CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — With no football players to equip this spring, this the first time in his 30 year career that head equipment manger Trent Chesnut hasn’t had much to do.
“It’s a drastic change when you see 100 guys everyday, and then all of a sudden nobody is around, and we do miss them,” says Chesnut. “You really miss being there and talking to them and hopefully well get back to that soon.”
In the meantime, Chestnut is playing his part in the local COVID-19 fight. He heard about groups at the University of Illinois making face shields for healthcare workers. To help out, he started sanitizing all the parts with the same machine he uses for football equipment.
“[The machine] just happened to be sitting there idle, so we’ve been sanitizing all the parts that go into the face shields since about April 6th,” says Chesnut. “An equipment job is not a work from home remote job. It’s hands on, and it was a shock for us to work at home for a while. So being able to do this was a savior for us, but being able to help out at the same time”
The equipment staff will get the materials delivered to them at the football facility, then it goes into a an ozone chamber machine. It uses ozone gas to sanitize all the parts, taking about 30 minutes total. After the sanitation is done, they handle all the parts wearing a mask and gloves, and the materials are packed back up. They spend about four days a week sanitizing the face shields for essential healthcare workers.
“The response has been great,” says Chesnut. “We get a lot of Facebook responses, and ‘thank you’s’, and ‘proud of be an Illini’. It’s pretty cool, obviously not why where doing it, but it’s nice to get recognized and doing something for the community.”
Chesnut and his staff have sanitized close to 1,000 face shields, but they’re hoping to get back to shoulder pads and cleats something soon.