The Grave Diggers of the Mizzou Football Team
COLUMBIA - During Mizzou football's fall camp, the players and coaching staff prepare for the upcoming season during practice each day. But for practice to run efficiently, the Tigers need lots of help. That's where the student equipment staff comes into picture.
They're the group in the lime green shirts. People call them names like construction workers and fireflies, but they prefer to be called the student equipment managers. The group is made up of one female manager. She said getting hired to work with all men wasn't the easiest process, especially because before interviewing to work for the Mizzou football team she was a Mizzou cheerleader.
"They were worried at first, so the first couple practices were kind of a trial for me, trying to prove myself, show I'm out here for the right reasons, I'm out here to work," Student Equipment Manager Logan Joehl said. "I love this environment though, being around guys is second nature to me so it's a lot of fun."
Joehl said once the staff saw she could throw a spiral she knew they would accept her, but throwing a spiral was nothing new to Joehl.
"Being with two boys and my father, they definitely taught me, so I would help them out in the front yard in high school," Joehl said. "Run routes and things like that, so it's definitely and environment I'm used to, nothing out of the ordinary for me."
The student equipment staff's day begins at 5:30 a.m., more than an hour before the Mizzou football team takes the field for the day's morning practice.
"We will start by folding towels and setting up the field, getting all the ball bags out and everything like that," Student Equipment Manager Elliott Voss said. "Then, we will eat breakfast in the dining hall and then we will come out to practice."
The student equipment managers explained that practice is the most phsyically demanding part of their day.
"We will spot balls and run balls and help the quarterbacks," Voss said. "I mainly work with the quarterbacks and I help them do all their drills, so I will snap balls in practice and stuff like that."
"We are always running, always on the go, you know moving from field to field," Joehl said.
The running doesn't stop after practice. The student equipment staff cleans up the football field, and heads inside the athletic training complex to continue their work. They explained the post practice work is what goes the most unnoticed.
"We have to do the laundry," Voss said. "First thing that we do when we get back in is we turn over the laundry and put them all in the bags and get all the jerseys washed and stuff like that."
"I mean they work hard out there, they do sweat a lot so they do smell, pretty bad," Joehl said.
After the practice jerseys are washed, the equipment staff is allowed to clock out for the day. Before they know it, they're alarm goes off and they head back to the football fields for more.
"It's kind of fun," Voss said. "We kind of have this little team, we sometimes call ourselves the equipment team. We just all kind of hangout, we are good friends. It's a fun work environment, just setting up the field, being around the players and being around Mizzou football."
The players and coaches do appreactiate the student equipment staff's 11-hour days.
"The players and coaches do appreciate it," Joehl said. "I don't think it goes fully unnoticed. People do thank us, people are appreciative, so it's really cool when someone comes up and says thank you, it does mean a lot, so it doesn't go fully unnoticed."
"It's not easy getting up early and moving all that stuff to the field and to the stadium sometimes, so appreciate everything they do for us," Senior Defensive Lineman Michael Sam said.
"I always like to be as nice as I can to them and let them know that I think they're doing a great job, but they're not going unnoticed," Senior Quarterback James Franklin said.
Along with the compliments they receive, the equipment staff sometimes receives a hard time from the football players.
"When I mess up sometimes they give me a hard time, they will make fun of me if I drop the ball or something like that," Voss said.
Even though a lot of the work the student equipment staff does is not at the front of the house, they explained that without them practice would not run as smoothly.
"I think we are more behind the scenes, but that just comes with the territory, the world has to have grave diggers too," Voss said.