Milledgeville’s Stephens to work Chicago's NFL sidelines

Doree Stephens

Doree Stephens still hasn’t experienced the reason Chicago, Illinois, is known as ‘The Windy City.’ She’s likely to find out on Christmas Eve at Soldier Field when her new employers, the Chicago Bears football club, is hosting the Buffalo Bills in what might be a game with serious postseason implications.

Or even before that when Stephens will get to experience the rivalry that is the Bears vs. the Green Bay Packers on Dec. 4. Or when another noted NFC rival, the Philadelphia Eagles, come to town Dec. 18.

Stephens, graduate of both Baldwin High School and Georgia Southern University, received her degree from the Statesboro institution in December, 2020. Her first professional job was that of a school teacher in neighboring Hancock County. With the Bears, however, she will be applying what she learned at Georgia Southern when she worked for the Eagle football program.

“The grace of God,” said Stephens, describing just how she fell into the employ of a National Football League franchise. “One day I was sitting at home and asked God to show me a sign. Am I ready to take my career forward?”

Stephens put her resume on the web service Linkedin, and one day she received notification of a matching opportunity. She filled out the application, and two weeks later received a phone call. Stephens interviewed with the Bears over the phone. Another week-and-a-half of waiting paid off, for the next call from Chicago was a job offer.

“I got the news the day before my birthday,” she said. "It was a double bonus of celebration. At that time I was teaching, so I talked with my principal. ‘Take it.’”

Now, what is this job? She is an intern equipment manager.

“I’m still in the process of learning everything,” said Stephens as she was visiting Milledgeville prior to the Fourth of July weekend. “I take care of the players and coaches, assist them in their needs. I also help set up practice, the practice field, making sure they have all the gear they need.

“As of right now we are getting ready for training camp. Also, inventory.”

Stephens took this job with no prior knowledge of Chicago itself.

“I must say, it’s beautiful,” she said. “But, I’m not ready for the reason why they call it ‘The Windy City.’ Right now, it’s between 80 to 85 degrees, but there’s still wind behind it. So it’s not really hot. People always tell me give it two to three months. ‘You'll understand why they call it “The Windy City.”’ Other than that, it’s beautiful up there.”

So Stephens will have a sideline view of all the Bears games – home and away – for the 2022 season. One of those road games is against the Atlanta Falcons Nov. 20 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“It’ll be an awesome experience,” she said.

Chicago is, no doubt, a far cry from Sparta, where Stephens taught physical education and health at Hancock Central High. How is it, then, that Linkedin matched her resume with an equipment manager’s role in the NFL? It’s because Stephens was an equipment manager for the Georgia Southern football team.

“The only difference between the job I had in college and now, I’m not over the clock and the music,” said Stephens. “With the Eagles, I basically did the same thing. Sometimes if I had on the wrong song, it’s like, ’Doree, come on! What are you doing?!’ I’m glad I’m not over that with the Bears.

“I loved (Georgia Southern football). It’s the definition of family. Everybody was there for everyone. I got a ring out of it.”

And all the "swag" that comes from a bowl appearance. It was the 2020 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl when Georgia Southern beat Louisiana Tech 38-3.

"My ultimate career goal is to become a sports agent and entertainment lawyer,” said Stephens. “I want to be an agent for basketball, football and baseball. Those are the sports I grew up on. I just see how, for instance, recruiters who come in and try to get players to come to this school and that school. I love how they make sure they’re comfortable.”

Her degree is in sports management with a minor in athletic administration. She looks at the 50-year impact of Title IX in opening up these opportunities for female students like herself and a personal protege.

“It shows women can do the same things in a male dominated area,” said Stephens. “I actually have an old student of mine following in my footsteps. She's going to Georgia Southern majoring in sports management and working equipment with the basketball team. I assisted her with that. It’s a good feeling to know I have someone looking up to me. I told her, ‘It's not about what people say. It’s all about knocking down the walls and fulfilling your dream. Do what you have to do to get where you want to go.’”

It makes her feel like a trailblazer in her own time.

In Chicago, Stephens isn’t totally alone. There are Bears with Georgia roots, most notably quarterback Justin Fields and linebacker Roquan Smith. Even closer to her heart is a fellow GSU Eagle, defensive back Kindle Vildor.

“We’re together again,” she said.

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