01:30 AM

​Behind-the-scenes effort helps the Buckeyes prepare for the Cotton Bowl

It’s been a busy month for Sean McNamara. The fourth-year marketing and communications student graduated from The Ohio State University last week. And he could join the Buckeyes on the field celebrating a victory in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic Friday night.

McNamara is the head student manager for football team and has been part of the staff longer than he has been in school.

“I’ve worked with the team for the last four seasons. I came in my freshman year in August before school started and I was part of that 2014 team which had a great run,” he said. “I’ve worked with the team ever since and it's been an incredible experience.”

McNamara is part of the support staff working to make the football team as comfortable and prepared as possible before they face the University of Southern California.

The last time the Buckeyes played at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, they left the field as national champions. So there is some familiarity with the set-up, but there are always some wrinkles.

“Unfortunately the Cowboys don’t practice at the stadium, so we're taking a second truck this year to take an entire weight room down there so we can get our workouts in leading up to the game,” said Kevin Ries, athletic equipment manager for the Buckeyes. “Just like we would here in Columbus.”

Bowl preparation is a massive operation. According to Ries, the total travel party is about 340 people. That includes players, coaches, support staff and some family members.

Ries and his staff, including more than a dozen student managers, set the team up in Dallas just like they would be set up at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. From locker rooms to meeting rooms, they work to help the team get ready.

The timing of the Cotton Bowl includes a few new challenges. Ohio State spent the weekend practicing at a high school field because the Dallas Cowboys played at home on Sunday.

“This year being away from home for Christmas poses another little wrinkle,” Ries said. “So we’re doing our best to create a holiday atmosphere.”

That included little Christmas trees in the rooms of the players and coaches and making sure that any of the younger members of the traveling party knew that Santa was aware the Buckeyes were in Texas. The tiny details add up.

“You’ve got to pay attention to every little thing. You have to make sure everyone has their jersey, their shoulder pads, their helmet. There are just so many little things that go into the whole operation of this team,” McNamara said. “It's amazing to see it all come together on each game day.”

When the game kicks off, all of the preparation and effort is designed to maximize the chances of winning on the field.

“Obviously winning is why we do this. We're very lucky to be at Ohio State, to have the talent that we do,” McNamara said. “From the coaching staff to the whole support staff. Everyone is at the top of what they do and we put in all the effort we can to help the team succeed.”