In what can only be considered the surest sign the football season once again looms, the Chiefs’ equipment staff continued the process Wednesday of loading up 10 semitrucks destined for training camp in St. Joseph under the watchful eye of head equipment manager Allen Wright.
This is Wright’s 32nd year with the Chiefs, who are, in many ways, the only organization he’s ever known. He joined the team right out of high school, in June 1983, and has been with them ever since.
“It’s literally the only job I’ve ever had,” Wright said. “So I’m very, very fortunate.”
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But while Wright approaches his job with gratitude, it would be a mistake to underestimate the amount of work it takes to essentially pick up and move the operations of a professional football team, even to a relatively close location like St. Joseph, which is only an hour down the road.
“We set up lockers, we set up all the individual coaches’ rooms, we do more now for each individual than what we did 25 years ago,” Wright said. “We’ve taken, as the National Football League, this to a whole ’nother level. We are responsible for everything that a coach or player needs the minute they walk in the door, and that includes field equipment, that includes shoes, socks, gloves, underwear, everything. (Even) toothpaste.
“So we have a lot on our plate, which is what we love. That’s why it takes five of us, full-time.”
Take the shoes, for instance. Wright said he and his staff are charged with transporting approximately 1,600 pairs — 17 per player — to St. Joseph.
And if that sounds like a lot of shoes to you, well, it is. But it makes sense.
“Well, you have to have multiple sizes in every shoe because you don’t know who is coming in, who is leaving, injuries, whatever ... so as the roster changes, you have to be prepared for every scenario,” Wright said. “There is not a scenario where I can say ‘I don’t have that.’ So if ... a player went out and he didn’t perform at his highest level and he turned to his position coach and he said, ‘Well, I wasn’t able to because I didn’t have this,’ I would be getting a phone call that I didn’t want.
“So I always take way more — above and beyond — than what it takes. I don’t want to have to answer the question why I don’t have something.”
Here’s the thing: if Chiefs coach Andy Reid wasn’t as intent on his players being somewhat uniform about the types of shoes they wear, Wright said they could easily be taking more to St. Joseph.
“That’s one of the great things about Andy Reid — matter of fact, I walk through that locker room and scream it a couple times a day ... the less swag you have, the better off you are,” Wright said. “He’s very particular about what we wear. We have to dress a certain way. So guys that come from places where they’re able to have their swag, we try to keep it more as a team concept.”
That means less stuff to take, overall.
“It’s very simple — we just make it where they’re only able to wear the shoes that they’re able to wear gameday, which is 50 percent red, 50 percent white (or) can be 50 percent black and white,” Wright said. “But anyway, we limit the lime green, the long swag towels, all those things.”
But even if it were the other way, Wright wouldn’t complain. He has a process for packing the team’s equipment and belongings that he believes in, one he’s cultivated over the years.
“Yeah, we have checklists and we have a process, and it’s worked well for us,” Wright said. “Obviously moving to St. Joe is a lot easier than all those years (we spent) in River Falls, where once you left there was no turning back so you had to literally take everything. I can cheat a little bit here and get back in between practices if I have to.”
The goal, of course, is not to miss anything. But given the sheer size of the operation, that’s simply not realistic.
“To say that doesn’t ever happen would be a complete lie — it does happen, we do forget stuff,” Wright said. “But we have a lot of checklists, and being in this business for as long as I’ve been here, we’ve detailed the checklist pretty good. We’ve got a pretty good handle on it ... I’ve got a great crew. I’ve five full-time guys that are as passionate about it as I am, so that makes it a lot easier.”
Fortunately for the equipment staff, they also have time on their side, at least on their way to camp. Rookies report on Tuesday, which is still a few days away, but Wright has been doing this long enough to know the the return trip won’t be nearly as time-friendly.
“We move (there) over five days and we break camp within about three hours,” Wright said with a laugh. “And the best way I can describe it is you take everybody from Fry-Wagner and light their pants on fire, and all the equipment staff and we throw stuff in a trunk and hope it makes it back. It’s a completely different process.”
One, however, that is part of an overall job that Wright hasn’t stopped enjoying, even after 32 years.
The challenge of it, and the fulfillment, he said, makes it all worth it.
“It’s an army of people,” Wright said, “that you rely on to do their jobs.”