The Arena Football League announced Chicago Rush equipment manager Jeff Henderson of Lake Zurich earned AFL Equipment Manager of the Year for the 2012 season.
"I'm very excited to win this award back-to-back years, especially considering the voting comes from my peers," Henderson said.
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His equipment manager days stretch back to when he was in high school. As he moved into college, an opportunity to intern with the Indianapolis Colts presented itself and he was able to contribute three years to working training camp and home games.
That experience led to his first full-time equipment manager job in the World League of American Football. From there, he moved on to the Arena Football League, where he has spent the last 19 years and taken part in 305 total games.
"I take my job very seriously. I'm there for the players because, without them, I obviously don't have a job," Henderson said.
The Lake Zurich resident won his first AFL award in 2000 as equipment manager for the Grand Rapids Rampage, and has now earned the award with the Rush in back-to-back years (2011-12).
A typical game day begins at 8 a.m. for a 7 p.m. game, and Henderson can still be seen putting together the locker room by himself.
"He's very committed to his craft," said Rush Assistant General Manager Jon Redmond, "and very particular, but he does it all out of passion for this game and organization. We're extremely proud Jeff has been recognized back-to-back years by the league."
Through the years of commitment, Henderson recalls one specific moment that has stood out.
"I remember a couple years ago we had a guy stuck in traffic on his way to the game, so we had to dress one of our inactive players in a moment's notice," Henderson said.
"Luckily, in all the years of experience, I've always crafted a backup plan and we were able to dress the player in his own gear within moments. That type of last-minute switch has been the story of this job, and the excitement of uncertainty is a reason I keep coming back year after year."