KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Chiefs franchise starts its 60th training camp next week, and for 37 seasons equipment director Allen Wright has served as the one constant mainstay in creating a home away from home for the team.
“For us, it's literally like Christmas,” Wright said Wednesday morning as the club started loading trucks for the 61-mile journey from 1 Arrowhead Drive to the campus of Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, the team's training camp home for a 10th-straight season.
But it's more than the 1,000 footballs and 1,200 towels that make the trek to St. Joseph. All 90 players receive a customized pack with about 15 pieces of clothing along with their helmet, cleats, other equipment and toiletries designed to last them through the 23-day camp.
“We put a little bit of everything in there,” Wright said. “We don't care what they wear, we just want them to be happy and do their job to the best of their ability.”
The training camp care packages are not one-size-fits-all either. Even cleats are custom fitted to each player.
“We're doing foot scans now, so we're able to detail guys up to their foot to the best option of shoes,” said Wright, who notes he ships even the foot scanner to training camp. “We weren't able to do that even three years ago.”
For players such as quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Wright says other adjustments are also required. For example, while Nike provides the club's uniforms and team-branded gear, Mahomes has a sponsorship deal with Adidas.
“Each player is a little bit different,” Wright said. “It depends on who he is and his stature. Obviously we have a different situation for Patrick because he's under contract with Adidas.”
Coaches and support staff also receive a similar pack of shirts, shorts, shoes and other team gear. Wright and his team also must coordinate the shipping of medical equipment, training gear, computers and everything else the organization needs to function. Dozens of office chairs lined the sidewalk out side the team's training complex on Wednesday ready for loading into a truck bound for camp.
That's a far cry from what the team took with it for Wright's first training camp trip in 1983 to the campus of William Jewell in Liberty, Missouri.
“It's 180-degrees difference,” Wright said. “Twenty-five, 30 years ago, we were there to give them the bare necessities. We didn't have Nike then, so we had a sweatshirt and a pair of shorts and a t-shirt and that was about it.”
Wright's staff – which includes equipment managers Chris Shropshire, Kyle Crumbaugh, Cale Kirby and Jay White – have unique relationships with the players. That's part of the reason why Wright even packs up souvenirs and keepsakes from players' lockers in Kansas City to make them feel at home at camp.
“We try to do those things, and I think we do those things because we care about them,” Wright said. “Because we are with them seven days a week. They know my wife's name, they know my son's name and I know their names, so it makes it really special.”
Preparation for the 2020 training camp essentially starts at the end of the 2019 camp. Some equipment and supplies get packed away ready for next season. Orders for next season's uniforms and Nike gear get placed in October.
“We never really get out of it, we don't get very far from it,” Wright said.
Preparation for the club's 2020 training camp also requires selecting a location. The club's 10-year commitment to St. Joseph ends this year. For the first time since returning camp to Missouri in 2010, the Chiefs enter camp without a contractual option in place for the following season.
Packing up an entire organization and moving it for three-plus weeks isn't easy. That's part of the reason why 22 NFL teams now hold their training camp at or near their home training facilities. But Wright's OK with the extra effort of going away for camp if it continues to bring results.
“That's the process this regime and this staff believes whole heartedly in,” Wright said. “Take the last six years, I don't know that I can argue. I think we've just come off the best six years in our history, so I think we should go to camp."