STILLWATER — You could call this the lighter side of football talk in the summer, but is there anything light about loading an 18-wheel tractor trailer and carting all the necessities to outfit a college football team halfway or more across the country? I’ll answer that, No. Oklahoma State football equipment coordinator Justin Williams and his staff don’t have a lot of time to relax and take vacations during the summer.
Williams and his assistants Len Magby and Matt Hoelting, along with a crew of student managers, are busy receiving close to $1-million worth of uniforms, shoes, and equipment this summer and have already started the process of getting ready for monster road trip to start the season as the Cowboys will travel some 1,900-miles to Corvallis, Oregon. More about the road trip later in our story, but first, a little football fashion. Oklahoma State has been on the cutting edge of uniform splendor as Williams and former equipment coordinator Matt “The Chief” Davis along with Nike designers put together a comprehensive uniform set that represents Oklahoma State football and it’s traditions. They are going into the fourth season of that uniform brand and it has held up well.
Part of the reason for that is that Williams and his staff have used the helmet to add new looks and keep the uniform feeling fresh and new overall. One of the most popular looks debuted in the 2017 opener at home with Tulsa and it looks like that helmet has sparked a run of nostalgia across the country. It was the Patriot Pete helmet. The name comes from the comparison to the old school Boston or New England Patriots helmet with the large Patriot figure snapping the ball like a center. The Helmet also had three big stripes over the top from front to back. The Pete version has the full figured Pistol Pete with three big stripes (orange and black) over a white helmet.
When Oklahoma State beat Missouri in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, the Tigers debuted a white helmet with the big bold stripes and a “sailor Tiger” old school cartoon looking logo. Imitation or copy is the highest form of flattery.
“Well, I mean, I’d like to think so, obviously, we threw that thing out there my first year,” Justin Williams said of the Patriot Pete helmet. “We got a really good response with it when I first saw Missouri’s helmets for last year’s game, it very much resembled the theme that we went with, with their own logos on the side of it. I think the I’ve got a lot of comments on the stripes used on that helmet. Little things like that, a lot of people really enjoyed and thought it was really sharp. So we’ve added to it, using the stripes on a helmet with our big brand logo on the side, and I think people like it.”
Williams promised that his staff will have some new looks to throw out there this season. Oklahoma State won an award last season for the best nostalgic or throwback uniform with the 1988 Barry Sanders Heisman Trophy anniversary uniform they wore for homecoming. Williams confirms the tradition of honoring past teams with a homecoming helmet will continue.
More important in the area of safety, there are two new scientific additions to the equipment process. Williams said Oklahoma State has teamed with Riddell, a prominent helmet maker to bring in a scanner that scans player’s heads and allows for their helmet to be built to the exact specifications and measurements of their head. Williams believes that is the new wave to insuring better safety and a reduction in head injuries.
From the competition side, speed is the most desired trait in players, particularly skill players on offense and the defensive players that have to pursue them. The Cowboys equipment staff is teaming up with their uniform and shoe supplier Nike to have players feet scanned and then shoes and built to their exact specs in length, width, and arch. Now, that has to make a player faster.
As always the coaches will have a new sideline wardrobe and my spying on that reveals a two-tone (white-gray, black-orange, and orange-white) coaches polo for this season.
All of the helmets, shoulder pads, shoes, uniforms, footballs, and coaches garb have to get to the game. Once again, they will do it in style with the Cowboys football 18=wheel tractor-trailer. The opening trip is a long one, but there is also a trip to Morgantown, W.V. and one to Ames, Iowa during the season.
First things first as it will be on to Corvallis for the Friday, Aug. 30 opener.
“I did the math earlier, we’re already working on trying to get the truck prepared for the trip and working with Jeff Baker, who does our driving for us,” Williams explained. “He’s from Kremlin, Oklahoma, and I coordinate with him about finding the second driver and the operation for this trip. But the trip to Corvallis by itself, to go there and back, is estimated going to be more than the total amount of miles we drove last year by about 300.”
To get the season record in road trip mileage, Williams said the Cowboys will need a long bowl trip. His first year as the head equipment coordinator in 2017 included trips to Mobile, Ala. and Pittsburgh, Pa. to start the season and then the Cowboys went to Orlando, Fla. for the Camping World Bowl against Virginia Tech.
In my role as the sideline reporter on the Cowboys Radio Network where I team with Dave Hunziker, John Holcomb, and our producer/engineer Britt Lockhart, we thank Justin and his team because they truck our radio equipment. In fact, they move the medical staff, the video staff, and for bowls the entire football staff.
“You know, it takes an army to do that as well,” Williams said giving credit across the board. “And luckily for us we work hand in hand with Scott Parker (head football trainer) and his staff. They’re great group and then Zack Ramsey (video coordinator), he and his staff are a great group to work with. And of course, operations wise, Rod Johnson (assistant director of football operations) really helps with that a lot there. So it’s just really good to work with great people, working together, and pulling on the same rope because you know, when you make a trip over 1900 miles worth the trip it wears on you a little bit. It’s part of the job moving the team on a trip to Corvallis.”
Williams, hired by Mike Gundy when Davis moved up in the athletic department into a job in facilities, has earned that rust. It’s kind of like the old Jackson Browne song, The Load Out. Browne wrote the song to honor his roadies that moved the band from concert arena or venue to the next stop.
Now roll them cases out and lift them amps
Haul them trusses down and get’em up them ramps
Cause when it comes to moving me
You guys are the champs
I’m guessing Gundy, his staff, and the players feel that same way every road trip. They should because in both the moving and the preparation, Williams and his staff are as good as it gets in college football.