Assisted by head manager Rusty Holley, Conerly and his staff care very much. And because of that, there is no doubt that the Tide will be outfitted for optimum performance when it hits the field against Iowa State.
Just packing the team to go to a normal away game is hard enough, but preparing the squad to play in a bowl game is even more complicated than normal. Leaving from Tuscaloosa on December 20th, the equipment staff took three 24-foot trucks carrying individual player bags and all their other normal supply trunks.
If this were a normal trip to, say, Oxford or Knoxville, that would be enough to keep the team in good shape. However, as Conerly explained, the trip to Shreveport will be quite a different story. "This trip is unusual in that we leave so early, so we have to pack for all different weather conditions. We have to make sure that not only the players have both cool and warm clothes, but we have to make sure the coaches have appropriate clothes as well."
Conerly went on to tell another way that bowl preparation is set apart from a normal road trip: you have to pack not just to play, but also to practice. "We have to take everything the team needs to practice, other than the large sleds for the linemen," Conerly says. "We have to make it so that the team can practice anything in the Independence Bowl that they could on the practice field (in Tuscaloosa)."
When Conerly and his staff arrived at the hotel in Shreveport on the 20th, their first task was to turn the hotel into a temporary University of Alabama athletic complex. Rooms are turned into coaches' offices, secretarial offices, training rooms, and even film rooms. "We have to carry most of the audio/visual equipment with us, because the coaches want to watch film all week leading up to the game," Conerly explained.
The 21st of December is used to transfer all practice and game supplies from the trucks to the Independence Bowl Stadium. Some teams choose to practice at neutral sites when they make a trip to a bowl game, but Alabama will conduct all its practices inside the stadium. Therefore, the locker room must be stocked with everything that the team would need to dress for practice or a game, including several different types of shoes.
The playing surface at the Independence Bowl is Field-Turf, the same synthetic surface that covers the ground at Nebraska's Memorial Stadium. Oddly enough, this will be the first time that the University of Alabama has ever played on the Field-Turf surface. Because of the new turf, the staff will pack regular grass cleats (which most teams use on this surface), turf shoes, and the players' regular alternate molded cleats. Therefore, the team will have ample chance to see which shoes work the best on the unfamiliar surface.
When the squad arrives on the 22nd, the first order of business will be taking a team picture, which will be put on a plaque and given to each member of the squad. When practice begins, a new challenge will meet the Tide's managing crew: dirty clothes.
However, this won't a problem for long, as Conerly's staff will have set up a laundry service at the bowl site long before the first pair of sparkling white pants hits the grass.
Clearly, getting the Crimson Tide ready to play in the Independence Bowl is no easy task. Much time and preparation, along with some serious leg work, is required to assure that the team will be provided with everything it needs to be successful in their quest for a 29th bowl victory.
However, Tank Conerly, Rusty Holley, and their crew (which includes managers Ben Harrelson, Daryl Smith, Nathan Clark, Jason Jones, Stephen Seagrove, Allen Ishmael, Jason Hudson, Bradley Burroughs, Chad Michael, Justin Parrish, Carl Berryhill, and Mathew Jackson) are up to the task of outfitting the Tide for victory.
Wherever or whenever the University of Alabama takes the field, it is assured that they are there because of the hard work and support of a behind the scenes staff that has them dressed for success.