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Beyond the Uniform: Utah Football's Equipment Staff

Like an expensive watch, it takes a lot of unseen pieces to keep everything on time and running smoothly. For the University of Utah football program, the equipment staff is more than just uniforms and game balls.

There were plenty of 8:30 p.m. kickoffs this season for Utah football. If you thought the late start times were hard on you, imagine having to go home, account for and wash every piece of clothing you own before having to prep for the next day all before going to bed just before 6 a.m.

Doesn't sound like fun does it? For the Director of Football Equipment Kelly Sharitt and his staff, this is par for the course during the regular football season at Utah.

Utah football equipment staff

Kelly started his career at the University of Utah in 2008. You remember the 2008 season, Sugar Bowl and all of that undefeated stuff? Since then, the football program has come a very long way.

"When I first got here, we had one helmet, they would practice in the that helmet all week and then we would get them cleaned and prepped for the games on Saturday. Now, we have 3 game helmets and one that is exclusively for practice," Kelly said. "Things have really changed from when I first arrived here. Everything from facilities to the way we run practice has completely changed."

As Kelly showed me around the equipment room, I could not help but notice the care and pride he and his staff take in the job they do. They are a full service staff of eight to 10, depending on the student employees and volunteers. That's a very small staff considering the responsibilities they have.

Each day the equipment staff is tasked with keeping track of every piece of equipment that goes in and out of their possession and to whom it belongs. They meet with the team captains every week to decide which uniform combination to wear for the next game, discuss any issues with equipment, and make repairs. They also have to clean, repair, re-sticker, and keep every helmet in optimal condition throughout the season. They also team up with Under Armour and the university designers to come up with new concepts for future uniforms and discuss what the players do and don't like. The white helmet that has turned out to be the crown jewel of this season, was the brainchild of the equipment staff that Kelly said was years in the making, and he said that they have much more to come.

Aside from their responsibilities for uniforms and equipment, they play a very significant role in the management and operation of every practice and throughout the actual games.

What you might not realize is that you have most likely seen each and every one of the equipment staff on the field and on TV. They are constantly working to keep things running smoothly for everyone involved in the game. For instance, there are guys taking care of helmets and equipment issues on the sidelines, running the goal post nets, keeping the refs hydrated, keeping time with the game clock to ensure everything is on track, and, oh yeah, they also play a huge part in relaying plays to the players on the field.

Utah football equipment staff

I was fortunate enough to spend time with the equipment staff in the hours leading up to the home showdown with Oregon. The concourse was quiet. The bathrooms were empty, and there was music playing throughout the stadium as the ESPN camera crews readied themselves. In the Utah locker room the Assistant Director, Cody, was overseeing the locker room set-up with a quiet confidence.

"We have a spreadsheet of what each player wants for game day, and it's our job to make sure that happens," Cody said. "Our goal is to make sure that when the players come in to get dressed, they don't have to ask us for anything. We want them to have everything they need, exactly how they like it."

Utah football equipment staff

The equipment staff takes pride in what they do because they are a part of what makes Utah's football team successful.

"It would be foolish to think that we have any effect on what happens on the field, but we do feel like we are a very big part of what it takes to make this program work," Kelly said. "We work hard, and we take pride in what we do."

I talked to each of the staff individually and asked them what was the best part of being on this staff. Not surprisingly, the answer was the "relationships." Everyone stated that they really do feel like they are a part of a family. From the interaction with players and coaches, to the way the different areas of support staff interact and work together.

The "family" concept at Utah has been documented well, and while some may think that it's cheesy or a gimmick, those that experience it and live it everyday would tell you that whether you coach, play, or are involved in any other capacity, it truly is and will always be a family.

On game day, remember to watch the sidelines for more than the touchdown celebrations and injuries. The equipment staff is working hard all throughout the game (and before and afterward) to keep the Utah football program running like a well-oiled machine.