The Proud, The Few, The Equipment Crew

Ever wonder who keeps the Pitt football team running so smoothly?

Sure, Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt and his staff get the Panthers ready for games, and assistant athletic director for football operations Chris LaSala works primarily behind the scenes to keep things under control.

However, Tim Enright, the head equipment manager for football, and his staff are critical components. With graduate assistant Danny Kozusko and about 10 student managers, the Panthers look good on the field in whatever uniform style is being used and whatever the weather.

"We get here every morning at 5 a.m. during camp and get started,'' Enright said during one of his few breaks in a day. "We finish up the laundry from the night before, and the first bus arrives with players at about 6:15. So, we need to have all the jerseys and laundry bags out for them.

We do laundry for about five hours after practice is over and wash maybe 3-400 towels each session. The only thing that's different is the underneath stuff. We have second bag for that. We can wash the jerseys and stuff because that dries a lot quicker, but the underneath stuff is different.''

The players go off to morning meetings after that, and Enright and his staff begin setting things up for the day's practice sessions. They move around the tackling dummies for drills and make sure the field is in good shape. Enright also has to keep an eye on the approaching weather conditions, always a chore when dealing with the ever-changing weather in the Northeast.

On one day, for example, it looked like rain was approaching. The skies were dark, and the forecast called for a big storm. So, Enright and his staff moved everything to the indoor field at the UPMC Complex. Well, the rain never arrived, and it eventually got extremely hot, which made for an uncomfortable practice.

"We haven't been wrong too many times, but if we got caught in a storm outside, it would be wasted time and a wasted practice,'' Enright said. "There's too much stuff on the field to just move it all indoors or back outdoors. It would take too much time. Everything we do is on a schedule.''

It has to be when they're dealing with 105 players in camp, which is a smaller group than the 130 or so that used to be allowed when walk-ons were unlimited. Enright goes back to those days as well. He was a student manager during his undergraduate days at Pitt from 1987-91 and became the head manager as a senior. After graduation, he worked for Martin Media Advertising and also as a counselor at the Shuman Detention Center. He returned to his alma mater in 1993 as an assistant equipment manager for men's basketball and was promoted to his current position in 1997.

"That was the best thing Mr. Pederson could have done,'' LaSala said. "Tim has done a lot for this program over the years, and he's certainly a key part of our staff for the football team. He and his students work very hard.''

Enright says the work isn't difficult, and he prefers to describe it as a lot of fun and very enjoyable. Although few would call doing laundry for more than 100 kids anything but a chore. Enright and his staff also have to clean helmets and shoulder pads daily, as well as fix the hardware on helmets.

"Helmets are pretty standard, you just switch the hardware in and out, and the companies customize the shoulder pads to your specifications,'' Enright said. "You can order anything, any specific needs to accommodate injuries, left-handed quarterbacks, things like that. For a lefty, they cut out that a side to give him more freedom for movement.

"And with an injury, they'll build a side up for added protection. So, it's not that tough, and we've got a great group of players to work with every year. They bring in the right kind of kids, and we have a great group of students here. I've been doing this close to 20 years now, and I have no complaints. I'm a Pittsburgh guy and a Pitt grad, so this is perfect for me.''

Enright praised his top lieutenant, Kozusko, who's in his fifth season with the program. And Walter "Mouse'' McCullough, a volunteer, who has nearly 40 years experience working with the football program received high marks as well.

It's Enright's assistants who handle road trips now, since he doesn't leave early with the equipment truck. The Panthers have an 18-wheeler, provided by Pat Gallagher Trucking, an area company, that leaves the Thursday night or Friday morning before each Saturday road game. Two managers and a driver take 20-30 trunks for the trainers and equipment staff, equipment for 70 traveling players and more than 90 staff members. That stuff jams the truck.

"It's been interesting trying to park an 18-wheeler into a spot that they give us that would barely fit two cars comfortably, and not everywhere is like the setup we have at our facilities,'' Enright said. "The team arrives between 5-6 p.m. Friday for a walk-through at the opposing stadium, and we need to have everything there for them just like it's a home game or practice.

"Then, we unpack bags and clean helmets and put out uniforms for the game the next day. On game day, we get there early and do a lot of work.''

But in the end, it's all about the players, and Enright rattled off some of his favorites over the years like Jerry Olsavsky, Tony Siragusa, Burt Grossman, Larry Fitzgerald, Shawntae Spencer, Lousake Polite, Billy Osborn and Tom Tumulty. For those he didn't work with in the past, he had a chance to meet many at various Pitt alumni golf outings.

"I've met a lot of interesting people over the years, players coaches and administrators, and traveled to a lot of cities and stadiums,'' Enright said. "And there aren't many, if any, that are better than the people and facilities that we have right here at the University of Pittsburgh.''

And with Enright and his staff, the Panthers football program always looks good.

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