The University of Central Missouri is known for its academic programs, as well as its athletic ones. Tom Papez attended UCM from 1991-1994 where he was an offensive lineman for the Mules football team. In 1994, Papez received an MIAA All-Academic Team award. He now teaches at Timberland High School and coaches football in Wentzville, MO. He has a wife and five children. One of those children, Julia Papez, now attends UCM and works for the same football team for whom her father once played.
Knowing her father attended the university, Papez says she used to be nervous about living in her parents’ shadow. Both of her parents attended UCM, and they would often talk about what happened in the past and how everything has changed. Now, though, she says they realize that it is the present and they should focus on her memories instead.
Tom Papez is very proud of Julia and what she does for the Mules. Papez thinks that it is incredible that Julia is working for the team. When he played, the team was one win away from an MIAA Conference Championship. He says that it is unbelievable that Julia had the chance to go to the championship game which he dreamed of playing.
Julia says she learned about the equipment manager position through her father. She worked as a football manager in high school and wanted to continue doing so, but she didn’t know if colleges offered the opportunity. She says her dad told her about the job, and she looked it up online.
After reaching out to the program, she was referred to their equipment manager, Pat Swoboda. When she came for a visit, she says the two had a one-on-one talk and Swoboda liked her.
Swoboda hired her because of her past experience doing the job. When he first met Julia, he was impressed with her interest in the position. “She is always positive and looks to do more to help the team,” he said.
Julia says that the best part of being a team manager is getting to go to work and not feeling like it is a job. Her position consists of running some drills, handling the hotel arrangements for away games, curfew checks at night in the hotel, checking cameras in the press box, checking headsets and whatever else might come up. She loves watching the sport so she is never bored, but says it can sometimes be exhausting.
Of course, Julia Papez is not the first female from UCM to make her mark on the game of football. She has a good role model: University of Central Missouri alumna Katie Sowers became the first female coach in NFL history, and helped take her team to this year’s Super Bowl. Papez says she is proud of Sowers because of her hard work, and how difficult it might have been to gain respect from coaches and players. Papez does not know if she wants to go to the NFL, but she says Sowers inspires her through her passion for her job and dream.
Working for a college football team is a lot to handle, but Papez says she feels comfortable around the guys. “We are all mature adults, and we do not need any drama,” she says. “They already have enough discipline on the team, and they know not to be disrespectful.”
Papez says she doesn’t feel like she has to work harder to receive respect because she does her job and she does it well.