Student football manager Gus Hendrick finds 8 a.m. classes a breeze. In fact, he has usually been awake and running for four hours. Hendrick describes a day in his life as head student manager, from the long hours of loading and unloading equipment to the balancing act involved when it comes to away games and midterms. Above all, Hendrick explains why he is not only willing but happy to put in the hours of a student-athlete without the public credit or fame.
TATE: It’s game day at UCLA, and fans are out cheering for their Bruins
-First down marching band audio-
TATE: Behind the coaches, assistants, and players, are the student football managers. Without this team of students, gameday would not happen.
HENDRICK: There’s a couple other managers. This is Ryan. Noah, he’s a sophomore. And then that’s Keith, he’s the truck driver, and then Cliff is one of our bosses. One of three.
TATE: Meet Gus Hendrick. A fourth year Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology student, Hendrick is head of the UCLA student football managers.
HENDRICK: I’m the head student manager, so I’m in charge of all the other managers. And then I also work for the quarterback, so I’m a quarterback manager as well.
TATE: Student football managers run the behind-the-scenes of football games. As head manager, Hendrick works extensive hours and often misses class to travel to away games during the season. It’s all the work of a student athlete without the public credit or fame.
To better understand the role of student football managers, I spoke to Gus’s boss, Brendan Burger.
BURGER: My name’s Brendan Burger. I’m the director of football equipment operations for UCLA.
TATE: Burger explains why student managers are critical to the execution of practices and games.
BURGER: They really don’t get the credit they deserve in my opinion for what they do for our team, the program here. They carry out all the small things that people don’t really see. From setting up the field to picking up the field and maintain the players’ equipment. I couldn’t do my job without them. It’s all the little behind-the-scenes type things that people either take for granted, or you go to a game or practice and you don’t even notice or think about.
TATE: Hendrick took the position before starting his freshman year on campus. He says the recruitment process is more about connections than a written application.
HENDRICK: “It’s not really a popular position that is hiring. It’s kind of word of mouth. I personally, my dad was an athlete here, and so he knew the athletics director. And so when I got in they were speaking and said they had an opening.
TATE: I’m not allowed to be at practice for confidentiality reasons, so I first meet Hendrick after practice behind the Acosta Training complex. He leans casually against the wall as members of the football team walk in and out of the back door. Seeing him with a reporter, they smile and wave.
HENDRICK: I’m gonna really play it up. Oh yeah. I’m gonna tell them that I’m pretty much going famous after this interview. It’s gonna go viral.
TATE: Although the football players are free to leave, the student managers stay behind. It’s Thursday, only a few days before the game, so they have to load the team’s semi-truck with equipment.
HENDRICK: Some of the guys are just getting all the gear ready. The helmets, the shoulder pads and what not. Putting them into each individual player bag. And then once those are zipped up and checked off, they’ll move them out over here to the truck. So once the truck driver gets here, Keith, we can just push everything on and load it up.
TATE: When the game ends, Hendrick still has to clean up the locker room, take a long bus ride back to campus, and unload the semi-truck before he can return home.
HENDRICK: I’m not even sure the exact hours but it’s a lot. You just gotta learn how to prioritize what you need to get done and you lose a little sleep here and there.
TATE: Such long hours make studying for midterms an academic balancing act — especially with the rigorous pre-med classes Hendrick takes. In fact, he had to deal with this issue just the other day.
HENDRICK: It’s tough like for example I had a midterm on Monday in physics. And we were in Pullman, Washington, on Saturday and I didn’t get home from the game until 7am on Sunday morning, so that was the first time I got to sleep. I slept for maybe three or four hours and then woke up and just went to the library and studied all day for the physics midterm.
TATE: Although he works numerous hours, Hendrick doesn’t receive a paycheck like a typical job. Instead, he receives a scholarship that increases in value the longer he holds his position.
HENDRICK: I think it’s like a work study. I guess UCLA does jobs similar to that. It helps with tuition and what not. I guess you don’t get a check or whatever in the mail. There are a lot of perks that go along with the job. For me, priority enrollment was huge. That’s been really helpful in me being able to graduate on time.
TATE:Burger says he isn’t sure why student football managers are not paid.
BURGER: Honestly if you break down some of these guys’ scholarship money hourly it’d be a very small figure for the hours they put in compared to what they actually get back on it. Since I’ve been here, it’s just kind of the way it’s been. How they’ve gotten compensated for their time.
TATE: But Hendrick says his job means more to him than paychecks or public recognition.
HENDRICK: It’s honestly, that’s just the work aspect. It’s so much fun being a football manager, being a part of this team and getting to see all the… There’s just such a neat aspect of being around a division one football program with the traveling. You get to go to different schools. You get to be outside on the field. And plus, it’s not like a job where I’m cooped up in an office. I’m staying active, running around. You get a great workout every morning. And, to be honest, I feel better going to class. Like an 8am class, I’ve already been up for four and a half, four hours at that point so I’m not really sleepy or anything. I feel good going to class. So I really do enjoy it, and I’m really happy that I’ve stuck with it going into four years.