The average football weighs about 15 ounces. Add about seven footballs together and you get the weight of Youngstown State University’s head equipment manager Alvy Armstrong’s Yorkshire terrier Dinner.
Armstrong, a native of East Liverpool, has been taking Dinner to work with him for years. The 14-year-old dog found his way into Armstrong’s front yard about seven years ago.
“I came home one day from the grocery store, got out of my car and saw this little dog in my yard,” said Armstrong. “I went inside and said to my wife, ‘Honey, there is some dinner in the driveway.’ The dog never left my property.”
As YSU’s head equipment manager for the past two years, Armstrong oversees all 18 athletic teams for the Penguins. He started out his equipment managing experience in high school, where he worked for his school’s football program. A proud YSU exercise science graduate, Armstrong spent his college years working along with former head equipment manager Carmine Cassese.
After he graduated from YSU, Armstrong went to Southern Illinois University to spend seven years working and specializing in the equipment room. Before his return to Youngstown, he spent three years with Northern Illinois University. With the Huskies, he dedicated his hard work as a football equipment specialist.
“I was happy to come back to work in Youngstown. It is always nice to come home,” Armstrong said.
Dinner, who got his name from Armstrong’s first comment, roams the pits of Stambaugh Stadium. Some even say Dinner is an important part of the Penguins’ Athletic Department.
As the job of an equipment manager requires you to travel with the football team, Armstrong’s four-leg sidekick travels along with him.
“Dinner has gone on a lot of road trips with us. I usually just stick him in a gym bag and he loves it,” Armstrong said. “I’m not really sure if the hotels we stay at allow dogs, but he is only seven pounds, there is only so much he can do.”
If you don’t see Dinner wandering the equipment room or following Armstrong’s every step, you can find him in his two favorite spots: either on the pillow that lies alongside Armstrong’s desk, or the Pittsburgh Steelers bed — a gift from the Pitt Panthers football program — which sits underneath the desk.
“When YSU played Pitt in 2012, I brought Dinner to Heinz Field. Everyone loved him there. Pitts staff must of noticed Dinner lying in a gym bag. So, at the end of the game they gave me this Steelers dog bed,” Armstrong said.
As the Penguins went home with a victory of 31-17 against Pitt, Dinner went home with a new bed.
The equipment room gets a lot of traffic throughout the day. Many athletes come in and out, dropping off and picking up their gear. One would think that a six-foot built athlete wouldn’t be scared of a little seven-pound dog, but everyone has his or her own fears.
Tim Gallo, assistant equipment manager, finds humor in having Dinner around.
“It’s always funny seeing some of our athletes scared of Dinner. They act as if he is going to attack them. Some athletes won’t get near Dinner because they are so scared,” Gallo said.
Although some of the athletes are frightened around Dinner, many coaches and staff members love him. Football coach Shane Montgomery, offensive coordinator of the Penguins, visits Dinner every day.
“Coach Montgomery likes Dinner the most out of everyone; sometimes I think he evens likes the dog more than me,” Armstrong said.
Dinner and Armstrong aren’t just the duo of the athletics department; they get recognized elsewhere as well. Armstrong stated that he was honored at a banquet a short time ago and when his name was called, so was Dinner’s.
Armstrong can’t remember the last time Dinner wasn’t by his side at work. Some people may think it’s odd, but for Dinner and Armstrong it is just another normal day.
“Dinner is the best to have around,” Gallo said.