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Tue Dec 29, 2020, 11:54 PM

The long, strange journey of Colorado football's equipment truck

Colorado's entry into the absurd began when Washington had to back out of the title game because of an outbreak of COVID-19. That elevated North Division runner-up Oregon to play South champion USC, which in turn forced the cancellation of Colorado's game that weekend with Oregon. But -- and here's where the saga gets so weird it eventually involved a 48-year-old truck driver from Wellington, Colorado -- the leaders responsible for scheduling games and cashing television checks realized the conference needed a backup in case USC produced its own run of positive tests. Since Colorado was the second-place team in the South, and since the prospect of having no game at all sent a cold and bitter wind through the conference office, the Buffaloes were told to be ready to play a game in case USC couldn't.

He carries cartons of tape and pallets of prewrap and scissors and tape-cutters and bandages. He carries cases and cases of Gatorade, and boxes of food that he presumes are protein bars but has never fully investigated. ("I've never looked in there," he says, "but if I break down and I'm hungry, that story might change." He carries helmets and replacement helmet parts and shoulder pads, cleats and communications equipment and popup medical tents. "Everything you see on the sideline but the benches," says Christopher Dountas, Colorado's director of football equipment.

So Lehmann would drive the truck south and await word. He and Dountas mapped out a route that would take Lehmann roughly six hours toward Albuquerque, at which point he would either head west toward California or -- if USC remained COVID-compliant -- turn around and head back to Boulder, or -- follow along here -- east to Dallas. The whole thing started to feel like a scene out of an old Western, where the lines on a map show the path of the wagon train before a match appears and burns the whole thing up.

He drives the truck part-time, hauling gear for Colorado and Colorado State, but his main gig is as a chaplain in the Wyoming Air National Guard. He enlisted at 38 years old, and when he showed up for Air Force basic training, the drill instructors, all about 10 or 15 years younger than he was, didn't know what to make of him

"They're looking at me wondering, 'Is this court-ordered?' 'Life out of options, old man?'"


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