The moments on the field after the final whistle of a victorious conference championship game are blissfully chaotic. Confetti is shot into the air, scaffoldings and stages are rolled out for trophy presentations, and an entire organization begins to come to terms with its new reality as a Super Bowl participant.
The players and coaches run all over hugging each other, smiling, crying, all the while donning the championship caps and T-shirts foisted upon them as the first tangible reward for their accomplishment.
Greg Delimitros, in his 19th season as an employee of the Eagles, was in the middle of that celebration in Philadelphia last Sunday. But in that sea of pageantry and festivity, he wasn’t handed a hat or shirt. Almost immediately after the Eagles defeated the 49ers, what he was handed was a serious-looking package by the league.
Inside were about 800 patches for Super Bowl LVII that needed to be applied to just about everything the Eagles might wear the next two weeks.
It was time for him to go to work.
“Everyone else was celebrating but we were getting ready,” Delimitros, the team’s vice president of equipment operations, told Newsday.
It took about 28 hours of heat pressing and sewing to get those patches on, approximately 350 for jerseys to be worn at practices, public events and the game (plus a few spares for each player in case their shirts rip in the contest) and 475 or so for pullovers, golf shirts, basically any article of clothing that would — or could — be worn. That was wrapped up by Tuesday morning.
Then all of it had to be crated and put on one of two full semi trucks that left Philadelphia on Friday for a 42-hour drive to Phoenix, hauling everything the Eagles could possibly need — from medical gear to the football equipment to winter jackets and ski caps, because it does get chilly on those desert nights and mornings — to face Kansas City in the big game.
“We started packing that night after the game,” Delimitros said. “There are a lot of moving pieces.”
The trucks were due to arrive in Phoenix ahead of the team flight this Sunday so that when the team arrives at its hotel that evening, their bags already will be in their assigned rooms.
It’s like the Magical Express at Disney World, except it’s all run by Delimitros and not Mickey Mouse.
“The week before the Super Bowl is a lot of prep work,” Delimitros said with a sigh.
And this was after he already had flown to Phoenix and back in one day the week before the NFC Championship Game as part of a 10-person scouting mission to check out the hotels, training areas and stadium layout.
At some point amid all of the planning and packing and punishing schedules before next Sunday’s game, though, Delimitros may take a moment to look around and appreciate a journey that began, for him, at a pep rally on Long Island a quarter-century ago that unwittingly propelled him toward this Super Bowl.
He’ll reflect on doing exactly what he did as a student at Bellport High School and then at Stony Brook University, but on a slightly larger scale for the Eagles.
The kid who was too small and unathletic to play football for a legendary program but found his calling as a 10th-grade equipment manager — and became his school’s only product to reach the NFL — now is on the verge of claiming a second Super Bowl ring to go with the two Long Island championship rings he helped Bellport achieve in the late 1990s.
All without ever playing a snap of organized football.
“I feel special,” he said. “I’m very appreciative of where I started and where I came from. It’s all about hard work and putting whatever you have into what you want to do. I set goals for myself. People used to be like ‘Hey, you’re The Waterboy’ and things like that. But I’m doing pretty good for myself, you know what I mean?”
Pep in his step
Delimitros never had any realistic aspirations of becoming a professional athlete. Even if he were taller, slimmer and more agile than he was while growing up as the oldest of the three sons of Vasilios and Dora Delimitros, two immigrants from Greece who worked in the family’s South Shore restaurant, there wasn’t an opportunity to actually play sports.
“If there was free time, you were doing schoolwork or working at the restaurant,” he said. “You were doing things.”
During his freshman year at Bellport High School, though, he attended an event that changed his life: a pep rally for the football team. While there was plenty of wild cheering for all of the popular jocks, there also was one moment that served as an epiphany.
“I was a short little chubby Greek kid who grew up in the restaurant business and I saw the student manager get introduced at our pep rally and he got a standing ovation,” Delimitros said.
He wanted that for himself.
He knew Roy Still, one of the Bellport coaches, as a family friend, and he asked if there might be such a role for him on the team.
“He was such a nice kid, I said, ‘Yeah, of course,’” Still told Newsday. “And that was that. For the next three years, he was our manager. But I’ll tell you what, most kids do it and it’s kind of a social thing. For Greg, he was unbelievable. He kept everything in order, he had his own little system, he was right on top of everything from Day 1.”
