Article reposted from Metro West Daily News
Author: Lenny Megliola
The Boston Marathon passes through Ashland, not far from Jeff Stone’s house. And so the story unfolds.
One Marathon year a runner stumbled and fell in front of Stone’s house. He went to the aid of the elderly guy, no ordinary marathoner, it turns out. It was Johnny Kelley, the Boston Marathon legend who only ran it 61 times, winning in 1935 and 1945 and finishing second seven times. Kelley ran his last marathon in 1992. He was 84. Yeah sure, just another guy with sneakers on Patriots’ Day.
Stone estimates Kelley was in his late 50’s or early 60’s that day. “He had a cramp. I got some ligament and rubbed his leg. My two Doberman Pinschers got out of the house and started licking his face. Runners were going by and Kelley said ‘I gotta get up. I’m losing time.’”
He got back in the race and if memory serves Stone, Kelley did a most respectable 3 1/2 hours to the finish line.
The point of this story, you ask? Stone’s rubdown of Kelley might have been a moment of destiny when you realize he’s been an athletic trainer for the past 45 years, and not just your average Joe on the job either. He’s won more awards for his expertise and devotion to the world of athletic trainers to fill up the Reggie Lewis Track & Athletic Center, where Stone has administered numerous events.
The 1971 Ashland High graduate has been inducted into the National Athletic Trainers Association, the Athletic Trainers of Massachusetts and the Bay State Games Halls of Fame. That’s for starters.
The latest bauble may be the most prestigious of all. Stone is the 2016 recipient of the Tim Kerin Award for Excellence in Athletic Training. This one blew Stone away. Past winners include former New York Giants trainer Ron Barnes and Tom Abdenour, trainer for the Golden State Warriors. “This award is really humbling,” said Stone, the Suffolk University trainer for the past 13 years.
And it all began so inauspiciously, when Stone was in the eighth grade. “I wasn’t a great athlete. My homeroom teacher, Joe Apicella, was the freshman football and baseball coach. He needed a trainer.” He made Stone team manager. Nothing serious, mind you. Square up a Band-Aid on a cut, hand a gassed kid some water, rub down a sore shoulder. Hey, it was a start. And Stone took to it immediately.
When he got to high school Stone took a student trainer course. “The coaches had ideas about taping players. The more I got into it, the more I realized this is what I want to do.” He’s never looked back.
Bill Carnicelli taught an Anatomy course at the high school. “I learned a lot from him. I knew CPR and first aid from when I was with the Boy Scouts. I went to the library to look things up. No websites back then. You educated yourself.
”By the time Stone was a senior he was pretty much the athletic trainer for all of Ashland’s teams, boys and girls. “It wasn’t a glorified profession. A lot of it was hands-on education. I asked a lot of questions. I learned from everyone.”
Then it was time to learn more. A lot more. He went to Northeastern and found the school’s Co-Op field crowded. So he took classes by day and wound up at Framingham State after school. Steve Ryder, the school’s athletic director, hired Stone as a football trainer. Stone also helped out in the sports information department and began doing game write-ups for this sports section.Stone became a high school track official, starting out by scoring the Ashland High meets and wound up being the Tri Valley League’s official scorer. He became a member of the state’s track and field association.
The lanky, amiable kid loved to work.He was hired full-time at Framingham State in 1981. In 1984 he got a job in Natick teaching physical education and doubled up as trainer for the sports teams.
Never has the job of athletic trainer – be it youth sports, high school, college or the NFL – been more visible and loaded with responsibility, especially with concussions becoming a national concern.It’s not just football.
At Suffolk, Stone said “women’s soccer and men’s hockey” have to be watched closely for concussive possibility. At every level Stone’s trained, he’s stuck to a golden rule. “If there’s any doubt that a player has a concussion you take him out and have him examined.
I’d tell the coach. I’d tell the parents.“I’ve had teammates say about another player, he or she doesn’t look right. So you take a look.”Stone has taken a lot of looks, taped a lot of ankles, rubbed a lot of shoulders and backs. And gained a lot of trust, well earned.The honors keep coming, and that’s fine. But when Jeff Stone looks back at his career arc, only one big picture vision matters. “Taking care of my athletes. No, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Reach Lenny Megliola at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @lennymegs.