Making the Cut: The NFL Athletic Training Internship
In this three part series, PFATS.com interviews five NFL assistant athletic trainers to talk about NFL Internships. Over the next three weeks our panel will discuss the how an NFL internship can enhance students professionally, the application process, and keys to being a successful as an intern in the NFL.
Our panel consists of:
Tyler Williams – Assistant Athletic Trainer, St. Louis Rams
Shone Gipson – Assistant Athletic Trainer, Buffalo Bills
David Glover – Assistant Athletic Trainer, Kansas City Chiefs
Leigh Weiss – Assistant Athletic Trainer/Physical Therapist, New York Giants
Nate Weir – Assistant Athletic Trainer, Green Bay Packers
Part I - The Benefits of an NFL INTERNSHIP:
PFATS.com: Why are NFL Internships so important for athletic training students?
TW: NFL internships enable a student to initiate a great foundation for their professional network, as well as enhance their skills as an athletic trainer.
SG: Internships in the National Football League are a proven way to gain relevant knowledge, skills, and experience while establishing important connections in the field of athletic training.
DG: I believe that internships available to athletic training students are important for several reasons. Having the opportunity to work with a professional team gives students an insight into how athletes and injuries are handled at the professional level. It also helps a student when trying to make the decision of what level they would like to work in. There is certainly a difference in the hours worked at this level than in a college or high school setting. Lastly, with larger budgets with NFL teams these students get to see some of the equipment and techniques not being used in other settings.
LW: NFL internships afford students the opportunity to work side-by-side with team medical staffs to give them a true taste of how healthcare is managed in the National Football League. I am a firm believer of being able to take a piece and learn something from everyone you encounter in this profession. This internship provides just that opportunity. This internship provides students the opportunity to meet new people and learn not only from the athletic trainers, but physical therapists, physicians, and other healthcare professionals.
NW: NFL internships allow athletic training students real-life clinical experience outside of their ATEP. Often times they are exposed to things they have not learned, seen or experienced at their colleges. This allows students to gain a better understanding of the athletic training profession. While doing internships also provide excellent networking opportunities that can be very beneficial in future career endeavors.
PFATS.com: How can athletic training students benefit from an NFL internship?
TW: Athletic training students experience what type of dedication, skill set, and character it takes to be an Athletic Trainer in the NFL. They can also apply the new skills and operations they learned to their current athletic training program.
SG: Students benefit from an NFL internship because it is a way for them to get their feet wet and find out if athletic training in the National Football League is something they could see themselves doing as a full time job. Basically, it gets you in the trenches to see what life at this level is like.
DG: An NFL internship teaches you about working efficiently. Most tasks in the NFL are done under some type of time table. Whether it be getting an athlete back on the field, or finishing combine reports for the head coach and his staff for the NFL draft. In the NFL you learn to work smarter not harder.
LW: Prior to the start of training camp I tell our students that they will get as much out of this internship as they put in. The interns that succeed and usually have the best experiences are those that put in the time to ask questions of the athletic trainers and physicians. They are the students that may see something in the training room and then later that night go back and research to learn more about it. Beyond knowledge and exposure to different treatment techniques and philosophies, students are able to benefit from the new relationships, not only with the staff members but other students. Building your network is quintessential in the athletic training profession.
NW: Internships benefit students in a number of ways not only professionally but also personally. Internships teach students about work ethic, dedication, responsibility and the importance of communication. Interns leave with a better understanding about the field of athletic training in regards to the hours, demands and dedication that it takes to work in the NFL. Ultimately, staffs may be able to assist interns with recommendations on potential career paths.
PFATS.com: Will an internship experience help increase the odds of me getting a job in the NFL as an athletic trainer?
TW: Many head athletic trainers like to hire candidates with previous NFL experience because they understand the daily demands, sense of urgency, and challenges required throughout a season.
SG: If you look at the majority of the athletic trainers in the National Football League, you will see that over 80 percent of the membership had an internship experience prior to full time employment. It allows you to truly find out whether or not a career working in the National Football League fits your passion and interest.
DG: That is a hard question to answer, yes having some NFL experience is always an added bonus but job availability and open positions are hard to come by in the league. Persistence is your best friend when trying to land a job in the NFL.
LW: While an internship with and NFL team does not guarantee a full-time position, it may help increase your chances. Most athletic trainers employed in the National Football League started as a summer intern working training camps. From there, they were invited back for a season-long internship to further their experience. NFL interns should approach their internships as job interviews. The team’s medical staffs are looking for students that are willing to work hard, pay attention to detail, act professionally, and go above and beyond what is expected of them. On the flip side we have had interns come through our program that may realize the NFL is not for them. Either way, it should be viewed as an opportunity to learn and grow personally and professionally.
NW: NFL internships are not only great resume builders, but also excellent networking opportunities. Our entire medical staff went the NFL internship route starting as summer interns, becoming seasonal interns eventually to become assistant/head athletic trainers in the NFL.
PFATS.com: What are your most memorable experiences as an intern and how did they help get you to where you are today?
TW: I was fortunate to live relatively close to the club I did an internship. This allowed me multiple opportunities to work practices and games where they needed extra help. This relationship continued to grow and eventually turned into a full time position.
SG: My most memorable experience as an intern was my first summer internship with the Washington Redskins in 1998. I watched how detailed oriented and organized the athletic training staff (Bubba Tyer, Al Bellamy, ATC and Kevin Bastin, ATC) were. My last day at camp Hall of Fame cornerback Daryl Green pulled me to the side prior to me heading back to Houston and told me how much he appreciated me at camp and that if I continued to work hard and took what I learned there, I’d be back in the NFL one day. That meant alot to me and helped me focus on the becoming the best athletic trainer I could be.
DG: One of my most memorable experiences in the NFL was the home opener against the Cincinnati Bengals when I was a seasonal assistant with the New York Jets. The crowd was unbelievable, Curtis Martin was a beast and Chad Pennington was on fire. We won going away for my first ever regular season game in the NFL. The next would be the first time my parents came to a game while I was working with the Jets. We won that night to push our record to 5-0!! Having my parents in the stands had to be one of my proudest moments.
My journey began as a grad student at Seton Hall University in 2002. While working as a grad student at Rutgers University I met an athletic trainer (Jimmy Ntelekos) that told me about the NFL internship program. From there, Jimmy helped me to formulate my resume and even made a call to the head athletic trainer of the New York Jets (Dave Price) to tell him about me. I went out to the Jets facility and worked a mini camp and ended up getting the seasonal job. Luck would have it in 2006, I was able to join the Kansas City Chiefs staff with Jimmy and Dave and I have been blessed to be a member of the Chiefs athletic training staff to this day.
LW: The Giants were participants in the Hall of Fame Game in 2002. That was my very first NFL game and probably my greatest memory as an intern. The opportunity to walk thru the Hall of Fame on that trip was very memorable as well. My second or third game as an intern, one of the players had a very serious lower leg fracture. Being able to see the seamless and efficient management of this injury by the medical staff was also something I was able to learn from and carry with me as I continued on through my training.
NW: My most memorable experience was becoming the first NFL intern in my athletic training program. Since then we have had several students who have been fortunate enough to work as an intern in the NFL. I did not attend graduate school after receiving my bachelor’s degree. I continued to keep my foot in the door with the Green Bay Packers by working three consecutive seasonal internships. Following my final seasonal internship, I was hired full-time as an assistant athletic trainer.
To learn more about NFL internships, visit our Internship Page!
To hear the stories of past NFL interns visit our Internship Blog!