By the time Delimitros was getting ready to graduate from Bellport in 1998, Still was convinced he had a future in the endeavor.
“I remember I said to someone: ‘You watch, someday that kid will run an NFL team,’” Still said.
He pretty much is. Delimitros doesn’t make decisions about the game plans or rosters, but there is an appreciation within the organization that the Eagles would not be able to function without him and his excellence at what he does.
After the 2016 season, Delimitros won the Whitey Zimmerman Award as the NFL Equipment Manager of the Year. In 2019, the Eagles, under his leadership, were named the New Era NFC Equipment Staff of the Year.
“I knew this was my niche,” Delimitros said of his first days on the job at Bellport.
Others recognized that right away, too.
“Probably the best person we ever had,” former Bellport head coach Joe Cipp Jr. said. “He was just on the ball. He would have everything right.”
What Delimitros liked most about the job in those early days was being part of the team, part of the in-crowd. The popular captains who normally would have paid him no attention suddenly were driving by to pick him up for school each morning. He would go with them to the pregame meals, the team outings, the Friday night walk-throughs. When Bellport won, he was treated as a victor, too.
And, of course, there was the recognition at pep rallies.
He wasn’t seen as some kind of mascot or charity case, either.
“The players thought he was in charge because he was in charge,” Cipp said. “I used him as a person in charge. If a kid would come to me for something, I’d say, ‘Go to Greg.’ It wasn’t like they were going to a kid. As far as they were concerned, he was another coach.”
Cipp keeps a large book in his house with the names of all of his former players. He was able to thumb through it to those 1995-97 teams and quickly found Delimitros’ name. Managers aren’t often included in that roster.
“I consider him part of our team, part of our football family, absolutely,” Cipp said.
Delimitros isn’t the only Bellport student from that era to find acclaim in sports. Gregg Giannotti, the co-host of WFAN’s “Boomer and Gio” morning radio program, was two years behind Delimitros and played with Greg’s younger brother, Anthony, an offensive lineman. Giannotti was a sophomore on the JV team when Greg Delimitros was a senior, but he has vivid memories of him serving as manager for the entire program.
“He moved faster than everybody on the practice field,” Giannotti told Newsday. “I had never seen somebody that dedicated to something. I’m a 16-year-old kid and look at this guy, look how hard he’s working. He was running around and he had the little cart and he had all the pads in it and he was just like a step ahead of what everybody else was doing, so that always impressed me. Someone that age in high school to be that passionate and that hard-working just felt different than my other classmates.”
Next step: Stony Brook
Having had a taste of the equipment life in high school, Delimitros wanted to continue it in college. He wound up at Stony Brook University, a school in transition to Division I. Cipp called Seawolves football coach Sam Kornhauser, as he had for plenty of players and recruits over the years, but this time with the name of a different type of asset for the program.
“I was fortunate Joe Cipp called and told me about him,” Kornhauser said. “Greg was just the guy you always saw. He was always there. He was a student, but any time you went to the equipment room, he seemed to be there. He might have had a 9 o’clock English class or something, but when class was over, at 10:20 he was in the equipment room. He stayed there until his next class at 1 o’clock, and then when that was over at 2, he was in the equipment room at 2:20 getting ready for practice.
“He was just one of those guys that this was his life. As a college student, as an 18-year-old kid, he was a grown-up, he was a relied-upon worker in the mechanisms of running a team, taking care of a team, taking care of equipment and changing equipment and laundering and ordering equipment. He was getting a head start on his professional career.
“This was what he wanted to do,” Kornhauser added. “He wanted to be an equipment manager.”
Stony Brook had just hired a full-time equipment manager in Frank Venturino, who had held that position at C.W. Post for nearly a decade. He arrived on campus in November of Delimitros’ freshman year, and it didn’t take long for him to start relying on the young man.
“It was ‘here you go, here’s the key, you know what to do,’” Venturino said. “He didn’t jerk around. A lot of times when you put kids in charge, they give their buddies stuff and everything, but not him. He was very trustworthy and honest and I can’t say enough how much of a hard worker he was.”
Pretty soon Delimitros branched out from football to all of the sports. Soccer, basketball, baseball, football. He would travel with them on the road, too.
After four years and a degree in business administration from Stony Brook, Delimitros spent two years as a graduate assistant and earned a master’s degree at West Virginia University. He would have stayed there longer, but an interview with the Eagles in 2004 was his big break.
