order so when Friday rolls around the players can come pick them up.
Gamedays come early for the equipment staff, as their day begins six or seven hours before kickoff. That morning they will put out the game helmet, pant and jersey in the players' lockers and will provide anything else that is needed, including wristbands, socks, and dri-fit or padded shirts.
"Saturday is as a busy as it can be from the time we get here to the time we leave," Meshad said. "It's usually about 12-13 hours, but we are running around like crazy. But if you plan properly, get ready for it and thinking forwardly throughout the week, it runs a lot smoother than if you don't try to think of everything in advance."
During the games, Meshad makes sure everything runs efficiently. With two BellSouth employees to help if something goes wrong with the headsets, Meshad can keep an eye on the field, specifically if a player's helmet becomes broken.
"I watch real closely in the game, and a lot of times the chin straps have plastic buckles on the helmet, and if they crack then it will pop off. That is probably the biggest problem you will see because if these crack, the chin strap won't stay on anymore."
"A lot of people think that I have something to do with all these uniform changes, and I don't," Meshad said. "I basically have nothing to do with that. Coach Richt will ask me my opinion on a few things, but when it is a big uniform change, it's above my head."
Working in the equipment room comes with many demands. However, there are many upsides to the job. Outside of his love for college football and running onto the field on Saturdays, being around the team is one of Meshad's favorite benefits.
"It is awesome just to watch the players grow and change into men," Meshad said. "You will see a freshman come in, and he is kind of a punk. You think to yourself that this guy isn't going to make it a month. Then you watch him slowly start to buy in and believing in what we are doing, and he will start to do what you actually want him to do. For some guys it takes three years, and for some three weeks. It is neat to watch those guys finally get it and grow into men and start doing things the right way."