CALDWELL, Idaho — Ask any quarterback or equipment manager — you can't throw a ball right out of the packaging. A new ball is too waxy, too hard and simply not broken in.
At The College of Idaho, head equipment manager Easton Berrett has his own process for prepping each ball that is used in-game by the team.
The process takes multiple steps. First, the ball is brushed so the initial layer of wax is cleared off. Next, multiple coats of shaving cream is applied to the ball. After that Berrett brushes the ball so all shaving cream is all scrubbed off.
The process doesn't stop there. A leather moisturizer is then applied to the ball. After about a day, Berrett applies a layer of mud to each ball and heat-dries the mixture. After that it is scrubbed one last time.
The entire process can take anywhere from three to five days. The process is almost like a science to Berrett, who learned the skill from his time working at Utah State and by trading secrets with other equipment managers around the country.
C of I Equipment ball prep: a thread— College of Idaho Equipment (@CI_Equipment) August 15, 2022
Step 1. Wet towel, wash the balls. Brush with a ball brush once dry. pic.twitter.com/JJWS8xGgBr
“The first QB balls I broke in here I did exactly how I did at Utah State," Berrett said. "And then I took some stuff from Arizona State’s guy and incorporated that into my method. And then tried a couple new things and a couple new products on it that I didn’t really like. And then I found Appalachian state’s process and combined that with the one’s I was already doing and then got to where I am.”
Each game, the team brings six balls that all have gone through the process. Balls get used in more that just one game, but they are also easy to ruin. In the team's third game of the season they played Southern Oregon. A storm delayed the game by 90 minutes, and the rain ruined four of the six balls from that day. All four of those had to be replaced.
The amount of hours Berrett puts in to preparing footballs for a full season is too much to count. But without that process, the balls are too waxy for quarterbacks to throw and too hard for receivers to catch.
While Barrett knows the players are the ones on the field making big plays, he still gets happy about his contribution.
“I don’t think of it as it happens," said Berrett. "But I look back on stuff and am like ‘man, that was a beautiful ball that won us the game, and I broke that ball in’”
Had a lot of fun with this one— Brendyn Jones (@brendyn_jones) September 28, 2022
Story coming soon… https://t.co/s8rH1INm4y
Being an equipment manager is hard. Berrett can work from 50 to 60 hours a week. The job is more than a full time commitment. And, by nature, it is a very behind the scenes job.
Barrett said he likes it that way. He doesn't need much praise for what he does, but he will accept it in whatever form it comes.
“Equipment is the most important part of football, because that’s what that protects our players," Said Berrett. "That’s what makes everything run smoothly so any kind of recognition we can get, and it’s not even me, just equipment managers as a whole, any recognition they can get is huge.”