When the ULM Warhawks take to the field, it comes after hours of preparation by the coaching staff. The first thing noticed though by fans is the uniform and helmet worn by the players. This too is put together by a staff, the Warhawk Equipment staff.
With just a full-time staff of one, and a group of five student workers, this group ensures that when ULM takes to the field they have everything they need and look good while there.
"I got into doing all this after being recruited to play football here," Director of Equipment Clay Lewis said. "I talked with (former) assistant Bob Leahy about how I could still be a part of the team and just loved every minute of it. The hours are often from sunrise to sunset, not back-breaking work, just lots of long hours."
In wee hours of a Sunday morning, a white, unmarked truck pulls into the Malone Stadium parking lot. In it are the player's and coach's game worn attire fresh, or not really so fresh, after an eight and a half hour ride back from Bowling Green, Ky. While the smell is obnoxious to some, the sweat in the soiled jerseys tells of another win for this season's team.
"It's a test of your will when you come in from a road game and the sun is coming up," student worker Asa Stone said. "There's a whole locker room to unload and then get everything setup before practice just a few hours later. Opening that truck door, the smell takes some getting used to, but it makes it so worth it and easier on travel especially after a win."
Hours later, the staff is out on the practice field to setup and tear down various drills and pads needed for the two and a half hour session. A few on the staff even act as ball boys for live drills, while others hold the first down markers on the sidelines.
Monday rolls around with the team being off, however Lewis is hard at work adding the talon stickers as directed by Head Coach Todd Berry for player's prior game performance.
This practice ritual continues through the week until after the Thursday session and during the team's walk-through on Friday. During this time, the staff cleans the helmets, while replacing any torn or scuffed Warhawk heads. Some helmet have gashes in them that will be filled with paint at a later date, while most are returned to shine like new after some serious scrubbing.
"It just takes a lot of hard scrubbing and then patience," one of the student workers says.
All of this is echoed by another part of the team.
"Taking all the decals off and making sure they lineup just right, that's definitely the hardest part of the job," Stone said.
All the player's lockers are lined out with all their pads, pants, socks, and cleats ready. Completing the player's locker room allows the coach's locker room to be setup. Freshly pressed pants and white shirts all round, except the black polo worn by defensive coordinator Troy Reffett.
"The coaches are great to work with," Lewis said. "They really don't have any special request except for (Head Coach Todd) Berry. He always wants a maroon visor, and that's for practice and games, so I always make sure he has one on his locker."
After taking care of how the Warhawk uniforms look, it's time to take to the field for the setup of the coach's headsets, and pylons around the end zones. While the importance of the headsets allows the ULM coach's to discuss plays with one another and make adjustments on the fly, the conversations during testing are far stretched from anything football related.
Once the work is done, the staff finally gets a break for brunch; however on the road it's time for one of their traditions; a football game of their own.
After the game, laundry is collected with stains treated and jerseys hung out to dry. On the road, the truck is loaded for cleaning upon return to Malone Stadium; starting the cycle all over again.
For continual updates from the Warhawk Equipment staff, follow them on Twitter - @WarhawksEquipMe