Equipment Managers Follow Boss' Example
This story commissioned by Capital One Bank:
On Monday, Oct. 27, 2003, the LSU family lost a man whose impact on the program rivals that of any athletic achievement. Longtime Equipment Manager Jeff Boss had just lost his 10-month battle with cancer.
"A part of LSU died today," former LSU Athletic Director Skip Bertman said at the time of Boss's passing. "Jeff Boss was at the heart of everything that LSU stands for. His positive attitude each and every day of the year was an inspiration to everyone who crossed his path. He made LSU a better place to be."
One month prior to Boss's death, LSU honored its longtime equipment manager with a formal ceremony that officially named the locker room in his honor. The Tigers dedicated the 2003 season to Boss by wearing the letters "JB" on the back of their helmets and as a patch on their jerseys.
Head Equipment Manager Greg Stringfellow served as the interim equipment manager during LSU's National Championship season in 2003, stepping in for Boss, and was elevated to the position full-time in the spring of 2004.
"Coach Boss was a leader in the industry that I am in," Stringfellow said. "He was an innovator and was very highly respected within the industry. He had a handbook of ways people handled themselves, and that is how we still do it today. He gave me the ability to do the job we do to today."
Stringfellow began working for LSU as an equipment manager as a student in 1991. His current staff consists of three full-time assistant managers, Jeff Grigus, Louis Bourgeois and Ferrell Shillings in addition to a sizeable student staff.
During his time under Boss, Stringfellow realized that the true secret to being a successful equipment manager is creating a comfort level for players and coaches.
"We do our job to make sure that the guys and the coaches have what they need," Stringellow said. "We're there to handle the little problems and make little things happen so that they feel comfortable. When they're not comfortable, we have a problem."
During the season, the life of an equipment manager goes hand-in-hand with the football team. Throughout the week, equipment managers are responsible for setting up practice, maintaining the team's uniforms and handling the team's gear.
On a typical 7 p.m. game day, the equipment managers arrive at work 12 hours prior to kickoff. Their first task of the day is to get to the football operations to unload Friday's laundry. The crew arrives in Tiger Stadium around 9 a.m. and begins setting up for the game.
The equipment managers first set up the players' lockers individually, with each athlete's specific needs considered. The locker room is then used for recruiting tours, donor tours and friends and family tours.
After the locker room is perfected, at around 2 p.m., the equipment managers bring the coaching staff from the football operations building to the team hotel. At 4 p.m., the entire equipment staff reports to the game.
The first order of business is setting up the field. The equipment managers make sure the bench area is set up and that the communication networks are operating correctly. Around 5 p.m., two hours before kickoff, the team will show up.
"From that point on, it is just constant flow," Stringfellow said. "I typically handle all of Coach Miles' needs. He has a lot of visitors, guests, recruits and former players that come in to see him. During the process of him getting ready, we bring them in."
While Stringfellow is handling Coach Miles' pregame requests, the rest of the staff is making sure the players are dressed properly and have what they need for the game. An hour before kickoff, the student-athletes come out on the field for pregame warm ups.
During the game, the equipment managers run balls, chart plays and handle odd and end jobs for the coaches. Stringfellow emphasizes that his students play a critical role in all of the day's processes.
"Throughout the game, we are handling a lot of problems," Stringfellow said. "The students are the ones who do a lot of the work and the set up. They take a lot of pride in making sure the locker room looks good, and the helmets look good. The whole game day set up is mainly attributed to them, and the hard work they do to make things happen. They are the ones who take a lot of pride in it."
Lost in the high pressure of the position is the behind the scenes humor that goes with the territory. Stringfellow recalls a variety of superstitions, from student-athletes sticking pictures in their helmets as mementos, to wearing shirts with barely any thread under their jerseys.
"I used to have to tie Kevin Faulk's shoes before the game," Stringfellow said. "Every game I had to tie them. That was his thing to make him feel comfortable. That is just the player's way. Coaches are just as bad. There are so many superstitions out there. It is just amazing."
Despite all of the hard work and effort, the equipment managers are satisfied staying under the radar.
"We don't do our job for fame or credit. Our greatest thanks come when the team has success," Stringfellow said. "We get treated with a lot of respect because they understand the job that we do. As with a lot of the support groups, we don't need to go out there and toot our horn. They respect us for the work and support that we give to them."
Stringfellow credits the program's continued success to the lessons he learned under Boss.
"Coach Boss gave me the knowledge, the expertise and the work ethic," Stringfellow said. "That is why I owe it all to him. Everyone who comes out of this program does. Even people who never knew the man, owe it to the man. Yes the program has changed to keep up with the changes over the last 10 years, but the program is really attributed to him and all the hard work he put in over his years here."