Robertson, staff well equipped to handle Longhorns
While July may signal vacation time for many, do not count equipment manager Chip Robertson and his staff among those enjoying some R&R.
"In some ways," Robertson begins, "this may be our busiest time of the year. We're getting ready for football practice (players report August 6), but we're also receiving shipments of what we have ordered for this year and putting up that stuff."
Of course, Robertson has it under control.
What else would you expect given his 14 years as UT equipment manager, following his 11 years in the same capacity at SMU?
Talking to Robertson is almost like talking to someone at NASA. He has all the figures and all of the eventualities worked out long before any problem might ever arise.
"I'll tell you that I have a great staff," Robertson said, deflecting praise for the precise organization. "The people working for me are the best."
James Barr, Rob Lazare and Matt Rutherford are all assistant equipment managers, who have responsibility for another sport, as well as football.
Barr takes care of track, while Rutherford does baseball and Lazare handles basketball.
"Those guys do a tremendous job," Robertson continued, adding, "Let me also mention the 12 student managers we have. We couldn't do the job we do without them."
Robertson, who grew up in McComb, Miss., and graduated from the University of Mississippi, has a special place in his heart for student managers, as he was one at Ole Miss. The son of a high school coach, Robertson always was around the game and knew this is what he wanted to do with his life.
When asked whether or not during his tenure the Longhorns ever were short a helmet on the road or wound up with their burnt-orange jerseys having a touch of pink because of a washing malfunction, Robertson laughed -- but also could be heard knocking on wood.
"Everybody knows their job and they do it well," he said.
And as Robertson noted, the job now is preparing for fall football practice. That means dealing with 1,200 pairs of shoes for players, coaches and support staff.
There also are 140 jerseys and 300 pairs of pants. The additional pairs of pants, as Robertson explained, are because Texas wears white pants at home and on the road.
"And white is susceptible to grass stains," he said. "But you can get those grass stains out."
Texas has 150 helmets and the players wear their game helmets at practice.
"Some schools have separate practice helmets," Robertson said, pointing out that a school such as Ohio State uses different helmets for practice because of the decals that are on the game helmets.
Robertson said the presence of the Texas High School All-Star Game in Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium will keep his crew from setting up the locker room until August 2, but that still gives them plenty of time to be ready for the arrival of players and coaches on August 6.
If practice begins at 8 a.m., Robertson and staff will arrive at 6 a.m.
All laundry will be picked up after practice, washed and then laid out for the players before the start of afternoon practice, suggesting that isn't only the players who can do without two-a-days.
On game days, Robertson and staff arrive even earlier.
"For a noon kickoff, the players are there at 10 a.m. and we get in about 7 a.m.," Robertson said of the itinerary for his staff.
Ironically, the least busy part of life for Robertson and staff is during the game.
But it is four to five hours after the final gun before Robertson departs the stadium.
Regarding road games, Robertson reported that having the 53-foot trailer take the UT equipment eliminates much of the hassle with traveling.
"We tell the driver when we need the equipment to arrive at the site," Robertson said. "Matt and four student-trainers leave Thursday, so they are on site to meet the truck Friday morning. Then, the rest of us take the charter with the team Friday."
Robertson said he always takes more gear than needed on the road, especially to a site where weather could be a factor.
"Better to have the rain gear and leave it packed in the trunk," Robertson said, "than not have it and see the rain coming. We'll pack stuff for 100-degree temperature and 30-degree temperature."
When Robertson and staff are at their best, few notice because all is going smoothly.
"What I like most about my job is being a part of the family here at Texas," Robertson said. "The team concept -- the idea that everybody enjoys what they are doing -- is what I like.
"The most fulfilling part of my job is probably when guys come back to UT and bring their children. When they talk about how much fun they had and how much they enjoyed the experience. That means a lot."