Photo by Brayden Oborny

Pat Norris has been an integral member of the Nebraska athletics department for the past 19 seasons, but to most, he is unrecognizable.

Norris is the equipment manager for men’s basketball, wrestling, swimming/diving, gymnastics, and men’s golf and contributes to a ton of success for every team. As described by some, Norris is an unsung hero for the Huskers. But he’s one of an unheralded group behind the scenes who helps produce the product that everyone sees. 

“When working in equipment management, every day here is going to be different,” he said.

While watching Husker sports, nobody ever talks about the equipment managers.

They are never the ones on the field or court making those big plays to get the crowd yelling. Instead, they are always behind the scenes being a more valuable asset to the team than one might think.

The equipment managers for Nebraska men’s and women’s basketball have very busy schedules. They work almost every day of the season prepping athletes’ gear and getting them ready for game days. Norris said he has worked 145 of the last 149 days.

He said the typical day consists of arriving at the facility in the morning to open the equipment room for athletes to gather their gear before practice. Norris then follows them to practice to ensure all their needs before, during and after practice are met.

The students who help with equipment are more so in charge of laundry duties. Norris said that laundry is a huge part of the job and takes up most of the afternoons.

Erin Smith is the equipment manager for the women’s basketball team as well as volleyball, women’s golf, track and cross country, and has worked closely with Norris since she rejoined the department in 2019.

“Laundry is a big part of our jobs and we have what we call laundry loops which help keep the laundry organized and makes our job a lot easier,” Smith said. “Laundry loops are our friends.”

It’s a thankless job, as the managers do much for the teams yet fans and viewers hardly know anything about them. Most diehard fans would likely struggle to name their team’s equipment managers.

Current student and basketball fanatic Matt Kroll has been a fan of the Huskers for as long as he can remember. But despite his knowledge about the team, he knew little about the equipment managers. Still, Kroll said he understands their importance.

“There is so much behind the scenes that helps make the program churn and equipment managers are an important part of that,” he said.

What offsets much of the hard work for this job are the perks. All workers are given the same gear that the athletes receive.

“When I started here, I was taught you have to know everything about the gear you are going to give out,” Norris said.

He said he believes Adidas is a great partner for the Huskers and take care of all the employees.

Another perk about the job is all the traveling with the team. Norris has been all over the world including Hawaii, Spain and Italy.

 However, he mentioned that October through March is the life of being an equipment manager which takes a lot of time away from being with his family and other obligations.

Norris’s connection with his job and his family all relates down to his socks. Every game Norris has a different pair that he decides to wear which all started from a simple Tweet. Now, he lets his children decide what socks to wear next.

“I try not to repeat the socks I wear, but sometimes when you win, you have to keep wearing those socks a few more times,” Norris said.

He added that he receives fun socks as gifts from his children on holidays and his birthday. But Norris said he enjoys all the fun that comes with it.

Norris makes the most fun that he can out of his job but without equipment managers, more stress would be put on players and coaches to keep their gear together. He said he believes the equipment manager is one of the most important members of the team.

Norris goes through a lot in his day to keep things running smoothly behind the scenes as the players worry about the game. While the equipment team might not make headlines like men’s basketball star Sam Griesel or women’s basketball star Jaz Shelley, they play a huge role in the program’s success.