College Equipment Managers Get Professional Experience
MIAMI – A unique pilot program with one of the National Football League’s most storied franchises has given two Bethune-Cookman University football equipment managers a chance to also do what the players dream of -- work at the highest level of professional football.
Jeffrey Harris, a Daytona Beach native and Winston Willis, a Sacramento, Calif. native, have spent the past month working at the Miami Dolphins’ training facility assisting during the team’s Organized Team Activities (OTA).
B-CU Director of Equipment Operation Michael Humphrey and his Dolphins counterpart Joe Cimino, named as the NFL’s Equipment Manager of The Year last season, organized the program to give underclassmen the opportunity to gain NFL experience and return back to their college team.
NFL internships run during the course of a regular season during the fall, leaving that opportunity primarily to college graduates. Off-season internships during the increasingly important OTAs can provide aspiring students the experience of working on the professional level without impeding their matriculation.
“They’re still getting the experience, and in this case, it’s like a one-month job interview,” said Humphrey, who is already developing next year’s program with the veteran Ciminio. “No one has done this before and it’s a completely different arrangement from what the rest of the NFL is doing. Joe is a great teacher. These guys are going to be ahead of the curve when they graduate and are looking for a job.”
Harris and Willis appreciate the opportunity.
“Everybody has to intern somewhere, but we already have our feet wet,” Willis said. “Everyone here is competing for a job – equipment managers as well as players – and it has been amazing to go from the FCS [Football Championship Subdivision] level to the NFL.”
Despite the intensity of the NFL, Harris has enjoyed the atmosphere of the Dolphins’ camp.
“It’s just like Bethune-Cookman in that it’s like a family,” Harris said. “Everyone’s always upbeat. There is no ‘I’ in team around here.”
Bethune-Cookman’s connection with the Dolphins on the field is legendary, including NFL Hall of Famer Larry Little and Maulty Moore, members of the famed 1972 perfect season.
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