Confession time: It’s the toughest part of the year…18 hours days, long busy practices in the 100+ degree heat and humidity, huge #’s of injuries creating 3 page injury reports, only 4 hours of sleep a night in the team hotel away from my wife and young children…..but I truly love being a part of an NFL Training Camp!
As I enter my 27th NFL training camp – 24 full-time and 3 as a summer intern with the NY Giants – I know the drill well. At the young age of 48, simple math tells the story. I’ve spent well over half of my life employed by the NFL and enjoying the life as a certified athletic trainer and registered physical therapist working with some of the best athletes in the world. It’s not an easy job by any stretch of the imagination but it’s a career that has provided me more amazing opportunities than I could list in an hour.
I’m not interested in speculating about the details of the NFL lockout. It’s way above my “pay grade” and I trust the issues will be worked out by people a lot smarter than I am.
The reason why I know that training camp is where I want to be can be traced back to two distinct days about 9 years apart.
I still remember the day during my sophomore year in high school in western Massachusetts when I raced home to tell my mother and family that I was going to college to be an athletic trainer and I was going to work in the NFL. I was so excited to have my career “carrot” to work towards. The fire was officially lit on that rainy October day in 1978.
After working a preseason camp for Columbia University’s football team and then 3 training camps for the New York Giants between 1983 and 1986 while working on my athletic training degree at Central Connecticut State University and a physical therapy degree at UConn, I was hoping for an opportunity to pursue a career in the NFL on a full-time basis. It was the following summer when that dream was supercharged with the passion and enthusiasm that still drives me today.
During the summer of 1987 while entering my senior year at UConn to complete my 7th year in college while finishing my second degree, I had to pass on the offer to work my 4th summer training camp with the New York Giants. Instead, I was required to complete an 8 week affiliation (another way of saying “you won’t be getting paid”) with the Visiting Nurses Association in Hartford, Connecticut. It was a wonderful learning experience with extremely passionate healthcare professionals who travel into homes and housing projects to provide physical therapy to individuals who are unable to travel to a rehab setting.
That summer in 1987 opened my eyes and my heart. I knew with every bone in my body that working in the NFL as an athletic trainer/physical therapist was exactly what I wanted to do for the next 30+ years. That vision was crystal clear and I was willing to work harder than ever before to make that dream come true!
April 23, 1988 at 8:15 AM. That was the time when Ronnie Barnes, Head Athletic Trainer for the New York Giants offered me a full-time position on his staff! I still get goosebumps and quite emotional every time I think of the moment that my 10 year dream came true.
I tell myself every day how blessed I am for the many wonderful things in my life. I’m doing what I love to do….when the Jacksonville Jaguars’ players arrive and the 2011 NFL training camp begins!