Taking the Jayhawks on the Road

10:09 p.m. – Cliff Churchill walked through the trailer to make sure all but the last pieces of equipment were stored properly.

Kansas football’s equipment manager Jeff Himes entrusts his livelihood each week of a road game to two men and a 60,000-pound tractor-trailer. Around 6 p.m., each Thursday evening Cliff Churchill and Dean Matthews sit in the cab of the idling truck waiting for the final whistles to blow from practice so they can depart on their journey.

Churchill and Matthews have pulled Kansas football’s equipment behind them for over 20 years. They’ve never been late for a game, nor have they had any major issues while being the key cog in making sure the game is played as scheduled. The two men – Churchill in his late 60’s and Matthews pushing 80 – have driven the equivalent of around the world for KU football since 2009.

Walking into the back of the trailer is like taking the first steps inside of a hoarder’s house. The same way someone who hoards has an organization to their collection, the back of the interior of the trailer is specifically arranged with each piece of equipment holding a distinct place.

All the way at the front of the 72-foot-long custom built trailer are cubbies full of every essential item a coach or player could need: Cleats, jerseys – a spare jersey – shirts, pants, coats and rain shoes, knee pads, thigh pads and hip pads.

As you creep farther back down the center aisle of the trailer it seems every member of the Kansas football staff has an item loaded onto the truck for transport: The medical staff’s hundreds of pounds of Gatorade, a folded up training table, coolers, a stationary bike, Tupperware full of mouth pieces, gauze and tape, folding stools, radio equipment for the Jayhawk IMG Sports Network and even Time Warner Cable’s television backdrop for interviews. 

After the whistle sounds ending a Thursday’s practice Himes and his staff of student managers scramble to pack the last pieces of equipment away onto the trailer. Each player is only issued one pair of shoulder pads and one set of braces.

When the final racks of shoulder pads and bins of braces are loaded into the rear of the custom-decaled Kansas football trailer the doors close, a pad lock is cinched shut and Churchill and Matthews set off under the veil of darkness toward Gaylord-Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

— by Trae Green

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Jeff Jacobsen has photographed practically every big event the sports world has to offer during a professional career that spans over 53 years. Jacobsen has seen things up close that only a diehard sports fan could in their dreams. His work for the Topeka Capital-Journal, Arizona Republic, Kansas Athletics, Inc., many national publications and now Action Images Photography, Inc., cemented his reputation as one of the nation’s finest sports photographers.

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