Football team’s hidden gem

Andy Harris doesn’t have a fancy office or get any credit for the football team’s national success.
Andy Harris, the football team’s director of operations, seen inside the locker room last Thursday. Harris’ role within the program has increased in the last three years. Photo by Joy Kowald.

But that doesn’t bother him.

I just like being behind the scenes and getting out of the way,” Harris, the team’s director of football operations, said. “I just like staying out of the way.”

Even if Harris, who started out as the equipment manager prior to the 2006 season, would prefer to stay out of the limelight, he is essential to the football team.

Andy Harris is kind of an unsung hero of our program,” football head coach Lance Leipold said. “[He’s] a very important guy behind the scenes and a very important cog of what we do.”

While he won’t be scoring any touchdowns or calling plays this Saturday against the University of Puget Sound, Harris has countless duties throughout the year.

He’s got his hands in a lot of things in the football program other than the X’s and O’s,” Leipold said.

Indeed he does.

Harris repairs broken helmets and facemasks, issues out jerseys and shoulder pads during fall camp, prepares the locker room before home games, takes laundry to the Williams Center, organizes team meals, packs the bus for road contests, sets up hotel arrangements and goes through inventory.

So how did Harris, 28, become interested in this line of work?

My dad got me into this whole profession,” Harris said. “When he was in high school he was a student-manager. Me, not being the athletic type, I wanted to be a part of athletics somehow, someway.”

He became the student-manager for Pius XI High School’s boy’s basketball team from 1996-2000.

In fact, Harris will be inducted into the Pius Athletic Hall of Fame Saturday night.

After high school, Harris was a student-manager and student-coach for the UW-Waukesha men’s basketball team. From there, Harris enrolled at UW-Whitewater, where he earned a history degree in 2005.

However, Harris’ passion was always college athletics.

I was able to get in touch with [now retired] coach [Bob] Berezowitz and he brought me on here,” Harris said. “I kind of winged it. This was my first taste of football.”

But it was just the beginning.

With experience of working within an equipment room, Harris was offered internships from the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars and the University of Arizona.

Harris declined the opportunity to work with a professional organization and went to Tucson, Ariz.

I love college so much that I didn’t want to leave,” Harris said. “If God wills it, and I can move up to the NFL sometime, great, but I love college football.”

Harris, however, left the job after one year, and returned a spot opened up at UW-Whitewater, he returned for the 2006 season.

Since coming back, Harris’ main goal is to make the lives of the athletes and coaches hassle-free.

We go through the locker room the night before [a home game] and set up the locker room really nice,” Harris said. “I try to create a Division I feel.”

And Harris said he is just blessed to be affiliated with such a successful program.

I’m a Whitewater guy, and I bleed purple and white,” Harris said. “Not many equipment managers can say they’ve been to three consecutive national title games. So I feel pretty fortunate.” 

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