Dress 'em for success

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:36 PM ET

While his official title is equipment manager, George Hopkins becomes a drill sergeant on Calgary Stampeder game days.

"I have to keep these guys on a timeline," said the 46-year-old Hopkins, who has worked with the team since he was 13.

"(Head coach) Tom Higgins puts up a schedule of when the people go on the field, when they come off (during pre-game warmup). I do a countdown for these guys, yelling to them who is up and at which time. I run out to the field and get them off to make sure they get dressed.

"We still have a lot of offensive lineman who can't dress themselves."

Running the operation before kickoff is just one aspect of what Hopkins and assistants Chris Allen and Mike Pontin do on a daily basis.

For practices, the crew arrives around 7 a.m. to help the specialists -- long-snappers, kickers, punters and returners -- get their work in before the rest of the team arrives.

Team meetings start around 8:30 a.m., when the equipment crew sets up line markers, blocking pads and drinking water for the practice field.

During practice, the assistants put away pads as they are no longer needed, while fulfilling any request the players might have.

After the workout is done, the lengthy job of laundry starts and any jersey or helmet repairs get done as preparation for the next day.

"If everything goes well, I'm home by six," Hopkins said. "It makes a huge difference when we went to morning practices."

The day before the game is a chore in itself.

Superstitious players like each item of their equipment set out in certain places.

Hopkins is responsible for making sure no one is grumbling about bad luck before kickoff.

"Certain guys are really finicky about how they do things," Hopkins said. "They have to have certain things done in a certain order. They have to have things hanging in the right spot. It's a lot of give and take and you shake your head at some of it.

"There's a lot of superstition. I appreciate what they go through because I'm a little superstitious and these guys go over the top."

But Hopkins and his crew learn the tendencies of veteran players and quite often get it all right.

"On the day before game, the uniforms are set into the lockers and everything is where we want it to be," Hopkins said. "Then we lock the room so nobody can get in and make a mess of it.

"If things go well, I can actually watch much of the game. We do a lot of preventative stuff to make sure nothing comes up.

"We redecal two nights before the game, if there's a tear or chip on the horse. We also use a lot of touchup paint when they start to get gouges in them, especially with the lineman.

"But if we see something that looks like it will break, we'll go ahead and change it out."


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