Football has always played a significant role in Katie Knudsen’s life.
From cheering at Hart High School in Newhall, Calif. to working as the equipment manager on the sideline, Katie and the game of football have been inseparable.
Now a sophomore at Oregon, Knudsen has taken that love for the sport and elevated it to a place where she may never have imagined.
She is not only an equipment manager for the No. 2-ranked Ducks, she’s also the first female to don green and yellow behind the scenes.
Whether or not Knudsen realizes it, she’s made history.
Knudsen’s story begins in her small hometown in Valencia, Calif. Knudsen was introduced to the sport by her three next-door neighbors who played on the high school team. Considering Knudsen was one of two sisters in her family, her interaction with the neighbors were her only outlet to the sport.
According to Knudsen, all of Newhall turned out for every game. It brought the community closer. It’s also what drew her to the game.
“Since the school was small, I knew all of the football players,” she said.
When it came time to choose a college, Oregon was a seemingly easy choice. Aside from housing a renowned football program, the school provided the programs she wanted to study: biology and human physiology. There was also the rain, something she loves.
Knudsen said it was a win-win situation.
“I just really wanted to get out of California,” she said.
Oregon was indeed the perfect fit in every way for Knudsen. Ironically, her work clothes are just the opposite. As the only female on staff, Knudsen has had to bear the inconvenience of wearing men’s clothes.
“Sometimes they don’t know really how to handle me yet,” Knudsen said. “They have all men’s clothes, so I wear men’s clothes at work all the time because that’s all that they can give me.”
She has also had to deal with situations male staffers don’t face — she’s not allowed to enter the locker room, for starters.
“I have to wait until the locker room is empty. On days we do helmet checks, all of them [other equipment managers] stay up there and just do the helmet checks in the locker room, while I have to bring a cart and grab all my helmets and take them back down,” Knudsen said. “I wouldn’t mind being up there and I’ve said that to a few players and all they say back is: you don’t want to be up there.”
But for Knudsen, these were all small inconveniences. She’s thankful for the job, and while she understands that she’s the first female in her position, her primary focus is the work itself. It hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“I think her strengths are more relative to being a great person and hard worker than the fact that she is a female,” football equipment administrator Ken Farr said. “She has an attitude to serve and doesn’t act entitled. I’m just thankful that she is part of the Oregon football program.”
Aside from working nearly 12 hours a day before school, Knudsen has managed to squeeze in some time for fun.
At an annual barbecue, Knudsen, along with all the other new workers, had to sing in front of the team. In the process, she earned the nickname Katy Perry.
“We make all of the new people sing and if you get booed off stage you have to hug a tree until you sing again,” Knudsen said. “So I just went out there and now they (team) call me Katy Perry because of my singing.”