“I remember I came in, taking it all in,” Delimitros said. “When I interviewed, I interviewed with the head equipment manager at the time. He didn’t tell me it was a two-day interview and the next day I would meet with [head coach] Andy Reid.”
That was a little nerve-wracking, but Reid quickly put Delimitros at ease. The two spoke not about football but about Delimitros’ family and upbringing. And, of course, Greek food.
“He loved food,” Delimitros said. “We hit it off.”
Delimitros was hired as the team’s assistant equipment manager, but that relationship with Reid still lived most deeply on a gastronomic level.
“My parents would make him Greek lasagna and I would bring it to him and he would eat it out of the dish,” Delimitros said with a laugh. “My parents would make him all kinds of stuff. Sweets, too. Sometimes he had special requests.”
In that regard, working as an equipment manager isn’t all that different from working in a restaurant. Whether it was Reid, Chip Kelly, Doug Pederson or Nick Sirianni, Delimitros’ attitude toward the head coach has always been the same.
He’s ready to serve.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Packing for this Super Bowl was a chore, but at least Delimitros had his staff to help. He has four full-time employees under him, two seasonal workers and 10 game-day employees. Even though he was promoted to his vice president role in 2019, Delimitros remains a hands-on worker in every aspect of the department, right down to doing the laundry.
It’s not just a job for him, it’s a passion.
“When I go to Greece with my family, I pack for my entire family because it’s simpler that way,” he said. “Everything is folded a certain way and I pack it. I tell my wife to just sit back. Lay everything out for me and I’ll take care of it.”
That’s the kind of humble, giving nature that has drawn people to Delimitros most of his life. When Bellport had seasons on austerity, he would send extra Eagles gear their way. It didn’t always fit, but it was a lovely gesture.
He and Kornhauser have a running joke now two decades old about Delimitros eating all of Kornhauser’s Twizzlers while they watched a Yankees playoff game in a Massachusetts hotel the night before a Stony Brook game against Bentley.
A few years ago, when he heard that Al Groh, the former Jets head coach and father of then-Eagles wide receivers coach Mike Groh, was going to be at practice, he called Coach Still and invited him to come down for the day. Still had played at the University of Virginia in the early 1970s and Al Groh was his position coach there.
“That was a nice thing for him to do,” Still said. “He’s just a good kid. A really good person.”
He remains in touch with most of the mentors he had from his days on Long Island.
“Even now you talk to him and nothing has gone to his head,” Venturino said. “He’s still the same. We talk about football helmets. It’s in our blood.”
This week, despite the tugs of responsibility, he has had a chance to reach out to many of them. They were glad to hear from him. And they’ll be glad to see him next Sunday, too, scurrying around the sideline, working his life’s dream on the NFL’s biggest stage.
“You see him quite a bit,” Still said of watching Eagles games on television. “He’s usually pretty close to the head coach, so you see him quite a bit.”
This is his third Super Bowl since joining the Eagles.
“In Super Bowl XXXIX, my first year in the league, the Patriots won that game, I was the assistant that time,” he said. “Them celebrating while we cleaned up left a very bad taste in my mouth. Fifteen years later, we go back again and we beat the Patriots. That was nice.”
Delimitros said his parents won’t be at the game and might not even have a chance to watch it that closely.
“The restaurant will be open,” he said. “Typical Greeks, being open.”
He will have some special guests in Arizona with him, though. His wife, Maria, and his son, Vasilios, who will turn 8 later this month, will be on hand. Five years ago, when the Eagles beat the Patriots in Super Bowl LII, his brothers were there for him in Minneapolis.
Like his own parents who passed their work ethic on to him, Delimitros probably will be too busy to spend much time with them this week. But there is one thing that will snap him from his duties of getting the Eagles ready for — and through — this Super Bowl: winning it.
If that happens, there will be no more patches to sew, no more jerseys to prepare. There will not be any deadline for loading up the trucks to haul all of the gear back to Philadelphia.
“I told my staff that if we win, don’t worry about anything,” Delimitros said. “They have security and they barricade everything on the sideline so nothing gets taken. Let everybody just soak it all up because, really, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
By Tom Rock
Tom Rock began covering sports for Newsday in 1996 and became its NFL columnist in 2022. He previously wasNewsday's Giants beat writer beginning in 2008.