He's often the first person on the job at the LSU Athletic Department, arriving before 5 a.m. If something has to be done, his answer is always the same, "No problem." And his staff is one of the hardest working support teams the department has.
When a student had spent a few years working with him and then showed an interest in my department, I always said the same thing – I know you have the dedication and work ethic necessary to be successful because you were taught by example.
And so it's sadly ironic that a man so full of life would now be handed such a difficult challenge. But you have to wonder, "Who among us is more capable of handling it?"
Jeff Boss, LSU's Equipment Manager for the past 23 years, is undergoing treatment for brain cancer. And while my immediate reaction was how unfair it is that such a great family should be given such a difficult fight; after talking with Jeff and his wonderful wife Karen, you realize that these are the kind of people who unknowingly use adversity to teach the rest of us the meaning of courage and grace.
As LSU's equipment manager, Jeff and his staff are responsible for maintaining all football equipment and supervising activities in the locker rooms and practice fields. Like most support staff, fans rarely see the work they do, but the teams know they can't take the field without them.
He's the one responsible for making sure every piece of equipment is safe, and every uniform is true to the pride and tradition of the team. His staff ships out for road games a day ahead of the team so that when the Tigers step off the plane, their equipment is in order and they're ready to go to work. After a great win when the team boards the plane for home, Jeff's staff works hours more loading the moving vans that will take the equipment home and get it ready in time to practice again.
He's the one who makes sure the football team and the bench area is cool in hot weather, warm in cold weather, dry when it's raining. That every coach and player's uniform represents LSU in the best way possible. That every helmet is safe when the players take the field. That no one ever has to think of those things… they're just there.
I remember when Jeff won the Athletic Equipment Managers Association's "Glenn Sharp Award", naming him "Equipment Manager of the Year" in 1990. He had his usual humble, "It's no big deal" attitude even though he was being recognized by his peers for dedication and service above all others in the country – high school, college or professional team. As Fox Sports would say "The Best Damn Equipment Manager Period."
What an honor.
Jeff has worked with seven football coaches since he came to LSU from Morgan City High School where he was a teacher and football coach.
I would venture to say that every one of them will tell you he is the best equipment manager they ever had. His expertise even led to him designing and developing a football shoe, the "Boss Shark", which was nationally marketed for intercollegiate play by Nike.
He has mentored hundreds of young men, teaching them things like responsibility, dedication and loyalty. Jeff told me he now feels like he is just being carried along by all the friends and family who have called to offer support. After 30 years of teaching, mentoring, and encouraging others, it's only fitting that our prayers and positive thoughts lift him, Karen and their daughter B.J.; and that the combined force of our support gives him the strength he needs to keep up the good fight.
There is no doubt in my mind that when the Tigers take the field for spring practice, Jeff will be there making sure that the equipment is ready for play. After all, it wasn't long after undergoing surgery that he was back at the office working a couple of hours a day, building up his strength, telling Karen not to fuss over him. The best thing about the family of sports is that its powerful unity gives us an enhanced ability to both celebrate and overcome obstacles. That is part of what makes champions possible.
Please join the entire LSU family in wishing Jeff Boss good health and a speedy recovery. And remember, when you see him and ask how he's doing, and he says, "Fan-tastic!"… he really means it.
From the mailbag: Thanks for your feedback on the TAF ticket proposal. There are rumors that a compromise may be in the works before the legislative session begins in hopes of avoiding more divisiveness among LSU supporters . More on that next month.