Pack-ing it in for victory

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Sunday, January 30, 2011
— Milton High School senior Justin Geske has a pretty cool part-time job.

He gets to hang out with the Green Bay Packers, on the field and in the locker room, before, during and after games at Lambeau Field.

Geske, 18, and a cadre of other part-timers, mostly guys in high school and college, commute to Green Bay from all over the state every time the Packers play at home.

They’re the magic behind the magic at Lambeau—the equipment department boys.

On game days, Geske and his colleagues tackle mountains of laundry from players, coaches and staff, stocking lockers and feeding washers and dryers big enough to hold 40 towels.

On game days, laundry work alone can take four or five hours, but it’s just one of Geske and the equipment crew’s many duties.

During cold weather games at Lambeau, the crew works the snowy, muddy sidelines, supplying players with field capes and alternate shoes. They help players get in and out of their pads before games, and ready projectors and marker boards in the locker room for halftime.

During preseason, Geske said equipment crews are in Green Bay around the clock for a full month, handling laundry, practice drill setups, practice drill teardowns and more laundry.

“The whole idea is to keep things clean and running smoothly.

“If things don’t run smoothly, coaches aren’t happy,” Geske said. “It’s an intense job, but it’s been an amazing experience.”

Geske has worked at Lambeau since he was 15. The Packers’ equipment manager, Gordon “Red” Batty, a family friend, offered him the job.

Geske was once a football player at Milton High School, but his career was cut short by a bad rib fracture during a game at Monroe his sophomore year.

“It was heartbreaking, but lucky in a way,” Geske said, noting that if he still played football, he’d likely never have had the time or the opportunity to work for the Packers.

This weekend, Geske is at Lambeau getting the Packers packed and headed off to Dallas for the Super Bowl Feb. 6.

With the Packers set to work out in Dallas for a full week leading up to their championship match-up against the Pittsburgh Steelers next Sunday at Cowboys Stadium, Geske said equipment crews have to pack extra gear and uniforms, which means more work and greater responsibility.

“You wouldn’t want someone showing up in Dallas missing something. Not now,” he said.

From the field and the locker room at Lambeau, Geske’s seen the ups and downs of the Packers’ historic 2010-11 season.

He said the team’s success this year has made his job at Lambeau Field more and more exciting.

“Even before the first roster cuts, there was increased intensity this year. You could just feel it carrying forward,” Geske said.

He recalled the atmosphere during the Packers’ last home game, a win-or-go-home showdown Jan. 2 against the rival Chicago Bears.

Although the Packers rode a fourth-quarter touchdown and a late interception to a 10-3 victory over Chicago, clinching a playoff berth, the team was losing 3-0 after the first half of the game.

Geske was working in the locker room when the Packers poured in at halftime. He said the scene was tense.

“There was yelling and lots of language, stuff that obviously can’t be repeated. It stays in the locker room, you know,” he said.

Geske has also seen the lighter side of the Packers this year, as in during a preseason workout last August. Geske was assigned to feed players footballs dunked in a water bucket—part of a drill used to get quarterbacks used to taking snaps in the rain.

During the drill, Geske said Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers kept sneaking up and plunking footballs back in the bucket to splash Geske with water.

“Rodgers is a big jokester. He’s always playing pranks. We just try to figure out ways to get him back without getting too carried away,” Geske said.

Geske said he hopes to continue working in the Packers’ equipment department through college, and he’d like to someday land a full-time job at Lambeau.

For now, he’s just excited to have been a part of Packer history.

Geske said he plans to head back to Green Bay the following week, when the team returns. It won’t be just another laundry job.

If the Packers win in the Super Bowl, Geske and the equipment crew will be the first to lay their hands on jerseys drenched in sweat, glory and history.

“I’ll be excited to see the guys come back, regardless of the outcome,” Geske said. Meanwhile, he’s got no predictions.

“We’ll see,” he said.

Last updated: 3:57 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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