It’s 1,447 miles from Florida Atlantic University, near Miami, to the University of Tulsa, in Oklahoma.
That’s a 21 hour drive.
Anthony Fortier disregarded his college graduation at FAU for that drive, for the job that would forever alter his life. It’s not that he didn’t earn the diploma. He received that important document a few weeks later. It’s just that when you walk across the stage, you are supposed to continue walking until you walk through the doors to your first real, post-college job. He had that. That job was waiting for him in Tulsa. So he went.
“As I was preparing to graduate I was applying for every internship and grad assistant spot I could find,” Anthony told us at Helmet Tracker. “The first offer I got was in Tulsa for an internship. I called, interviewed and Jake Warnke, the Equipment Manager at the time, called me and offered me a job.
“So, I didn’t walk graduation. I packed everything into the car, moved out of the apartment, and drove to Tulsa on my own.”
Places don’t get much different than Miami and Tulsa. They both may have an abundance of sand, but beaches and the wind-swept plains are not the same. FAU is a public school with five campuses. It's motto of “Unbridled Ambition” once was far from describing Anthony, now he embodies that phrase.
At Tulsa, a private institution, less than 4,500 students roam and learn on 200 acres.
“Wow, yes, I hated it at first, but I toughed it out and am glad I did,” Anthony said.
Still, he impressed.
“Anthony was always willing to go above and beyond to assist with tasks outside his primary focus of Football,” writes Jake, now the Assistant Director of Equipment-Football at the University of Cincinnati. “He provided additional support to the Softball, Rowing, Basketball and Women’s Golf programs on a daily basis. His contributions set him apart from others in the athletic department, and helped him gain experience within the Equipment profession.”
“Without Anthony’s work ethic and support, the Tulsa Equipment Department would not have been as successful as it was during my time at Tulsa. I could not have been happier having Anthony as a part of my staff and having the opportunity to work with him during my time at Tulsa.”
Certified Equipment Manager Scholarship
Anthony is a candidate for Helmet Tracker’s AEMA Certification Scholarship. The Scholarship reimburses one Equipment Manager the cost of the exam and the study book after they pass. Candidates must submit at least one photo, recommendation, and interview. Details are here: Helmet Tracker Scholarship AEMA Certification is required by many colleges and universities of their Equipment Managers. Others prefer Certification. Some will 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.
In 2017, 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!”
Anthony will take the exam at the Athletic Equipment Managers Association convention in Phoenix.
What is Equipment Management?
Anthony played football at his high school about an hour north of Miami. He grew up a fan of Florida Atlantic, going to football games with his dad. He played both sides of the ball, on the line, until his senior year when he focused on being a center.
Making the decision to go to FAU was easy. Making the transition to college life was not.
“I grew up playing football my whole life,” Anthony said. “I didn’t play in college, and then got into some trouble my freshmen year.”
“My grades weren’t good and I was running with the wrong crew. Something had to change,” he said.
“I knew I had to do something. I needed to be part of something bigger than myself. Football made sense.”
Anthony started going through the athletic department directory to see what he could find or who might help him.
“I emailed Sam Nichols (Director of Equipment Operations) and offered to help. He offered to make me a student manager and I took it.”
Anthony admits he didn’t even know the field of Equipment Management existed. But soon he was working 40 hours a week, sometimes 50 hours a week, and more.
“Even with working all those hours my grades got better, and even my social life got better,” Anthony said. He was made senior student equipment manager and decided to pursue work as an Equipment Manager.
“I have a lot to be thankful for the program.”
Soon, he was driving to Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Tulsa University Golden Hurricanes
“I like the grind, being busy every day. I like being kept on my toes and being around football is awesome,” he said. “I love it and it doesn’t feel like a job half the time.”
He worked as an intern, then was offered more. Soon, the Golden Hurricanes offered him a Master’s program. “When someone offers you a Master’s Degree for free, it’s hard to turn down,” Anthony said. “As I think about my future, I know I need to get certified. I’ll have my degree in a year and I know I won’t get the kind of job I want without it.”
“He’s been a major asset to the equipment operation, as well as for the athletic department as a whole,” wrote Ryan Robertson, Tulsa’s Director of Equipment Operations. ”He’s a tireless worker that always has the right attitude. He has a chance to be great in this profession.”
A major component of his job is hiring, managing, and keeping track of student managers—lots of them.
“It’s all so cool. My job is not football-centric. I talk with all the coaches, women’s rowing to basketball to beyond. I know all 54 student managers by name.”
Brian Scislo, Senior Association AD, also wrote Helmet Tracker about Anthony.
“Anthony single-handedly took on the role of managing our entire undergraduate student manager program, and under his leadership, the program has absolutely flourished. This year we have had an all-time high of more than 50 undergraduate student managers (which is a tremendous feat for a school with an undergraduate student body population of approximately 3,500 students),” Brian wrote.
“Truth be told, I never have to worry about our student manager program because Anthony has consistently demonstrated that he has it covered. In addition to his work ethic, attention to detail, follow-thru, proactive nature, and willingness to take ownership of the responsibilities given to him with great pride in his professional work product, I have also observed Anthony to be extremely intelligent and to possess great interpersonal skills.”
Goofy Equipment Manager?
When oars and football helmets and javelins and basketballs aren’t keeping him busy, Anthony cares for his tropical fish, reminding him of home, where he grew up near the water. He likes to watch sports on TV and is “into” history.
“It sounds goofy, but that’s who I am.”
When he sets aside the history to think about the future, there is some talk about staying at Tulsa and growing his influence, there is mention of maybe running a program at another school, being the top dog. Then a pause and some excitement. “I want to work for Adidas. That would be my dream. I like the culture of that company. I was an Adidas kid and have only worked at Adidas schools. Eventually, I want to transition to the private sector.”
For now, his work is at Tulsa, his school work is at Tulsa, and his aim is to pass the AEMA Certification exam.
As for skipping the graduation ceremony, driving more than 1,400 miles to the Midwest, Anthony has not looked back.
“Either you get a job or walk graduation. I picked this and I have no regrets.”