Jerome Kline wants to be an elite Equipment Manager. When talking with Jerome, you get an immediate sense of his steadiness, the kind of force that takes one strong, intentional step at a time toward a goal and with a passion that will not stop.
Nothing like the hurricanes that drove Jerome and his family from Florida to Tennessee a dozen or more years ago.
Hurricanes, one after another, forced his family from Florida
“We were living in Kissimmee, Florida in when a series of hurricanes came through. It was devastating and affected everything,” he remembers. “Charlie, Jean, and Ivan. All within a few months. Our area was not as hard hit as some, but a lot of surrounding schools were affected and our classes when from having 25 or 30 kids in them to 50.”
“Our house and business were taken and so it was a good decision to get out. We ended up in Tennessee, here, and so there is always a silver lining to things that happen.”
See? Jerome knows that high winds and waters will subside. He knows decisions lead to more decisions. All toward a goal.
“We ended up in Cookesville, Tennessee and that’s where I went to high school. I did not play sports, but honestly I knew I wanted to work in athletics.”
Identifying, then working toward a goal in the Equipment Room
There. There it is. Jerome had a goal, and started striding toward it. His Dad was in touch with some folks at Tennessee Tech due to his catering business and Jerome found himself at college and in the Golden Eagles equipment room.
“I feel in love with equipment management,” he says with conviction. “From the first day until now, this is what I am passionate about and I absolutely love what I do.”
He says that line repeatedly: “I absolutely love what I do.”
“I absolutely love what I do.”
He’s not trying to talk you into believing him. He’s not trying to convince himself. Jerome seems startled, almost, that he found a slot, a career, that motivates him, that gives him passion, that fulfills him.
He tells the story quickly, like this: “I go down there and Luke Garrett is there as a student manager. He is an Auburn Equipment Manager now. I walk in and didn’t know what I was doing. They were getting gear ready on laundry loops for spring practice. I jumped in and helped that and it was really cool to see behind the scenes to see how different things work.”
“I go home and my parents asked if I liked it, if it was something I thought I was going to to do. It was a real exciting time.
“I absolutely love what I do.”
It’s the family atmosphere, the pitching-in-to-get-things-done-together type of environment that Jerome appreciates the most about working in an equipment room.
“I’m a real big family guy. I love it,” he says. “During camp you’re around everyone and getting things done together.”
He looks back on car projects he and his dad spent time work on. You go out every night, every weekend, and push the project along. Sometimes minor details, sometimes major overhauls. Then one day, it’s done.
“Seeing it after all that work throughout a year or more, that’s great!” he said. He especially remembers restoring an ’82 Corvette. “Everything had to get redone. It was a lot of fun. You work on them, and that’s fun. Then you are able to show them off, and that’s fun, too.
He learned about working together at Tennessee Tech.
“It was tight-knit there, being part of the team. I loved working hard and I loved how detail-oriented it was. Everything has its place and its time. Time management is a key factor in what we do and I love that.”
Tony Ramirez, the Athletics Equipment Coordinator at Tennessee Tech, supervised Jermone for more than three years in the equipment room. He wrote Helmet Tracker recently about Jerome.
“Jerome is a hard worker and constantly tries to learn new ways to improve himself in the equipment manager field. While at Tennessee Tech Jerome was responsible for setting up and breaking down practices and laundry services each day. On game days he was responsible for setting up the coaches’ locker room and our headset system in the coaches’ box.”
The job details must be learned. The communications, the equipment, and yes the laundry. But, as they say in the broadcast booth about the athletes on the field, there's the intangibles as well.
“Jerome is organized, reliable, and really wants to pursue a career in the world of athletics as an Equipment Manager,” Tony wrote to us at Helmet Tracker. “I believe he would do a great job given the chance at any program or university.”
Jerome credits his parents with teaching him the value of hard work and working toward a goal.
“I want to continue to grow and learn in this profession,” he said, almost softly. Then the genuine Jerome comes out with verve: “I don’t want to half do anything. I want to be elite in this profession.”
AEMA Certification Exam and Helmet Tracker Scholarship
Jerome knows that earning his Athletic Equipment Managers Association Certification is the first biggest step to achieving his dreams. The AEMA certification, he knows, gives him credibility in the industry.
He takes the exam at the AEMA Convention in Phoenix, Arizona in June. Jerome is one of several candidates for the Helmet Tracker Scholarship that reimburses an individual or school the cost of taking the exam and the cost of the study book.
The Helmet Tracker AEMA Certification Exam Scholarship is open to anyone taking the exam. To qualify, a candidate must submit a photo, a recommendation from a supervisor, be interviewed by Helmet Tracker, then pass the exam.
Passing the exam is no walk in the park. Sam Trusner, AEMA National Office Manager, says up to 40 percent of exam takers need another chance to pass. It’s tough.
“Going to the convention, being involved, meeting new people. That’s the next step,” Jerome says.
He graduated from Tennessee Tech recently with a Sports Information degree, and now volunteers in the Tennessee State equipment room where 2017 Helmet Tracker Scholarship winner Eddie Hardin works.
Baltimore Ravens, Wedding
More news? He also is a newlywed. “I got married in September ’17.” It was five days after returning home from interning with the Baltimore Ravens.
“Being able to learn from those guys was huge to me. Those guys were great and were able to show me a lot. Going from Tennessee Tech to the NFL was huge—it was extremely eye-opening.
“My goal there was all about growth and learning—to be able to be in a place where it was done the best—how the NFL does things and gets organized, how they operate—and how they treat each other, was great.”
Now, Jerome spends any free time volunteering at church and getting involved in the lives of his nephews and niece whenever he can.
“I’ve got to take care of my family, too,” he says. “My wife is awesome and very supportive. She is a special needs pre-K teacher.”
“I am ready for anything.”