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#TGW: Packing For Ireland a Tall Task

Aug. 30, 2016

By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word –

Punt Windham was anxious to jump on a plane Monday and head to Ireland to re-connect with his babies – all 20,000-plus pounds of them. Georgia Tech’s assistant equipment manager is chasing the Yellow Jackets’ gear before Saturday’s season opener against Boston College, and he’s edgy like a parent.

At least the bulk of the equipment is already in Dublin ahead of the Aer Lingus Classic. Twenty-six large trunks shipped overseas last Thursday and when Windham got word Friday that it arrived safely to be warehoused until he arrives, he smiled.

It was a partial victory; there’s plenty more work to be done and gear to ship.

“I’ve been nervous. I finally relaxed [Friday],” said Windham, who’s in his 14th year working for his alma mater. “I’ll meet the equipment Tuesday. They’re going to have it shipped to [Aviva S]tadium so I can start setting up a locker room. I’m the only one going early.”

Another 11 trunks will travel Wednesday with the team.

“When the team lands [Thursday], the equipment staff, trainers and other people are coming over that morning to help finish setting up and getting all the stuff there before the team,” Windham said.

For all the work that’s to come as the Jackets un-pack, play, re-pack, ship and return to Atlanta in a span of days, there’s been much more already done.

Windham has been Tech’s point man with regard to shipping uniforms, pads, equipment and more and the minutia that’s gone into the job has been mind-boggling.

This is not a routine road trip.

Where the Jackets typically take about 70 players to road games, they’re taking all 111 to this one, plus coaches, football and Athletic Association staffers and cheerleaders for a travel party of 205.

That’s a lot of stuff and all 111 players will practice Thursday.

The rest of Tech’s gear, like game and practice uniforms and pads, video equipment that stayed behind for practices in Atlanta and personal luggage, will ship on the team charter after Wednesday’s practice. That’ll be about 11 more trunks and Windham could tell you every item in every trunk of both shipments.

He’s already had to, in fact.

“It’s more like a bowl game [than a regular season game], but you’ve got to also do the carnet lists and go through customs,” Windham said. “There’s a cargo carnet and a charter carnet. It’s an itemized list of what’s going over there.”

All told, Windham said the Jackets are shipping “20,000 to 25,000 pounds” of gear worth “around $600,000.”

Yes, it’s all insured. Not that Windham’s been sleeping any better for that.

He’s been antsy since learning in May that the Jackets were going to Ireland. There was, he said, a bit of an “Oh [crap]!” moment and then he got busy.

“I’ve got friends, equipment guys at Notre Dame and Navy [who played in Ireland in 2012] and as soon as I found out, I contacted them and they said get your carnets ready; start working on that now,” Windham recalled. “It contains the items, the quantity of the item, the price of an individual unit, the total price, where the item was made and the weight of each item.

“You have to count everything in the trunks, down to how many helmet screws you’re packing, how many screwdrivers, how many buckles . . . The first [carnet] had roughly 750 lines in it, and the charter one has over 1,700 lines.”

Windham and the Jackets are working in Atlanta with American Cargo Express, which contracted Emerald Freight for a cargo flight made on a Delta plane.

As the glue holding together Tech’s massive shipments, the 1994 industrial engineering graduate has learned a few things. Like Super Glue doesn’t fly.

The first, larger shipment was turned in – with carnets on each trunk – on Aug. 15. It took about several days to go through customs, and Windham said, “they went through it and we had to take stuff out, like Super Glue couldn’t go. There are certain things that they don’t allow on the flights or the get into Ireland.”

Irish customs checked the gear when it arrived.

Tech’s medical supplies were shipped through Windham but first, director of sports medicine Jay Shoop and assistant director Mark Smith did due diligence.

They’re not taking the training tables that would travel to normal road games, as Irish officials will provide them and a physician. The fans typically used to cool players on the sidelines during hot, early-season games won’t fly. Temperatures are supposed to be in the 50s and 60s.

Plus, since this is Boston College’s “home” game, the Eagles are required by the ACC to provide baseline medical supplies. An X-ray machine will be available in Aviva Stadium.

“Some liquids they’re concerned about, like alcohol and hydrogen peroxide, we aren’t taking . . . things we could do without or buy there,” Shoop said. “The essentials absolutely were sent, like IVs. In some ways, that was a plus for us because we had to go back and inventory.

“You use it and don’t use it and we re-visited everything that we take and were able to become more streamlined.”

Windham’s had assistance in preparing for the grand journey as Smith, Shoop, equipment manager Tom Conner and director of video operations Todd McCarthy have handled shares of the busy work.

Much of McCarthy’s gear will ship Wednesday when the team leaves. His carnet list wasn’t as large as Windham’s but he encountered difficulties nonetheless.

“There is special packing for the lithium batteries that we use [in headsets and video equipment] and we put them in special bags,” Windham said. “They’ve got to be labeled. It’s been a very interesting process.”

Indeed, Shoop is looking forward to this road trip more than most.

“I want it to be a great cultural experience for our kids,” he said. “When we played in El Paso against USC [in the 2012 Sun Bowl], when we played at Brigham Young [in ‘13] . . . our kids enjoy going to different parts of the country.

“This is a different country that’s English speaking. From a sports medicine standpoint, it will give us a few days to recover from the heat. I think that’s going to be refreshing for our kids. I am truly excited.”

Those words may not perfectly fit Windham at the moment, but he’ll get there.

He made an advance trip to Dublin in May to scout “the hotel, the stadium, the airport” so he knows the lay of the land. Plus, the process of packing up to return to Atlanta will be much faster.

Best of all, when the Jackets get back, they’ll play four-straight home games.

“All the hoops to go through . . . sometimes it gets frustrating. You think you have it set up right and they change something or we learn that’s not the way it’s going to be,” he said. “I’m just hoping it’s going to be a good trip when we get there. Let’s get a win and come back.”


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