Laundry. Lots and lots of laundry.
Game jerseys. Practice gear. Helmets. Pads. Coaches’ apparel. It all goes through the student managers for the Nebraska football team.
“We dress a lot of people,” Preston Stuhr said.
Stuhr, a graduate of Centennial High, is in his senior year at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is the head student manager. He talked about his job at the Utica Senior Center in February.
Stuhr works in the equipment room at UNL, which is separated by a wall from the locker room. He is one of 15 student managers – seven who focus on defense and eight on offense. They’re divided by position group. Stuhr works with the outside linebackers.
“We’re required to be at all the practices,” he said.
He was a volunteer his first year. He was hired after that. The managers work all home game days, but not all get to travel with the team.
“There’s no normal work day,” he said. “It’s not the same as the trainers. We never know what we will do.”
Coach Mike Riley was the coach when Stuhr started as a manager. His teams practiced in the afternoon. Coach Scott Frost has his teams practice in the morning. Managers have to be at the practice site between 6:30 and 7 a.m.
“We’re the first to get there and the last to leave,” Stuhr said.
Schedules are distributed, and the managers set up the drills.
“We place the ball where we’re directed,” Stuhr said. “While that drill’s going on, we place the ball for the next one. We run into the play sometimes.
“We’re really busy during practice.”
Stuhr said it takes 60 to 90 minutes to set everything up and get the practice gear ready for the players. Practice finishes between 11 a.m. and noon. After lunch, the managers head off to class.
Stuhr is a senior business management major and finance minor. He has to take 12 credit hours, which is the minimum to be considered a full-time student. With his job, he takes classes in the afternoons and evenings. He said it’s hard to work, study and spend time with friends.
“I have no social life,” he said.
Stuhr said his favorite day is game day. Work begins the night before for home games. The managers put out the game helmets, put the jerseys on the shoulder pads, put the thigh and knee pads in the game pants, put out cleats and make sure everything is placed at the right locker. Coaches’ shirts and pants are also taken to their lockers before the game.
Managers get to the stadium four to five hours before kickoff. The closer it comes to game time, the more chaotic things become, Stuhr said. Managers help shag balls for the players and check that the coaches’ headphones work.
Managers check in 12 footballs with the referees before the game. If it’s raining, they check in more, he said. They use the same balls every week.
During the game, two to three will serve as ball boys, while others hold play signs and the nets. Last year, Stuhr was one who held up personnel signs.
Stuhr said he helped signal in plays during his senior year at Centennial, and that experience helped him get his current job.
“I had no knowledge before,” he said.
Away games are similar, he said. The equipment truck arrives at the stadium at 5 p.m. Friday, and the managers on the trip unpack the gear and set up the team’s locker room.
“You have to pack the truck right,” Stuhr said. “If you don’t, you have to re-do it, and the team waits for you.”
He said Minnesota’s locker rooms have been the best he’s seen outside of Nebraska. Maryland’s are small, and Northwestern’s are really small. Illinois is decent, and Iowa is pink.
This will be Stuhr’s fifth and final football season as a student manager.
“I wanted to work as many seasons as I could,” he said. “I wanted to make a bowl game and go to Ireland.”
But there’s always laundry.
“That’s not the most fun,” Stuhr said.
Each player has his own towels, in addition to all the practice and game gear.
“We have two rooms filled with shelves of gear,” Stuhr said.
It’s sorted by year, size and coach or players, he said. Smaller lockers are used to sort some items in the summer, organizing them before the season starts.
Organization is key to keeping everything straight for the 155 players and the coaching staff. Five industrial-size washing machines and four dryers are kept busy every day. Stuhr said laundry starts right after practice and doesn’t get done until 4 or 4:30 p.m.
“I can fold towels really fast,” he said.
In addition to the laundry, the managers are responsible for cleaning the helmets each week and putting new stripes and Ns on them before each game. Each player has two helmets – one for practices and one for games.
When Thursday’s practice is done, the practice helmets are replaced with game helmets. On Sunday, the game helmets are taken for cleaning, disinfecting, repairs and replacing the designs.
“It’s hard to make the stripe straight,” Stuhr said. “Taking the liners out is the worst by far. I wish they would do it themselves.”
Also on Sunday, the managers get the roster for the next week’s opponent. They sort out the right numbered jerseys for the offensive scout team so the defense knows who to watch for. They also watch plays and hold signs for the various formations.
It’s never hard to reach the required number of hours, he said, adding that he often works 50 to 60 hours per week.
“There’s always stuff to do,” he said. “You have to manage your time well.”