INDIANAPOLIS --- Walk around the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center right now, and it’s evident the entire Indianapolis Colts organization is gearing up for training camp, including in the Colts’ massive equipment room.
Inside that room, you will find a vault of football shoes that rivals any Foot Locker.
Sean Sullivan is entering his 19th season with the Colts and third as equipment manager. There are as many as 1600 pairs of football footwear in the building, and Sullivan knows every brand, style, and size.
“For camp, we’ll pack like 400 pairs of shoes,” Sullivan said this week. “For a season, I can’t even begin to fathom what we go through.”
That’s because every player has a different preference when it comes to his cleats, and we’re not just talking about which brand and model (the Colts have players wearing Nike, Reebok, and Under Armor right now).
“You get guys that will only wear a brand new shoe on gameday, fresh out of the box. You better have the paper stuffed inside of it.” Sullivan explained, but offensive lineman are often the polar opposite, rarely requesting new kicks.
“Offensive linemen, I basically have to steal their shoes out of their locker...they get to a point where they start to roll a little bit, and you have to worry about the health aspect.”
And sometimes Sullivan literally has big shoes to fill.
“Some guys we even have to break in their shoes for them,” Sullivan said with a smile. “That’s where you hopefully get an intern with a size 13 or 14 shoe.”
Players will also bring their own cleats into the locker room. That’s where Sullivan steps in to make sure those shoes adhere to the NFL’s strict equipment and uniform policies.
“We try to save them money,” said Sullivan laughingly, explaining how the equipment staff can help players avoid a fine from the league. “I don’t know if that’s in our job description. So, if I have to color a shoe in with a black Sharpie to make it legal, I’ll do it for him if that’s what he wants to wear.”
Sullivan says as long as the players and him are playing by the rules and doing what the league office instructs, he’ll help the players with their cleats in order for them to be able to focus solely on football.
Sullivan and his staff also double check players’ equipment bags to make sure they don’t accidentally pack two left shoes (it’s happened). Ultimately, it’s Sullivan’s responsibility to make sure these elite athletes’ dogs aren’t barking.
“Every part of the body is important in football, but if your feet are sore, you can’t do anything,” Sullivan said. “You get guys out there with broken hands, and they have a big cast on it...but if you can’t walk on your feet...you’re not playing. This is a huge part of football.”
And serving as the king of the Colts’ cleats is something Sullivan takes great pride in being.
“Everybody’s got a piece in this thing. You all work hard, because you are all trying to do the same thing. If you’re not in it to win a Super Bowl, you shouldn’t be here.”