Players Not The Only Packers Going To Europe

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Earlier this week, the Packers announced they would be sending 19 players to NFL Europe for a chance to get a closer look at them in game action. Green Bay's allocation of 19 potential future stars led the NFL, although the 32 franchises combined to provide 266 players to the six teams of the developmental league, whose training camp will get under way in Tampa in the next few weeks.

However, the product on the field is not the only area the Packers will be supplying NFL Europe with up-and-coming talent. Two men with ties to the Green Bay equipment department will be plying their craft abroad in the coming months.

Cale Kirby - who has worked as a season-long intern on equipment manager Red Batty's staff each of the past two seasons, as well as on game days and training camp back in 2002 - will serve as the assistant equipment manager for the Frankfurt Galaxy this spring.

Also, the equipment department for the entire league is headed up by a former full-time equipment assistant of the Packers, John Odea. Odea is entering his second season with NFL Europe, but he returned to Green Bay and worked alongside his brother, Tim, as a voluntary assistant during the 2004 season.

Odea's responsibilities not only include the players' and coaches' apparel and equipment, but he is also in charge of securing each team's video equipment as well.

As manager of the equipment operation, he is directly responsible for hiring the teams' equipment staffs, which he said were highly-coveted positions this season.

"There are two equipment managers for each team - the head guy and the assistant - and almost everybody is associated with an NFL team, either as an intern or a volunteer assistant," Odea said. "We got 50-plus resumes this year and we went through them all. First you try to take guys from the NFL teams, because the NFL owners own this league."

He said his first-hand knowledge of Kirby's work habits made him a strong prospect.

"Obviously knowing Cale and working with Cale for a few years, I think it's a good opportunity for him."

Kirby is very excited about this next step in his career in the football business. He got into working in equipment because of his love of sports back in his high school days.

"My sophomore year, I started managing wrestling at Osceola (WI) High School," he said. "I also played football my first two years in high school, but as a junior I figured that I liked football, I wanted to move on in football, and I knew I wasn't going to be able to advance much as a football player, so I wanted to get into coaching so I became a manager.

"But then I realized how much I liked the equipment aspect of it and then I went to college and worked for three years in the equipment room at UW-LaCrosse. I also worked with an indoor football team there and then I got a chance here, and here I am."

He sees this chance to work in NFL Europe as a great opportunity, and is grateful and eager to get started.

"With John running the equipment department, I kind of thought I'd have a good chance of going, and when he told me I got the job it was like a big weight off my shoulders," Kirby recalled. "I feel like I'm finally getting my chance.

"I'm definitely looking forward to it. It's a great opportunity to learn more, to get more experience. It does have the NFL affiliation, so you can't ask for anything better for the position that I'm in right now."

Aside from the benefit of advancing his career, Kirby said he's also looking forward to the chance of experiencing life in another culture for three months.

"When I was in sixth grade, I went to Italy," he said. "I thought that was interesting, but I've always thought that if I got a chance to go back over to Europe again, I'd want to go to Germany just because of the history and the culture. I'm really looking forward to that.

"But first off, I'm there to do a job. I'm not there to sightsee, but I'll take advantage of what I can in my spare time."

The two Wisconsin-based equipment staffers are already in Florida getting ready for the influx of players coming in to get the NFLE season underway. Training camp will run through much of the month of March before all six teams fly across the Atlantic for the season's kickoff weekend in early April.

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