Dressing To Win

Senior linebacker Rashad Smith modeling the Gamecocks' new football uniforms.

Senior linebacker Rashad Smith modeling the Gamecocks’ new football uniforms.

When Jacksonville State head coach Bill Clark made the football team’s motto “Win The Day,” he began looking for anything to help them do so.

Switching to the new Adidas TechFit uniforms was his first move.

“One of the things I say is nonnegotiable is us dressing good,” Clark said. “It’s an important part of kids’ psyche today. They see other teams and how they dress. I think there’s an advantage in how your uniform fits. When you’ve got a loose hanging uniform, people can grab you, sling you down and hold you.”

Adidas designed the TechFit uniforms to be 30 percent lighter than previous models and be a much tighter fit on the athlete.

Aside from the much more simple design, the way the uniforms fit–or  do not fit– the players stands out the most. The jersey often slides out of place in the shoulder area and the shoulder pads underneath become exposed. The players readjust them constantly after plays.

One jersey that is seen constantly needing readjustment is the one worn by junior nose guard Caleb Lawrence. His is often seen up around the bottom of his shoulder pads exposing his “belly.” The 300 pounder, however, is not embarrassed by that. He said he started leaving his jersey up to release some of the heat trapped underneath and he grew tired of readjusting it.

Junior nose guard Caleb Lawrence.

Junior nose guard Caleb Lawrence.

But, attention has come with wearing his jersey that way. Officials and opposing players have had a few words for Lawrence about it.

“The officials have asked me to pull it down like in the McNeese game,” Lawrence said. “Most of the players just try to make fun but they talk more about me wearing low socks.”

Some officials have taken issue with it. Most players have found it amusing. As for coach Clark, he does not have a problem with it.

“It doesn’t bother me because of how he plays,” Clark said. “If I thought it was an attention getting thing, I’m not real big on a guy trying to just draw attention to himself. That’s not who this guy is. He’s a player. He’s a throwback guy. He comes to work everyday. It’s what’s comfortable for him so we’ll let him do it.”

Lawrence has managed 44 tackles and six sacks this season. He has only one more tackle than his 2012 total of 43. But, he has four more sacks this season than he did in 2012. One reason he is having more success rushing opposing quarterbacks is the tightness of his jersey.

“A tighter uniform benefits someone in my position by not being held as easily,” Lawrence said.

Senior tight end Jerry Slota says the offense can also benefit from a tight uniform.

“Defensive players can’t grab you like they used to,” Slota said. “Even in practice, those jerseys are loose. They’re able to grab you, whip you around a little bit. When the jersey’s are tight, they’ve got to lock on and stay on. They can’t just hold you by your jersey.”

Senior tight end Jerry Slota

Senior tight end Jerry Slota

He did say they only thing that gives him “fits” is the jersey coming up over his shoulder pads. According to head equipment manager Cole Thornton, readjusting the jerseys is “kind of something that comes with the territory.” Even the larger universities that wear the same model face that issue.

“There’s been things done such as velcro on the shoulder pads to keep them down,” he said. “But, then you also restrain the motion. A quarterback will complain about theirs being restrictive of motion if it doesn’t come up. If it stays down, they really have problems getting into their throwing motion. Really, I think it just comes with the territory and it’s not a big issue really with the players.”

Despite their hassle, the uniforms remain popular with the players.

“This years uniforms are a lot better fitting, also tighter and look better,” Lawrence said.

Added Slota: “I love them. They stretch. They’re not too tight. They look tight but they’re truly not that tight.”

Clark remains optimistic a common ground can be found between the way the uniforms fit and how they effect the athlete’s range of motion.

“I think there’s some things that we’ll maybe look at next year,” he said. “There’s some strapping and some things in there. To me, it’s worth it.”

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