Wayne High School graduate thunders into training camp
LAVALETTE — As autumn fast approaches, tailgates, touchdowns and roaring fans become routine for many football lovers across the nation. But for one local, the upcoming season has already exceeded expectations — even before the opening kickoff.
Kyle Powers has long been a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, and as thousands of National Football League fans wait in angst for the upcoming season, Powers is knee deep in formations, drills and endless laundry working on the equipment staff in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, at the site of Steelers training camp at Saint Vincent College.
“It’s a dream come true really. Being a Steelers fan ever since I was a little kid and to work alongside players like Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster and head coach Mike Tomlin, it’s an experience I’ll cherish for the rest of my life,” Powers said. “Many people dream of working with their favorite professional sports team, and I am doing that right now; the feeling still hasn’t fully registered with me yet.”
His main responsibilities include setting up the field for practice, washing and drying the players’ uniforms, practice gear, clothes and organizing the lockers. Other tasks are washing and drying the coaches’ personal laundry and returning it to their rooms. Powers also works with maintaining player equipment such as helmets and shoulder pads and also runs the chains during practices.
For Powers, it’s not his first go-around with an equipment staff.
After graduating from Wayne High School — where he played football for the Pioneers — Powers worked on Marshall University Athletics equipment staff as a freshman this past season, including a portion of time spent with the Thundering Herd football team. It was his first introduction to working on any level of equipment staff, but he found a home right away.
“Kyle is one of the most unique people I have ever met in my entire life. He’s impossible to not like,” Marshall’s Director of Equipment Services Zach Littleton said. “I think he genuinely gives his best effort in anything I ask. Not because he just wants to do a good job but because he’s concerned about letting people down. He might ask me 20 questions, but in the end it’s going to get done exactly the way I want it to. Honestly, that’s the kind of people we need in those positions.”
Marshall has a good reputation when it comes to sending students and graduates to the next level, and it all starts with Littleton and his team. Powers said he would’ve never been ready for the challenge of working on an NFL equipment staff had it not been for the guidance he and so many others get from the staff while in college.
“The equipment staff at Marshall University has prepared and influenced me beyond words,” Powers said. “Zach Littleton and Emily Harden have instilled tools and skills that I will not only use with this job, but ones that I will use every day in my future career and life. Zach and Emily are role models that I am fortunate enough to call my coworkers and close friends. They are some of the best in the business.”
According to Littleton, Marshall has been represented in the NFL for at least the last decade, working across the country in several capacities. Working as a student equipment manager might not come with a large paycheck, but it does come with invaluable opportunities.
“We’ve had people do anything from training camps to season-long internships with teams. We can’t pay the students a whole lot, nothing other than a few discounts like on books and things like that, but if I can say to a student, ‘Hey, if you work with us, we can get you from here to working in the NFL’, that’s a pretty good sales pitch.”
Powers is following in the footsteps of former coworkers, but isn’t the only Marshall student on an NFL staff this summer.
“A former student manager that I worked for last fall, Steven Macuch, worked with the Baltimore Ravens training camp for a couple years and hearing about his experience really sparked an interest,” Powers said. “Being a Steelers fan my whole life, I knew that was the team I wanted to work for. A few emails and
phone calls later, my dream was granted to me. One of my coworkers, Jacob Frye, is working for the Ravens this summer and to think that two guys from Marshall University are working in the national spotlight, that is something I am honored and humbled to be a part of.”
“It’s a special moment in his life right now,” Powers’ father, Mike, said. “It’s not just about football that makes the moment special. It’s the fact that he is experiencing a type of work environment that most people only imagine being in. Plus he’s making contacts and friends that will only benefit him later in life. It’s a little eye-popping for a kid from Lavalette, West Virginia.”
Most of the behind the scenes work in setting up the job opportunity was done by Powers himself. As Littleton described it, he knew what he wanted to do and knew what resources he could access it to make it happen.
“I had very little to do with it,” Littleton said. “Most of the jobs that we’ve gotten with the NFL have been ‘I know a guy or I have a buddy that knows someone’ but Kyle gets full responsibility for digging this one up. I’d love to take credit, but I can’t. When he came to me he said he’d like to work in the NFL and I told him let me know what I can do and we’ll try and make it happen, from there he kind of just took it into his own hands.”
Now with a unique perspective, Powers said working for a team has tremendous upside, and makes the game a personal experience, as opposed to just turning on the television or sitting in the stands.
“The most rewarding part of working for/with a team is the relationships you build and the experience of seeing a whole other side of the game. Being a spectator, you hear the announcer calling the plays from a box behind you and you are just watching 22 men run around,” Powers said. “Working on the sidelines, you get to hear what the play is before the ball is snapped and are able to see the play unfold from eye level rather than from a couple rows up in the bleachers. It’s an atmosphere that never gets old.”
Just two short days after Steelers training camp ends, it’s back to reality for Powers — who will begin his sophomore year at Marshall where he is majoring in criminal justice and criminology with a minor in political science.
His summer officially ends when Marshall students begin the 2018-19 academic year on Aug. 20, but leave no doubt — it’s a summer that won’t soon be forgotten.
“The most rewarding part of working for/with a team is the relationships you build and the experience of seeing a whole other side of the game.”
Kyle Powers Marshall student