SMU Football Equipment Staff Members Bring Inspiration to Team and Co-workers
Published: Thursday, December 6, 2012
Updated: Thursday, December 6, 2012 20:12
Managing the 10,000 pounds of equipment the SMU football team uses during every game are two members of the equipment staff that may go unnoticed. Spend any time with either of these two young men, however, and it becomes obvious that they love their jobs and everyone they work with.
Patrick O’Boyle, 23, works every day, diligently, even when some people may doubt him. O’Boyle, who lives in Highland Park, has Down Syndrome, but that does not hold him back from working daily in the equipment room.
O’Boyle’s teammate, Davis Hecksel, 23, is also learning disabled. Hecksel, who also lives in Highland Park, is on the field with the coaches during practices, whether it is 100 degrees outside, or 30 degrees.
Athletic Director Rick Hart knows as well as anyone the importance of having such inspiring young men working for the team.
“Our staff and student-athletes really enjoy having Patrick and Davis around the program. The excitement and hard work they demonstrate both in practice and at games is really motivating to our team,” said Hart.
It has been six years since O’Boyle first started working in the athletic department. His workday begins on game days five hours before kickoff, and as the sun rises during the week. After being a part of Highland Park High School sports teams while he was in high school, his coaches referred O’Boyle to SMU, where he has been since he graduated in 2008. O’Boyle works 25-40 hours a week depending on the team’s traveling schedule.
“He is just a kid with a big heart, that is a joy to be around. He works hard and never has to be told what to do,” said Albert Veytia.
Veytia joined the SMU team in 2011 and leads the equipment staff. Veytia and the other eight equipment crewmembers work daily during football season preparing every last detail. On game day, the staff, including O’Boyle, begins by setting up the sidelines and laying out everything needed by the players.
The players “don’t bring anything, they just bring their game,” said Veytia.
On game days, most of the 10,000 pounds of equipment is set out and the wireless sideline communication system for the coaches is put into place—a process that takes about three guys and an hour to make sure there is not a glitch in the system. In the locker room, the staff puts out the jerseys, pants, shoes and helmets. It is also important to note that every jersey and pant already has their pads in them—making it more convenient for the players. The coaches clothes are ready for them, too. After being dry-cleaned the week before, their game day shirts and pants are placed in their locker room.
O’Boyle’s day-to-day work includes everything from doing the laundry to cleaning out the lint traps. Encouraging O’Boyle on a daily basis are his co-workers, a group of guys who have taken O’Boyle in as one of their own. Dean “Flash” Saul often accompanies O’Boyle to lunch. Saul and O’Boyle, who goes by the nicknames “Pat” or “Patty,” not only work side-by-side daily, but share a friendship as well.
“If you are having a bad day, Patty always has a smile. You’ll come in and Patty will pat you on the shoulders or smile and it makes your day better seeing him smile because he likes doing this and it makes me happy. As long as he is happy I am happy,” said Saul.
From participating in Special Olympics to taking on the roll of manager for the Highland Park men’s basketball team, O’Boyle knows his sports. When playing for the Scots Special Olympics basketball team, he can be seen wearing the number five jersey out on the court.
O’Boyle has plenty of game experience. In high school, while managing the basketball team, he saw the court during a varsity game when the team welcomed him to the court, understanding that their manger deserved some playing time of his own.
Ask O’Boyle about that game and all he says is, “the crowd was going crazy.”
Run into O’Boyle after practice during the week and he tells you that he can’t wait to go get the laundry so he can go get a ham and cheese omelet from upstairs afterwards.
After talking to O’Boyle for any length of time it becomes obvious what his favorite football team is the New Orleans Saints.
Every question you ask, he somehow finds a way to relate it to the Saints. And if you ask about the NFL, one better be ready to hear every reason why the Saints are the best team in the NFL.
For college football, SMU is his team. There is one exception:
In 2006, O’Boyle admits to pulling for TCU, when his brother attended the university. But he says that is the only time he has ever not worn an SMU shirt at a Mustang’s game, and he promises.
Like O’Boyle, Hecksel is an avid sports fan, attending every SMU home game and boasting 12 football jerseys from different teams that he wears daily.
Hecksel’s main job is to work with the team during practices, helping out the coaches. Hecksel brings an intangible motivation to the team and a personality like none other. He works early in the mornings during practice sometime arriving before the sun rises and staying through the morning. On game days he is there with the equipment staff, arriving five hours before the game.
His father, David Hecksel said how amazing this experience has been for his son, and sees the impact he can have on the team.
“He indirectly inspires people to feel good about themselves, to be aware of what they have, and to be fortunate about their situation here. Certainly all the players here and very lucky to be where they are. Hopefully, they pick up on his determination,” he said.
There is no doubt that whether rain or shine, win or lose, O’Boyle and Hecksel will be at practices, at games, doing the laundry or whatever else needs to be done and that they will complete their tasks without a complaint to be heard.