Wherever they go, it follows. The 170 arms and legs of the 18th-ranked Gophers football team never stray too far from the 18 wheels of the 65-foot maroon and gold tractor-trailer that lugs around every thigh pad, shoulder pad and helmet.
This year, brothers Paul and Tom Luxem teamed up to grind the gears while traveling to Northwestern, Illinois, Penn State, Iowa and, finally, El Paso, Texas.
The duo works for Berger Transfer, one of the biggest holdings of Allied Moving Agents. While the Luxems are compensated for their time by Berger, the company donates the time and expenses to the University.
“I started doing this the year they went to the Liberty Bowl, so I’ve been doing this for 13 or 14 years or so,” Paul Luxem said.
Paul said he and his brother left Minneapolis on Christmas Eve and made the 1600-mile trip in 26 hours. As if the equipment for the team wasn’t enough, the 300 uniforms for the University marching band were also stowed away in the tractor-trailer.
With the tractor parked at the team hotel, the Luxems made the 15-minute commute in a rental car to the Sun Bowl where the trailer is parked. It’s two days before the game and Minnesota just wrapped up practice.
Student trainers Jon Wohlhuter and Summer Blakey rummage through a smorgasbord of cardboard boxes containing Gophers sweatshirts, T-shirts and caps that are being handed out to members of the official University party that topped 600 people. Even the two police escorts on motorcycles donned maroon and gold baseball hats when their helmets were off.
As Blakey and Wohlhuter diligently pack up the trailer for the day, the Gophers players and coaches are climbing aboard the five buses used to transfer them back to the hotel. And as the Gophers punch out, the Ducks of Oregon march by for their shift.
Likewise, Oregon’s version of the Berger Transfer big rig comes rolling into the parking lot at the Sun Bowl. Out of professional courtesy — or worried that Oregon drivers can’t back up — the Luxem brothers help back in the green-and-yellow semi.
Behind the scenes, moving an entourage this large is an enormous undertaking, but everything is big in Texas.
Even parallel parking.
Michael Dougherty covers football and men’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]