College and University

The athletic training room, at times, a ‘first home’ for many Huskers

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College and University

The athletic training room, at times, a ‘first home’ for many Huskers

Article reposted from Lincoln Journal Star
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Alonzo Moore was already a part-time resident there.

The senior wide receiver was recovering from a shoulder injury — one that would eventually sideline him for a game and a half — and he started making a visual note. He began seeing other Nebraska teammates joining him in the training room for long stretches of time. And then another, and then another and then another.

“I was thinking, ‘Dang, the whole team is going to be in here,'” Moore said.

Indeed, injuries — minor or serious — take their toll on teams. Once October and November roll around, the training room tends to grow into a small community of players and trainers.

“It ebbs and flows every year,” said Mark Mayer, Nebraska’s head football athletic trainer, “because you’re six, seven, eight games into the season. Guys get beat up every weekend, things get a little busy.”

Aside from the daily and weekly nicks and bruises, Nebraska’s training room has had a high occupancy rate recently. A bad hamstring sidelined senior wide receiver Brandon Reilly for the Oregon game, sophomore guard Tanner Farmer (ankle sprain) missed a game, Cethan Carter (elbow) and Jordan Westerkamp (back) left the Illinois victory, and offensive tackles Nick Gates and David Knevel have been dealing with ankle injuries.

Senior quarterback Tommy Armstrong had to set aside more time in the training room after he was slowed by a bum ankle. Sophomore defensive tackle Mick Stoltenberg, senior offensive lineman Corey Whitaker and sophomore running back Devine Ozigbo have also dealt with injuries.

“Typically you often find yourself juggling sometimes between guys,” Mayer said. “Fortunately, we do have, for the most part, enough guys to help out so everyone can get that one-on-one attention that they need. It’s just a slow drip all day long.”

They come to this spot in Memorial Stadium that Mayer calls “kind of a sanctuary place for guys to get away from.” Even the uninjured players will show up to decompress.

Heck, a healthy Moore likes to go in there just for fun.

“I come in there and make their jobs fun also, make being at the stadium fun,” Moore said.

The Husker football training staff consists of three full-timers, two graduate assistants and about 10 to 12 students. They start working at 6 a.m. and call it a day around 8 p.m.

“So it’s lights on to lights off,” Mayer said.

It can become a tough balancing act for players, who must squeeze in treatment between classes, schoolwork, practice and meetings.

For many Huskers, the training room becomes a second home.

Check that. …

“It became my first home,” Westerkamp said.

The 6-foot, 200-pound receiver took a knee to the lower back on a key third-down catch against Illinois on Oct. 1. The senior was in obvious pain, and later taken to the hospital for precautionary reasons. The trainers told Westerkamp, who had never missed a game at Nebraska, that he was looking at a window of 2-4 weeks recovery time.

“It’s tough when you’re in the moment, because you’re thinking such short-term,” said Westerkamp, who’s expected to play against Wisconsin after missing two games. “But I really had to focus on the big picture and say, ‘Hey, you might miss a week or two, but you’re going to be back this season.'”

Westerkamp said he would get to the training room at about 8 in the morning, and would spend about six hours there per day. “Me and Jerald Foster are pretty much best friends now,” he said of the Husker offensive tackle and training-room regular who is out for the season with a knee injury.

Reilly bounced back quickly from his hamstring injury, Gates and Knevel continue to grind it out, and Moore said he recovered faster than he initially thought he would.

That’s the goal, Mayer says. Get the players back on the field quickly and safely. After all, it’s not a good sign for the players to get to know Mayer more, than say, their teammates, roommates, friends and girlfriends.

“People don’t want to hear about (players) in the training room,” said Mayer, who is in his 10th year at NU. “They want to hear about them between the white lines on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.”

Mayer said the workload for his staff right now is no different than most seasons. Though he does recall the 2013 season, when an injury to Spencer Long opened the flood gates to the training room.

“It just seemed like it was one offensive lineman after another each week,” he said.

All that did was create more time for players and trainers to bond, a key element in the healing process — mentally and physically.

“No doubt. We probably spend as much time with them as anybody,” Mayer said. “And part of being able to get a guy back, they’ve got to trust what you’re doing. In order to have trust, you’ve got to have relationships.

“Yeah, we get to know these guys on a different level. We know what buttons to push, what buttons not to push.”