Andrew Mullins had a plan, and he worked his plan and it worked out according to that plan.
Equipment Manager not in the Plans
Andrew planned his post high school career like this: study to become a coach and teacher, attend Lamar for 2 ½ years, then transfer to Kansas State to graduate a Wildcat like his Dad and Grandpa.
It all worked according to plan—except he ended up volunteering in the equipment room at Lamar, then met with Al Cerbe at Kansas State and caught the bug.
“I realized I wanted to be an Equipment Manager. I loved being around the sport. I loved learning about the equipment. I loved being around the guys and the preparation and the games,” Andrew said.
When we talked with Andrew recently we were pleased to hear he was busy preparing 96 Lamar University football helmets for reconditioning by inputting them into our Helmet Tracker management system. Of course, using Helmet Tracker does not qualify Andrew, nor anyone else, for our AEMA Certification Exam Scholarship. It was just nice to hear. Andrew is our latest Scholarship candidate. More on that later.
Andrew grew up 20 minutes from Lamar University, where he now works as Head Equipment Manager. He played football, soccer, ran track, sang in the choir, and participated in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Volunteer to Volunteer
When he graduated K-State 18 months ago it was with a degree in Social Sciences with an emphasis in history and political science. Then, he sat down with the new coaching staff at Lamar and talked with them. Lamar had never had a full time, head equipment manager but had relied on a coach to do what he could. The equipment room was in disarray.
“I volunteered all of last January through the first game in September and they hired me the day before the second game,” Andrew said.
So we asked him to tell us about that first game.
Well, what a story!
The Hurricane Game
It is now referred to at Lamar as “The Hurricane Game” and was played at North Texas. The Lamar team had to leave home two days early because of Hurricane Harvey bearing down on the Houston area. Andrew, still a volunteer at that time, had to find a box truck, and pack everything without knowing how long the team would be away from Beaumont.
“We were putting decals on helmets in the hotel,” he remembered, a bit of stress still in his voice.
The team lost the game, but were as concerned about home as anything—and they didn’t know when they would return nor what exactly they would find. Andrew, meanwhile, had to think a week ahead to the next game. North Texas, through the generosity of Mike Villa, Assistant Athletic Director Equipment Services, helped out and offered their laundry and other services to get ready.
“When we returned, the stadium was flooded, parts of campus were flooded, coaches needed to move out of their house, players had to move out of their apartments.
“We were hit hard,” Andrew said. “We were without water for four days. We bused to a high school to shower after practices.”
“It was a rough couple of months to start my career,” he says with a sigh and with pride.
Lamar to K-State and Back Again
Andrew readily admits that many had it worse than those at Lamar—but the hurricane and the flooding and the quick thinking and all the help from near and far are part of his story. His story will continue from there, but started much earlier.
“In high school I was into different helmet designs, and different cleats. I worked at Academy Sports and went through some helmet training for that job. It sparked an interest in me and I got interested in the technology of the equipment,” he said.
That got him into the equipment room for three years at Lamar as a student, then at K-State he connected with Al Cerbe who created an intern spot with him. When a student manager unfortunately got sick and had to miss a spate of practices, Andrew stepped in and earned a spot as a full time student manager.
“I was at every practice after that up to the bowl game. I finished finals and stayed for a week.” That gig lasted three years in Manhattan. “I ended up being the utility player. I was the oldest, had experience, and was the guy who would get things done when they needed to get done.
“Andrew is a young man who put in a tremendous amount of work,” Al wrote us at Helmet Tracker. “Andrew went back to the Lamar Football Program in the Winter of 2017 after graduating from Kansas State University to assist them with their Equipment Department.”
Al continues to tell Andrews story.
“Lamar did not have a full-time nor part-time equipment position for their football team at that time. Andrew did not let this hold him back and still had his mind set on organizing and making the football equipment room a functioning operation for the team. So, he volunteered while substitute teaching to support himself financially.
“I believe in society today that for someone to volunteer for months for a position without a guarantee that he will have a job is remarkable.”
Remember the rest of the story? Hurricane Harvey. Floods. Scrambling.
Lamar Cardinals Football
Now, Andrew can focus on the 2018 season where he has 269 helmets—white and black matte, to prepare for the Cardinals.
“We are looking to try to find some more help in the equipment room,” he said. “There are no other Equipment Managers on campus and we have 15 sports!”
He is talking with the administration about establishing a student equipment manager program. Soon, we predict, Andrew Mullins will have his own Equipment Manager tree. And, at the AEMA Convention in Phoenix, he’s taking the AEMA Certification Exam.
“The exam, preparing for the exam, is helping me be a better equipment manager,” he said. “A lot of schools require you to have the certification. Lamar said it was preferred.”
Helmet Tracker's Scholarship reimburses one Equipment Manager the cost of the exam and the study book after they pass. https://helmettracker.com/aema-scholarship/. Some individuals pay for the exam and book and if that is the case, and a sponsored Equipment Manager wins the Helmet Tracker Scholarship, Helmet Tracker will reimburse the institution.
A year ago, University of Nevada’s Michael Dryer won the scholarship. However, Damien Garnett, Assistant Athletic Director of Equipment at Nevada, asked Helmet Tracker to pass it on as the Wolfpack had paid for Michael’s exam. We did, and Eddie Hardin, now the Assistant to the Director of Equipment Operations at Tennessee State University, received the reimbursement.
““I am grateful,” Eddie told us at the time. “It means a lot going from an intern to my first real job—having bills to pay!”
Andrew's free time is booked with the AEMA study book, for now. After he passes the test, Andrew will go back to enjoying golf, going to the beach, playing a little soccer, and preparing for the duck and deer season this fall. Meanwhile, there is a ton of organizing to do in the equipment room.
“Right now I am here for a while. Of course, if K-State calls, I would go back. I love Kansas, but my main goal now is to leave Lamar way better off than when I came here.”