Most every student manager we’ve run into in equipment rooms, who we've heard about or interviewed, has a story that follows one of a few routes.
- They were looking for a job to make some extra money in college and heard about the equipment room.
- Or, they were assigned the equipment room by a work study program and found out they liked it.
- Or, they wanted to find a way to get close to the players, the coaches, and the program.
Carter Rands is not like most every student equipment manager.
Kansas State Wildcats
Carter begins his second year in the K-State Equipment Room. Today, like yesterday, the Equipment Managers inventory the cool stuff—the new hats, the new T-shirts, the new shorts—everything needed for the athletes and coaches for training camp. And more.
“We went over the entire 16-day training camp schedule yesterday,” Carter told us. “There will be some pretty long days!”
The Wildcats begin Friday. “The trainers and us are the first ones in.” In Manhattan, there are two full time Equipment Managers, a Graduate Assistant, and eight student managers on staff for training camp. “We gotta get the gear ready. There is a lot of gear to be issued and a lot of equipment to repair,” Carter said.
Carter didn’t happen into the K-State equipment room. He wasn’t assigned there. He doesn’t seek to rub elbows with the stars (though he does admit to being a bit star struck in the San Francisco 49ers Equipment Room this summer. More on that later).
Carter decided as a freshman in high school he wanted a career in an equipment room. Yup. A. Freshman. In. High. School.
“My 8th grade year I suffered an injury and doctors said I shouldn’t play football anymore. I went to the Head Coach my freshmen year and he offered me a job as a student manager.
“That first week I completely fell in love with it. I decided right then I wanted this to be my career.”
Carter served the Maroons as an equipment manager all four of his years at Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines.
Kansas State Fit
When he began making a decision about where to go to college, he primarily based his choice on the equipment room atmosphere and welcome.
“I looked at D1 schools like Iowa State and K-State and others. When I talked with Al (Al Cerbe, Equipment Manager) at K-State and found him super friendly and very outgoing. He offered me a shot at a spot in the equipment room and I chose K-State.”
Yes, Carter contacted Equipment Managers at the colleges he was interested in attending as part of his college choice decision making process. Ever hear of that? Us neither.
“Carter is a young man with a great passion for this profession and is seeking out the opportunities to be better which is the K-State way!” Al told us. “It is always a blessing to have a young man that is willing to do anything for your program and enjoys being there.”
Carter loves working for Al.
“K-State is a big school, and has a very good football program. I love the whole mantra of family here. It’s working out great and I love it here,” he said.
Done to a T
Now he enters his second season with the Wildcats—a season where things are coming a bit more comfortably for him.
“Last year I was extremely nervous. I felt there were a lot of expectations from fellow managers. I felt like if I took a lot of time on something it would slow things down. Everything here is done to a T. You follow a schedule and you have to be exact.”
“It was a shock to me.”
“Now, I am a lot more comfortable with the environment and the schedule. Everything is a lot easier to me,” Carter said. “I am more familiar with the way we run the program.”
Still, there are things to learn. Always things to learn.
“Sure, there are a little bit of nerves still. I’ve been out for the summer and there is a new coach in my position. Eric Hickson, he was a running back here in the 90s and came from the Akron Zips where he coached.”
Hickson was the all-time leading rusher when he completed his Wildcat career with 2,537 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Al told us that Carter, too, has the opportunity to reach his goals.
“Once Carter has a little more experience and brings a balance to all that is going to school and being a student manager than I truly believe the sky is the limit for him,” he said.
Helmet Tracker Intern
When Al Cerbe announced to his staff the opportunity to join Helmet Tracker for the summer, Carter jumped at the chance. Carter worked alongside Helmet Tracker to implement NFL teams with the Helmet Tracker system.
This meant tagging helmets and shoulder pads with RFID technology and inputting the initial information into the inventory and management system.
Though the internship was unpaid, Carter saw the benefits.
“I got to travel all over the country—gaining knowledge about how NFL equipment teams work and gathering tips and advice about the equipment and how to care for it,” Carter told us.
Green Bay Packers
Carter worked with the Vikings, 49ers, Raiders, Broncos, Browns, Patriots, Colts, and Bengals. He ended his internship with Helmet Tracker co-Founder Rich Hardt in Green Bay.
“What a great way to end a summer internship by spending a few days with the Packers’ equipment team,” Rich said. “I don't think Carter will ever forget laughing (almost crying) at one of Equipment Manager Red Batty’s stories during one of those infamous ‘Safety’ breaks.”
Equipment Managers were helpful and most were friendly and welcoming. Carter said he received offers from two for internships and from one to help out on the sidelines during a game. Most of the time it was heads-down work—going from helmet to helmet, shoulder pad to shoulder pad, tagging and inputting. Working fast, there wasn’t time or freedom to wander around and be an inside fan.
But at one point, for Carter, the fan came out.
“I remember at the 49ers, I got star-stuck. We were there right in the middle of their OTA and Jimmy Garoppolo and Richard Sherman were there. I got to meet with those guys and talk with them—it was a cool experience.”
Other times, Helmet Tracker was installed in a back room, no windows, no locker room, no interaction. Sometimes, a gaggle of team interns would assist, sometimes Helmet Tracker was on its own. Either way, the work got done.
“This was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” Carter said. “I want to be a manager in the NFL and it was an incredible opportunity to visit those places and be introduced to the Equipment Mangers there.
“Helmet Tracker is helping me pave my way to my dream.”