The 2018 NFL season begins tonight, when the Philadelphia Eagles, the defending Super Bowl Champions, host the Atlanta Falcons at Lincoln Financial Field.
If you watch the game on NBC, you probably won’t see Greg Delimitros, but the Stony Brook alum’s fingerprints will be all over the field.
Delimitros, who earned his bachelor’s degree in business management from Stony Brook in 2002, is in his 15th season with the Eagles, and his third as director of equipment operations. In February, the journey that began at Stony Brook — where he was head student equipment manager for the Seawolves — reached the pinnacle of the football world when the Eagles stunned the New England Patriots to win their first Super Bowl.
On the eve of the season opener, Delimitros spent a few minutes reflecting on his wild ride to the top, and offering a glimpse behind the scenes in an NFL locker room.
It’s the eve of the 2018 NFL season. What’s the feeling like getting ready for this?
It’s a good feeling being defending Super Bowl champs. Everybody’s pretty jacked up. Training camp’s over, and everybody’s ready to rock and roll opening night.
What’s the feeling been like in camp this summer? Is it different at all because the Eagles are the defending Super Bowl champions, or did it feel like any other preseason?
Training camp is training camp. It’s long, long days, but it didn’t feel any different because we won the Super Bowl. It’s training camp.
It would seem that the biggest difference between training camp and the regular season is how many more players there are. How much of a difference does that make for your job?
It’s always a lot easier when the numbers are less. At the end of the day, it’s a business, and everybody knows we’re going from 90 to 53, and then 10 practice squad players and whoever’s on injured reserve. It helps when there’s less people, but it’s still a demanding job.
This all started for you at Stony Brook, where you were the student equipment manager. When you first got that job, did you have any idea that this is where it could lead?
I actually started in high school, and then Coach [Sam] Kornhauser gave me an opportunity to come and work in the equipment room. At first, I was going to work just on football, and then I wound up working with all the teams throughout the years. It was awesome.
I never thought I’d be in the NFL, but I worked my butt off, and it’s what I love to do. It’s like a dream come true, and just winning the Super Bowl was unbelievable.
So what did you think you were going to do? You studied business management…
I thought I’d be a head equipment manager in a big-time college program. In the NFL, it’s who you know.
So you really knew early on that equipment operations was something you wanted to pursue.
Growing up, I was a short little chubby kid. I played baseball, but collegiately, there’s no way I was good enough to play. I wasn’t athletically gifted, so this was my calling, so to speak.
You were part of Stony Brook’s first Division I teams. What stands out to you most from those years?
We played on that field where it wasn’t even level half the time. It’s a big difference. We had bleachers as our stands. Then I went to West Virginia as a graduate assistant, and you talk about big time college football, you’ve got it right there. I went from 10,000 people, if that, at the games, to 70,000 at West Virginia, and then coming into the NFL. I’m very lucky. I love getting up every morning to go to work. You won’t hear me complain.
When the football team was struggling through those early years in Division I, playing at the Sports Complex, could you have imagined this program getting to where it is now, as a nationally ranked FCS team playing at LaValle Stadium?
It’s remarkable. Coach K started it, and now they’ve elevated it. It helps when you have scholarships to recruit. It’s great.
What are some of your favorite memories of Stony Brook away from football?
I was very lucky: I worked with all the teams. I have great memories of working with women’s soccer, baseball, lacrosse, you name it. I have a lot of fond memories there, working with Coach K and the late Dan Arena, working with my guys in the equipment room, it was fun. It was a brotherhood. Every Friday, we had our little ritual: we’d go eat our Chinese food together, do things together, travel together. Those are the memories you miss. You cherish those.
You mention Chinese food – two of Newsday’s 10 best Chinese restaurants on Long Island are within a few minutes’ drive from campus. Was it like that then?
Here’s the thing. I’m a Greek kid. Growing up, my parents never had Chinese food. At Stony Brook, I got to experience a lot of different things: eating different foods, walking across the street and going to Cosmo’s when it used to be there, just hanging out, getting out of the equipment room and going to get food and experiencing campus life, or going to Port Jefferson and having dinner. Getting away from athletics was a nice thing, and that’s what Dan Arena taught me.
Once class was done, I used to go to the Union, get a meatball sandwich, go into the equipment room, eat it and just hang out and be in the equipment room all the time. I loved it.
I have a lot of fond memories of going on the road with Coach K. We roomed together, I’d eat all his Twizzlers, watch the Yankee game. You build relationships and friendships.
You’ve worked with teams at the FCS level (Stony Brook), the FBS level in a major conference (at West Virginia), and obviously in the NFL for 14 years. From an equipment manager’s standpoint, what’s the biggest difference between college and the NFL?
