MERRILLVILLE | "What are you doing Friday night?"
For Bradley Brayfield, the question was "what wasn't he doing?"
The Merrillville senior's duties for game nights during the football season included just about everything except working the gate.
"As manager, I had to make sure everything was in place for the game while doing whatever the coaches and players needed me to do," Brayfield said. "That could be fixing equipment ... making sure the players are properly hydrated, and are iced up if needed.
"Then at halftime, I played trombone with the marching band before changing back to be manager for the second half.
"It was a lot of work, but I enjoy helping the guys out any way I can."
It didn't end with the football season. Brayfield was also the student manager for the boys basketball team and the baseball team. He served all three varsity sports throughout his four years at the school.
Brayfield discovered his calling before high school.
"While I was an eighth-grader at Pierce, I helped basketball coach Mike Brown with his team," Brayfield said. "From there, it just continued into high school."
Though Brayfield is due to graduate and will attend non-sport DeVry University next fall where he will study web development and administration, his student manager career is not over. He has been selected to be the student manager for the North squad at the North-South Football All-Star Game on July 19 at North Central High School in Indianapolis.
"It caught me by surprise," Brayfield said of his selection determined by the Indiana Football Coaches Association. "Coach (Zac) Wells came up to me one day after attending the Indiana Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony and gave me this (all-star selection) plaque."
Though coaches are annually tasked with replacing graduated talent and leadership, finding someone to fill Brayfield's shoes may be especially daunting.
"To tell you the truth, I don't know what I'm going to do without him," Merrillville baseball coach Mark Schellinger said. "He did so much for us, and he's the type of person who finds joy out of helping people."
While continuing his education nearby, Brayfield plans to attend Pirates sporting events next school year as a fan.
"I'll probably miss not having to show up for practice when football season starts up again," Brayfield said, "but that was the toughest part of being a student manager, working all day out in the heat."
Brayfield did try to become a jock himself.
"I played baseball for a little while," he said, "but then I took a ball to the nose, so I figured that was enough for me."