Gameday begins early for UK football student managers

By Justin Chartrand

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The UK football student managers’ alarms blared at 5:30 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 7.

They geared up to be at the E.J Nutter Training Center by 5:45 a.m., reporting for work more than six hours before the Cats played the University of Louisville at Commonwealth Stadium.

The team has around 20 managers on staff who perform tasks such as preparing jerseys, gear and clothing for both the players and the coaches.

The staff is led by “one of the best men to learn from,” according to senior manager Kortez Wilson. Tom Kalinowski is the head equipment manager and has been guiding the UK football managers for about 40 years.

Sophomore manager Rett Moreland described everything that goes into being a manager.

“Your freshman year is like your initiation. It shows that you’re dedicated because your working full-time and it’s a really tedious job and you do it for nothing. You get a couple shirts and couple pair of shorts but your freshman year is free. That’s how (Tom) weeds out individuals who wants to do it and who doesn’t want to do it,” Moreland said.  “It’s mentally and physically draining and challenging.”

When game day arrives, the managers start with an early breakfast. Moreland described the average gameday morning and everything they do.

“We go over to the stadium, get all the trunks out, prepare the back-up uniforms and the back-up shoulder pads,” Moreland said. “(We) set up the locker room and have their shoulder pads, their helmets and cleats placed in their individual lockers and cubbies. (We) put the jersey on (the shoulder pads), put the pants on a hook, and put their pads up in them.”

After the preparation, they have to set up the field and also provide for the coaches as well by laying out their gameday gear and headsets.

“There’s more prep work than there is actual work during the game,” Moreland said.

During the week, it’s all about “prioritizing,” according to Wilson.

“The one drawback of this (job) is time. Time isn’t an issue as long as you prioritize,” Wilson said. “As long as you say I don’t have time to go out with my friends tonight because I’m getting off here late and I need to go study before I go to bed … It’s just really finding out what you want to be committed to.”

The managers are up early everyday, between 7 and 7:30 a.m. throughout the week, doing laundry, sorting equipment to the coaches and players and getting things ready for game week. It takes about two hours to set up for practices, especially on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, which “are the heavy days,” according to Moreland.

After a long practice, the managers spend anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half cleaning up.

Moreland and Wilson both said that a couple of the biggest advantages to the job is networking and the financial help in school.

“I’ve met numerous coaches and I’ve met numerous NFL players, but the big advantage to this job is the school part, as far as financial assistance for school,” Wilson said.

Moreland is having his room and board covered by the athletics department as compensation for the work as a manager. Wilson has a full scholarship to finish out his possible last year as a manager. This week, the managers will have a Saturday to actually sleep in, as the game versus the University of Florida is not scheduled to start until 7 p.m.