When the Bills call, Shone Gipson answers
NEW YORK -- Ever wondered just who that is with the headset on sitting at the Buffalo Bills' table here in Radio City Music Hall?
That would be Shone Gipson, an athletic trainer entering his 11th season with the team. For the other 362 days of the year, Gipson works on the care and prevention of injuries. But beginning tonight and for the next two days, Gipson's job is to answer when the call comes in from the war room at One Bills Drive.
From there, he writes down the name of the next Buffalo Bill and hands it into a "runner" who submits it to the league.
"It's been fun. I get excited about it every year," said Gipson, who's handled the job for six years. "The team asked me if this is something I think I'd like to, and I thought it would be cool. I thought it would be exciting to be at the draft, and it has been."
When General Manager Doug Whaley and Co. decide on the Bills' pick tonight, that information will be given to Kevin Meganck, the team's player personnel analyst. Meganck will then pass the information along to Gipson, who writes the name down -- carefully -- before submitting it.
"Got to make sure you write it down legibly, and you've got the right name down," Gipson said with a laugh. "You look at the card a couple times just to make sure it's the right name. But, you know, it's been great. I've written a lot of them down over the last six years."
With the job comes the expectation of some national television time. Gipson plans accordingly.
"You know what, every year I change up the tie a little bit," he said. "My dad gave me this tie. I lost my father, Donald Bratcher, in January, and I said, 'you know what, I'm going to wear this tie my dad gave me.' He loved us, and he loved our team."
Gipson is joined at the Bills' table this year by Spencer Haws, the team's assistant equipment manager, and Casey Weidl, an assistant in the video department.
After the team's first-round pick is made, Gipson has a tradition of taking a photo with him, and making up another card for the player to sign.
"I get excited about the pick, but I don't get too nervous about handing it it. It's the job that they want me to do," Gipson said. "My favorite part of it is the first round. It's new. It's going to change your team and make your team better. I do think my first couple years doing it, you know the first year or two, I was a little nervous, though."
Gipson is just as anxious as fans watching at home to find out who the pick will be.
"I think there's a misconception that we we know a little bit early what the pick is," he said. "It's not like that."
Gipson said the only nerve-wracking part is making sure the name is spelled right.
"There have been some names that we've drafted that have been a little bit different," he said. "Jairus Byrd comes to mind. When we picked him, I said how the hell do you spell Jairus?"
Once the pick is handed over to the runner, there's no going back.
"The cool part about our situation is it's in real time. There's a time lapse on TV. So I can give our people back in Buffalo, I can them a quick sense of what's going on. What people see on TV, there's about a 30-second lapse," he said. So I can get the pick in early. Let's say it was Jacksonville or Tampa tonight, whoever they pick, before the next team goes on the clock, our guys know who the pick is already. It gives us a head start on the next pick. We have 10 minutes, but that might buy us an extra 30 or 45 seconds."
Gipson stays in communication with One Bills Drive on the headset even when the Bills aren't on the clock, listening to the conversation back home in case of a trade up or a trade down.
"Have to make sure we're ready for any changes that might happen," he said.
After this weekend, Gipson will return to his role as an athletic trainer.
"I'm there at 6 in the morning and I go home at 8 at night. But I love my job. Ralph Wilson gave me an opportunity 11 years ago. Mr. Wilson, Russ Brandon, Doug Whaley ... they've helped me live my dream. Those three men changed my life and I'm so appreciative of it."