In college, you’re going to have more numbers. If you don’t only work football, there’s more sports and more athletes you’ve got to deal with. In the NFL, it’s scaled down to 90 or less.
People always ask what the difference between the NFL and college is. In college, you’ve got a lot more people, but you have more help, too. You have student managers who can help you about and a couple of assistants. The job is the same. Some people may differ, but I say it’s just bigger numbers. When you’re doing orders, you’re ordering for the men’s and women’s track teams, too…swim teams, and not just football.
What does a typical game day look like for you?
A lot of my preparation starts a week in advance. We have Opening Night hats that came in; we’ve got to number them, give out all the apparel for the coaches, the players, packing and unpacking bags. At the practice facility, players had to pack their bags; we had their helmets, their shoulder pads, their knee and thigh pads, gloves, any supplements they want, any braces, mouthpieces, any kind of equipment they’re going to need on game day, or any ritual they’ve got, they pack it in their bag, but we do the majority of packing for them. Then, we go to the stadium, unpack the bags, and get their lockers set up.
Coaches and staff lockers we get done early in the week, so we don’t have to worry about it. We have everybody’s t-shirts, shorts, undergarments, polos, whatever gameday apparel we put in their locker, pants. For the opener, we’ll get to the stadium at 2:30, start pushing all the trunks out, get the field set up, get the kicking mats, tents, anything we have to get set up. Then, we have Zebra Technologies that comes and turns on all the GPS equipment in the shoulder pads and footballs – they track everything. NFL Films comes and mics up a couple of our players for TV purposes.
During the game, we make sure nothing breaks, give Coach the challenge flag, make sure we’ve got enough ball boys doing pack and go. There’s a whole set up of when linebackers, quarterbacks, receivers come out.
After pregame warmups are done, the NFL uniform inspectors will give me a sheet and let me know which players are not in compliance. I’ve got to go inside before the game starts and tell guys, “Your shirt’s gotta be tucked in, your socks aren’t meeting the criteria.” There’s a whole bunch of stuff. They notice everything and they take pictures.
After the game, you break down the field, push everything in, clean up, get laundry going. There’s a whole process: make sure all the lockers are cleaned up, and nobody’s left anything. There’s a lot going on.
What does it mean to be part of the first game of the NFL season? What are you looking forward to most about the season opener?
I’m looking forward to hopefully getting a win. I don’t get caught up in all that stuff. I know they’re doing the pregame ceremony with the banner, but we’ve got to focus on making sure the team’s ready to rock and roll for the game.
I love the season, so it’s great.
Because of the job you have to do, a lot of times you can’t get caught up in the hoopla, but is there any one moment from the Super Bowl run that really stands out to you, the thing you’ll remember most about last season?
People ask me about the strip sack by Brandon Graham. I’ll never forget, I had Zach Ertz’s touchdown ball in my hands and I was marking it up. I turned my back and I hear fans going nuts. I turn around and I see Derek Barnett with the ball — I’m getting goose bumps talking about this — I see him raise it in the air, and I said, “Oh my God, we’re going to win this game.”
It’s very special. People don’t realize. The 2004 season was my first year here, and we went to the Super Bowl. We played the Patriots, and we didn’t win. It was really upsetting. People don’t realize how hard it is to go to the Super Bowl and win it. You’ve got to cherish these moments, and when you get there, you’ve got to win, because you never know when you’re going to get back. It was my rookie year in the league, and Coach [Andy] Reid told me, “You’re a lucky kid going to the Super Bowl your first year. You know how hard it is?” I said, “Yeah, we’ll go back again,” and 14 years later we’re back.
Everybody stuck together. We had key players go down, and it was a “Next Man Up” mentality, and nothing was stopping us. Somebody, each week, rose to the occasion.
When the Super Bowl was over, was it tough to have to do your postgame routine while everyone else was celebrating?
No, we all celebrated. I told my guys after we won the NFC Championship Game, “Guys, enjoy it. We’re going to go and we’re going to work, but if we win the Super Bowl, we’re all enjoying it, because you have to take this in. You don’t know when it’s going to happen again.”
Once that ball hit the ground, I sent a bunch of my guys in to pass out jackets, T-shirts, hats, and me and my assistant Craig, we’re out on the field. He starts cleaning up the field, and I said, “Craig, what are you doing? We just won the Super Bowl. Just enjoy it!” My wife came down on the field, I saw her, hugged her, kissed her. It’s nuts. You’ve got to enjoy these moments, because you don’t know when you’re going to get back there.
— Elliot Olshansky