Illinois Wesleyan University equpment manager Tony Robbins makes a quick field repair to Frank Toland's helmet during the first half against Millikin on Oct. 11, 2015, at Tucci Stadium.

Tony Robbins is a sports fan, yet he rarely watches sports on television.

"These are my sports," Robbins said from behind the equipment desk at Illinois Wesleyan University's Shirk Center. "I come here and watch these guys and these women play. I've already seen them. I don't have to go to TV to watch them."

A former IWU athlete and coach, Robbins has settled in as the equipment manager at his Bloomington alma mater, outfitting and assisting 20 Titan varsity sports.

"I love it. It's a good deal," said Robbins. "It kept me around sports. I had lost touch with the university. It kind of got me reconnected."

Robbins ran cross country at IWU and was the Titans’ top finisher in the 1982 College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin championships. After his 1983 graduation, he served as head cross country coach and assistant track and field coach until 1992.

While working at Read’s Sporting Goods in Bloomington, Robbins sold gear to several Wesleyan teams.

“I was calling on (football) Coach (Norm) Eash and he mentioned the equipment job was going to be opening. That kind of piqued my interest,” Robbins said. “After further conversation with him and Mr. Bridges (former athletic director Dennie Bridges), the job appealed to me.”

Robbins has held the position since the 2005-06 school year.

“Tony has been a blessing for our department,” said current IWU Athletic Director Mike Wagner. “He is an extension of our coaching staff. The work he puts in and his time, effort and knowledge is really invaluable to us and our student-athletes and coaches.”

Robbins and his student staff of 10 make sure all of IWU’s teams have their equipment ready every day for practices and games.

“I don’t want our coaches to worry about game equipment, just worry about coaching,” said Robbins. “There are certain things you know you have to get done that day, but every day is different.

“It’s just a day-to-day thing. We have a team going here, a team practicing there. We make sure it’s ready for them when the kids walk in from class.”

A big part of the job for Robbins and his staff is laundry. Student workers do that work in the evening.

"They can study down here while the washer and dryer are going," Robbins said. "But it's not quite the library where you can really concentrate."

“Each athlete has a laundry loop that corresponds to their locker. Every day they put it in the bucket after practice. We wash it, dry it and put it back in their locker.”

And then there are the towels. When the shelf behind the equipment desk is full, it holds 250 to 300 towels.

“It used to be kids would come back here and grab a towel. Now I take towels to the locker rooms every day,” he said. “We go through 500 towels a day. I have student workers, their job is to basically take care of the towels and fold them."

“Washing and drying is the easy part. It’s the folding that catches up to you. I fold a lot of towels in the morning. It’s a peaceful time for me.”

Robbins calls the IWU coaches “wonderful people, all great to work with. They do a very good job communicating with me if there is a change in practice or a change in a game.”

Robbins works closely with Eash on the myriad equipment needs of a football team.

“Football is a very demanding sport. It starts the middle of August and is done the middle of November,” said Robbins. “It’s 125 guys practicing every day, six days a week. Damage to helmets, shoulder pads, ripped pants, they come back here to us.”

Robbins also helps set up for track meets and serves as a site supervisor for home events, along with Wagner and assistant athletic director Tony Bankston.

“I wish I could make it to more events,” Robbins said. “The events I do make it to, it’s fantastic to watch Wesleyan teams.”

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Contact Randy Reinhardt at (309) 820-3403. Follow him on Twitter: @Pg_Reinhardt


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