Moving the Chains: From College to an NFL Seasonal Internship
Less than a week after finishing PT school, I started my first day of training camp in the National Football League as the seasonal intern for the New York Giants. Seven long years of school finally paid off, and a dream came true. But it would take me another seven weeks before the first regular season game to get fully acclimated to the professional environment and learn what it takes to make it in the big leagues.
Coming from Ithaca College, a small division III school, I didn’t have the same experience as students in big division I programs. I did, however, take full advantage of what the school had to offer. I’ve done clinical in a small town public school system and a big city nursing facility. I’ve observed surgery with the head team physician of the Texas Rangers and shadowed exercise physiologists at Cayuga Medical Center. But the closest I have ever gotten to an NFL environment was working college football with former San Francisco 49ers head athletic trainer, Todd Lazenby. With Todd as my mentor through my undergraduate years, I picked his brains every opportunity I had. Even so, my first four months in East Rutherford have been the epitome of the saying “This is stuff they don’t teach you in school.”
I quickly realized that the NFL world is very different from the typical athletic training and physical therapy setting. In a nutshell, as a clinician in the NFL, we essentially see worker’s compensation patients every day. Players generally gravitate toward specific staff members for consistency in treatment and taping, so being the new guy, I had to work very hard to earn their trust early on during training camp and into the pre-season. Once I slowly built a “case load”, I learned that treatment and rehabilitation in the NFL system is completely different from an outpatient sports medicine clinic. I was eager to utilze all of our resources and state-of-the-art equipment, to get my patient healthy and back to playing football at a high level; this all without having to deal with third party reimbursements. Everything I learned in school about conventional approaches to certain injuries was pushed aside. With the help from Ronnie, Steve, Byron, Leigh, and our team physicians, I have learned to manage athletes in a particular way for them to safely suit up on Sundays and play in a healthy state.
In 2006 I faced the daunting decision of spending seven long years at a small college in central New York. In retrospect, that was probably the best decision I have made - it was the first step in developing myself as an NFL athletic trainer. As I reflect on my schooling, I found several opportunities I was able to take advantage of in order to prepare myself to contribute to the New York Football Giants. The combination of my athletic training and physical therapy degrees allows me to pool ideas and experiences from two very similar yet different fields of healthcare. While in PT school, I took initiative to stay current in the field of athletic training by covering high school sports part-time and attending continuing education courses such as the Head Injury Seminar and lectures on NFL safety at the Eastern Athletic Trainers’ Association. As a student intern at the New York Giants minicamp, I constantly asked questions and sought feedback from the staff to make sure I was doing the right thing and that I had what it took to work in the NFL. Being a graduate assistant athletic trainer and a teaching assistant in my first year of graduate school proved to be an asset as well. It made the most challenging aspect of my job - supervising students through the season - a lot easier.
This internship has been a great learning experience so far with more to come each day. I look forward to continue learning as the internship progresses.