TEMPE – In order to make 116 football players feel like they are playing at home when they are hundreds of miles away from Tempe, it takes a village.
Arizona State will be far away from its desert roots Saturday when the Sun Devils head to Seattle to take on No. 5 Washington.
The forecast calls for fall-like weather in the Pacific Northwest as it will be 56 degrees and cloudy at kickoff. While the conditions for this game would be unlikely for any home game at Mountain America Stadium, the sidelines are going to look the same.
For ASU, it takes six days, one moving truck and a team of equipment managers working around the clock to make road games feel like home for the players.
“For the most part we are taking everything that the players and coaches need that are imperative to the game. Anything else they want to bring that are their own things they can bring in their backpacks,” said Jameer Johnson, ASU equipment’s graduate assistant.
“We basically do everything for them except washing their ass.”
Following ASU’s home game against Colorado on Oct. 7, the work to prepare the Sun Devils for their game in Seattle started as soon as the game against the Buffaloes ended.
For each away game, the equipment team starts by grabbing everything – from the coaches’ communication system to snacks – that is on the sideline and packing it up. Members from athletic training, the nutrition team, the strength staff and ASU’s radio broadcast all load supplies into large trunks that will be taken to wherever the next game is going to be played.
The trunks are then held in the equipment room at the Student Athlete Facility at Mountain America Stadium while the equipment team waits for the next step in the process, which typically begins on Tuesday.
Those trunks are then wheeled into an ASU-branded semi-truck that will be driven anywhere around the country depending on where the Sun Devils play next. The truck arrives at the facility on Tuesday and the equipment staff immediately starts filling up the truck.
Low-priority items that have a chance of not being used are usually the first things thrown into the trucks. Cold weather gear and rain covers get the honor of being first in the truck since most venues for ASU’s opponents don’t have extreme weather conditions.
Next are the staff’s various trunks that accompany the team to road games. The final items to go onto the truck are the players’ equipment.
“It’s like playing Tetris every week,” said Johnson, referring to the puzzle video game. “We barely have enough room to fit all the stuff so you have to be pretty precise and not waste any space.”
The semi-truck is supplied by Dircks Moving and Logistics, the official moving company of ASU that has been helping move Sun Devil equipment since 1990.
The family-owned business is run by Matt Dircks who bought the company from his dad and uncle at the beginning of 2023. Dircks is the ninth member of his family to graduate from ASU and keeps strong ties with his alma mater through his business.
“As a born-and-bred Sun Devil, I can tell you we don’t move equipment for money. We appreciate being an integral part of the team and the department,” Dircks said. “There’s some costs incurred. But it’s one of those things that as supporters of the university, and the football program, we take a lot of pride in being able to have the opportunity to serve the Sun Devils.”
During the week, the equipment staff continues to slowly load up the truck with players’ equipment depending on what is needed for practices.
The players’ equipment does not stop at shoulder pads and uniforms. The equipment staff is responsible for packing players’ clothes, headphones and even toiletries.
Even though most of the equipment staff’s work goes unnoticed to the average fan, the ASU players appreciate everything the team does for them.
In his first year with the Sun Devil program, running back Cam Skattebo has already built a good relationship with Johnson and other members of the staff.
When the equipment staff is around the football team in the locker room, Skattebo and other players can be seen making small talk and joking around with the people who make their lives easier.
“(The equipment staff) is awesome. I like all those guys in that building. They give me what I need so I appreciate those guys a lot,” Skattebo said.
The semi-truck needs to be loaded and ready to go by Thursday, but the day could change depending on the distance that needs to be driven.
This weekend the Dircks Moving truck will embark on the longest Pac-12 trip of the 2023 season. Husky Stadium at the University of Washington in Seattle is 22 hours away from Tempe, meaning the truck had to leave on Wednesday.
As ASU makes its transition to the Big 12 next year, the longer drives to universities such as the University of Central Florida and West Virginia could cause logistical issues for Dircks and the Sun Devils.
“Logistically speaking, when we see driving to Morgantown or Orlando, which is over 2,000 miles one way, there’s definitely some challenges in that,” Dircks said.
If ASU were to have two road games back-to-back starting on the East Coast, the team wouldn’t have enough time to load the truck, return to Tempe for practice and then load it again for another road game the following weekend.
“It’s a conversation that’s going on nationwide, as some of the providers of other programs have some concern that they can get stuff back and forth safely in the time needed by the team,” Dircks said.
Once the semi-truck reaches its destination on Friday, the work starts again for the equipment team.
Members of the staff fly to whatever college campus the truck goes to. The team works all day Friday making sure that the locker room and sideline are ready for when the Sun Devils arrive.
On game day, the equipment staff finishes whatever needs to be done pregame and then they are able to relax through the first half.
Once halftime hits though, the work starts all over again to get everything back onto the truck.
For every away game, the equipment staff’s goal is to have the truck ready within a couple hours of game’s end. Once the truck arrives back in Tempe, the cycle starts all over again with some changes depending on whether or not a home or an away game is next on the schedule.
“We pack pretty much everything you see on the sideline and locker room,” Johnson said. “Essentially we want to bring our facility with us wherever we go.”