From the other side

Eric Vasquez , Entertainment Editor

I was a college football equipment manager and I didn’t even like football. Really, I’ve only seen “Friday Night Lights” once on TNT and didn’t see the end because I forgot to go back after the commercial break. I can’t name you five professional quarterbacks besides Romo, but that’s default information living in El Paso. I don’t own a single NFL jersey.

But I did spend the last four years shining helmets and washing jerseys–among other things I repressed–and because of that I have gained a certain respect for the team.

We can go on about their losing record, their three-quarter stamina or their habit of bouncing between killer performances against titanic teams like Oklahoma and Texas Tech and barely-scrape-by wins or outright losses against Louisiana Tech or Old Dominion. But just how the televised game shows you a fraction of the total game by continuously following the ball there is a lot about the Miners that doesn’t get enough credit.

Take for instance the stamina players must have throughout the week just to make it to game day. The earliest classes UTEP offers begin at 7 a.m. By that time, a player will already have his ankles taped, is dressed for practice, and would be in a pre-practice meeting to learn what the 8 o’clock practice will focus on. Practice ends around 10, after which a handful of players head out with the strength coaches to lift weights, some shower and go to class, and still others either get some time to rest or head to the MAAC to complete their weekly mandatory study hours.

From here, their day changes from going to class, getting treatment for whatever injury they received during practice, going to their weights and conditioning sessions and position meetings. On an average day their obligations have been met by 6 in the afternoon, and then there’s studying to do.

Oh, and then there’s the weekend.

On Fridays, after regularly scheduled practices, the team is essentially pulled out of society for home games or flown to the city for away games. Meetings, treatment and house arrest awaits them on both occasions, with pregame meetings taking place Saturday morning before heading to the stadium. After the game, win or lose, broken bones or none, the team is free for the night by 10 p.m. and is expected to report the next day at noon for a film review of the game to begin prep for next week.

You must realize that as the season goes on, their schedule remains the same. They are expected to be on time to Sunday meetings, weights and treatment, whether they are heading for a bowl game or trying to scrape their first win—all while earning a degree.

There is nothing societally intrinsic about football, or college sports for that matter. These players play the game because enough students at the university think it is important enough to spend money on. So while the option to play football is available to help pay for school, these athletes put in a hell of a lot of work to play 60 minutes of football a week to entertain you on Saturday night.

Eric Vasquez may be reached at [email protected]