How do the Dawgs get to San Antonio?

Believe it or not, there's more that goes into the Husky football program than figuring out how to stop players like Heisman Trophy Winner Robert Griffin III and the high powered Baylor offense. While this will be the number one task for the Dawgs come the night of December 29 in the 19th Valero Alamo Bowl, it wouldn't be possible without the efforts of Bart Fullmer and his UW equipment staff.

Fullmer started as a student equipment manager in 1983 before making it onto the staff in 1987, so this is surely not his first rodeo.

"We have about 35,000 pounds of equipment, 80 footballs, plus another 70 (backup footballs), 12 game balls and extra gloves, shoes, helmets, anything that you can think of that may possibly be needed for a week of practice," said Fullmer.

The only thing they seemed to have left behind is a partridge in a pear tree.

As explained by Fullmer, all of the equipment was shipped down on a truck that left a few days before the team was set to arrive in San Antonio on the 23rd. "Last year we took two (trucks) and brought a bunch of sleds and things like that because we had open practices where recruits could come and things like that just because San Diego is in one of our major recruiting areas," he said. "This year they (the bowl practice site) have a little more equipment there and they have a lot better weight room so we decided since we're having closed practices not to send a second truck. Also due to the cost it was a lot more expensive to go to San Antonio than to San Diego, where we could send one driver with each truck to San Diego. With the time frame we had, we had the (equipment) team drive 24 hours, and basically drive straight through to get there in time. So the cost would have been quite a bit more to have two trucks go down."

So how much does it cost to send a truck loaded with 35,000 pounds of equipment from Seattle to San Antonio? "One truck will be between $17-$18,000 for the round trip, plus loading, unloading, moving stuff between practice site and game site and bringing the drivers home for Christmas, then flying them back down instead of having them stay down there the whole time," said Fullmer. "The company is AirVan and they do a great job for us and they make those decisions. We just tell them when we need the trucks and then they decide how they're going to handle the logistics with their drivers."

In order for the truck drivers to unload all of the equipment in the correct places efficiently, Fullmer went to San Antonio a week earlier to sort out the logistics. "Basically what you want to do is see your sites and see what you have to work with," he said. "You go to the hotel, figure out where your meeting rooms are going to be, where you're going to eat, where you're going to have your activities, offices, meeting rooms and that kind of thing.

"And then look at the logistics of moving in. We set up a football office and figure out how that's going to work. We also meet with the bowl representatives and go through the (bowl) manual and have questions and answers about activities and game day prep. Then we view the game sites, see your locker rooms, and also see the field – know what side you're going to be on, press box and that kind of thing for the coaches. Then you go to the practice site and see what you have to work with there as far as locker rooms, weight room, what kind of practice field they have, and what if any equipment they have that you can use. It's just getting an idea about preparations so you know what you need to bring down there to have a successful week of practice."

Once the locations are squared away and the equipment is safely in San Antonio, the next step is bringing the personnel to Texas. The Huskies had a few days off between their last practice in Seattle and their departure, so many of the players went home to be with their families for early holiday celebrations.

How do the players reconvene and make the trek to San Antonio? Simply, there are guys flying in from all over the place. Per NCAA rules the school can pay for two legs of travel, so if the player wants to fly from Seattle to wherever home may be he can pick up that cost. Then the school can pick up his cost from his home to the bowl site and then back to his home, and then he has to pick up the cost getting back to school. Or they may pay for their one leg home and then they'll fly back with the team and just be back at school for when the new quarter starts a few days later. It just depends on the logistics of each player and how hard or easy it is to get flights in and out and how much time they would actually be able to spend at home and whether it's worth it to them or not.

Once the team is settled in San Antonio, the next hurdle is making sure the practices resemble the same up-tempo workouts as they were back in Seattle. The job of the equipment staff is to make sure the coaches have everything they need at their disposal. The key to successful practices are the student managers, who have been integral all year in keeping practices running smoothly.

"This year we have thirteen (student managers), which is a few more than we usually carry," said Fullmer. "I got a couple volunteers so that helped us so we have some extra guys, but normally we'll carry a staff of eleven or twelve and we take all our managers on the trip, which is good. The reason we do that is we want our practices to run basically the same as they do here. We want our guys to be as comfortable as possible; we want our coaches to be as comfortable as possible as far as the routine.

"You don't want to change up a bunch of things. You want to keep guys in their comfort zones so they can concentrate on the task at hand. Our managers are very instrumental in keeping our practices running quickly so we want to keep that pace and keep that mentality the whole week of practice while they're down there."

Now that practices are complete and the team is prepared to take on the Baylor Bears, the offense will need to be at full tilt to keep up with Baylor's attack. That means selecting Keith Price's signature footballs so that Price can execute at peak performance.

"For any college football game you can give the officials twelve game balls," Fullmer said. "What we do is during the week we have Keith come in and he goes through all of our footballs. By about the second or third game we have an idea of what he likes so we'll set a bunch out that we think he might like. He goes through and throws them a little bit back and forth here in the equipment room to get the feel of the ball. He'll pick out the game balls for that game and then those go in a separate bag used only for games and they're given to the officials before the game and they check them and then they give them back after the game. It happens every week.

"One week it might be a game ball and then it gets scuffed up during the game, so the next week it gets tossed out and goes back in the practice bags and a new one goes in. Keith likes fairly new balls, which most quarterbacks do. Jake (Locker) when he was here, he didn't really care. He'd throw a pumpkin if you gave it to him so he wasn't quite as picky. Keith's a little more picky and likes to get the ball just the way he wants it."

As if Fullmer wasn't already on top of everything from an equipment standpoint, he takes input from Husky fans. "We've had fans ask, "Why are our guys slipping when their guys don't?" This happens especially if it's snowy or wet," he said. "Generally it's something we're very aware of. Several years ago we had a game against Washington State where it snowed quite a bit and our guys were slipping and sliding all over the place, and I got several emails after that asking why we didn't have the snow shoes that Washington State had.

Somehow it got out there that they had a special snow shoe when actually they were wearing the exact same shoes our guys were. They had been practicing in it (snow) for two-and-a-half weeks, and for a lot of our guys it was the first time they had seen snow on the field in their lives. Especially when it gets cold, (fans will say) "well you don't need to wear this", or "I wear this when I go fishing, you ought to try this." We appreciate things like that; you never know - some fan may come up with something that's the next great thing and may give you an edge."

Husky fans can rest assured that the team will be the most prepared it can possibly be come Thursday night in San Antonio. Surely Chris Polk will have his hand in the workload on offense and in the off-chance he blows out the sole of his shoe in the fourth quarter, Fullmer and his team of managers have a backup plan for that. "We try to keep kids in good enough shoes so we don't have to worry about them blowing out, but if they do we have backups in every size and every style that we use," he said.

Besides the partridge in the pear tree and Jake Locker's pumpkins, Fullmer made sure to bring almost his entire equipment room down to San Antonio.

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