Fans who attend the national championship game in Frisco, Texas, say that packing for their trip is easy: They gather their favorite NDSU clothes and put them in their suitcases. Organizing and packing gear for the Bison football team takes quite a bit more effort, including loading a semi-trailer filled with equipment for practice, four days in Frisco and the national championship game.
Nathan Bjoralt, director of football equipment operations at NDSU, makes sure players, coaches and staff have what they need for success. This will be his seventh trip as part of the equipment team traveling to Frisco. He is a 2013 NDSU graduate who worked three years as a student and three years as an assistant director prior to his current position.
Though he and his team pack for football travel multiple times per year, the equipment required for a four-day trip to Frisco requires much more of everything. His team includes an assistant director and six student employees, who spent all day Monday packing.
“It’s always exciting and stressful. You have to pack so much and you don’t want to forget anything. It’s fun,” Bjoralt said. “It takes a lot of work, but everyone does a really good job.”
Each athlete is in charge of packing his own travel bag with a uniform, pads, helmet, cleats and socks. All of the athletes practice, but only 70 dress for the game, so Bjoralt’s team checks to ensure each player has equipment packed and ready to go. His team also packs extra pads, helmets, shorts, t-shirts, sweat pants, cleats (ranging from size 9-17) hoodies and socks. Trunks include cleat cleaners, shoulder pads, screws, chin straps, helmet tools and extra parts.
The team isn’t limited to space constraints, so Bjoralt loads a Bobcat utility vehicle on the trailer to help haul materials. They also bring two exercise bikes, heaters, fans, trainer equipment, head sets and extension cords.
They work on a strict schedule. On Monday night and Tuesday morning, the team loads the semi-trailer. On Tuesday, truck driver, NDSU graduate and football athlete Jedre Cyr, departs for Frisco. On Wednesday when the semi arrives, Bjoralt and his team are ready to unpack. First, they drop off luggage at the hotel for athletes and coaches and then head to the stadium to set up the locker room for Thursday’s practice. On Friday after practice, the locker room is set for game day.
When the equipment team sets up lockers, they arrange the pads, helmet, jersey and other equipment in the locker designating each athlete’s location using a player’s name magnet.
After the game on Saturday, uniforms are sorted into laundry hampers that are sent back on the plane to Fargo where the equipment team will launder it at the Fargodome. Remaining equipment is loaded back on the semi-trailer and will arrive in Fargo on Sunday.
One special piece that travels with the team to every away game is a sign that is hung over the tunnel walk that reads “Bison Pride.”
EQUIPMENT FOR FOOTBALL TEAM TRAVEL
Sideline trunk (3)
Shoe trunk with cleat cleaners
Headset trunks (18 headsets, 3 trunks)
Laundry hampers (3 for jerseys, pants and loops)
Cheer team travel gear
Locker room trunk
Travel name magnets for players and coaches
Equipment bag/Speed flex bag
Ball bags (6 game balls, 40 practice balls)
Cold loops with masks and hand warmers
Cold gear for coaches (coats, hoodies, socks and gloves)
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