Article reposted from The Citizens Voice
Author: ERIC SHULTZ firstname.lastname@example.org
A first impression may have never meant more to Greg Janik than when he met Andres Armstrong.
Janik, the head athletic trainer at King’s, clearly remembers Armstrong walking up to him almost four years ago during the Monarchs’ football preseason.
Armstrong, who was hoping to major in athletic training, was told to introduce himself to Janik when he got to King’s. He shook Janik’s hand, looked him in the eye and said he heard Janik would give him the best chance to succeed in college.
“I remember that vividly because most students do not look you in the eye and shake your hand as a freshman,” Janik said. “He was a mature young man.”
Even as grades fluctuated and Armstrong would have otherwise blended in with the crowd in the classroom, Janik didn’t forget his first meeting with Armstrong, who played wide receiver for three seasons before moving to linebacker. Janik always felt that Armstrong had the potential to succeed — sometimes, he just might need an extra push.
Four years later, Armstrong is headed to the NFL — for his work off the field.
Armstrong’s dedication to athletic training, plus the support of those who believed in him, earned the soon-to-be graduate a summer internship with the Kansas City Chiefs. It’s a goal he set out for himself and potentially the first step in a successful athletic training career.
“It was probably one of the best feelings of my life,” Armstrong said. “My mom … always told me, ‘You’re going to be the first one out of this (immediate) family to graduate out of a four-year institution.’ Once I got this, it was like the icing on the cake.”
An injury in high school introduced Armstrong to the world of athletic training.
Armstrong grew up in Texas for several years before moving to Edgewood, Maryland, and attending Harford Technical. That’s when he got into football and, by his junior year, was ready to start at quarterback.
Just before the season opener, though, he sprained his ankle and landed on Kyle Mohr’s training table. Armstrong said he and his athletic trainer “were the best of friends for two weeks” from there, as he watched Mohr tape other players, evaluate injuries and show him his side of the sport.
“Ever since then, I’d shadow him as much as I could,” Armstrong said.
Before long, Armstrong grabbed the attention of King’s football — which just so happened to be where Mohr went to school and got to know Janik. Mohr pitched the program to Armstrong as he continued to teach him about the trade at Harford Technical. When Armstrong chose to attend King’s, Mohr told him to make sure he met Janik.
At the time, Armstrong said, Mohr was “like an older brother” to him. Without a father consistently in the household, his said his mother, Carmela Perez, always said “it takes a village to raise your child,” and Mohr took him under his wing through high school.
“When it did come to athletic training, he gave me as much knowledge as I could hold until I came (to King’s),” Armstrong said.
“The best advice he ever gave me was to walk up to Greg, shake his hand … and tell him I’m going to make an impact on this athletic training community,” he added.
That introduction between Armstrong and Janik went as well as it could. But, as almost every college student finds out, there are ups and downs inside the classroom.
All was fine in Armstrong’s freshman year. His mother, Perez, said he was always a good student — good grades were required to play sports in her household — and teachers and principals meet her just to say how well he was doing.
That translated into the first year at King’s, where he got by fine.
But in the years that followed, as classwork became more in-depth, “to say I struggled is an understatement,” Armstrong said. He struggled to grasp some classwork as students around him succeeded.
“I’m way too competitive to be complacent. So when I would catch myself being complacent, I would get angry at myself,” Armstrong recalled. Still, there were times he thought, “This is it; I’m going to be a five-year student.”
Luckily, those rough patches included one of Janik’s classes. Janik said his performance “didn’t sit (well) with me” based on their first meeting, but a turning point came last summer when he ran into Mohr.
The two athletic trainers discussed how Armstrong had high potential but just needed extra motivation. That potential was clearly on display when Armstrong’s case report on a unique injury was accepted for presentation at a state conference last year.
The case report — centered around a swimming injury — was also a top-three finalist at a regional conference. Armstrong said he was stopped and congratulated for his work at the conferences, which was eye-opening to him.
“So I knew this guy is obviously very smart,” Janik noted. “I just didn’t know if he cared as much as I wanted him to care.”
Those feelings were relayed to Armstrong, and — with a year remaining to make his mark at King’s — he flipped a switch. He learned of an opportunity to intern within the NFL and wanted to prove he deserved it.
“That was definitely a wake-up call for me,”Armstrong said. “Going into my senior year, I was doing as much as I could.”
In the summer, he went back to his high school to help out his old team.
Back at King’s in preseason, he assisted the athletic training staff without asking, Janik said. He showed up early, lent his expertise, taped players and then ran out to practice a little late.
Even now, he’s directing underclassmen and building a rapport with men’s lacrosse coaches as he comes down the homestretch at King’s.
“He made a great impression there that … he cares about the profession. In athletic training, to me, that’s what it’s all about,” Janik said. “It’s not how smart you are, it’s that you truly care about the patients that you treat. And Andres was demonstrating that at this point.”
With that in mind, Janik helped recommend Armstrong for one of the select NFL internships. He once interned himself with the Eagles, where he met Rick Burkholder, now the head athletic trainer for the Chiefs.
Janik told Burkholder about Armstrong’s passion for the profession. Burkholder asked for an application, Armstrong applied and, before long, he interviewed and got accepted into the program.
Armstrong made a bit of King’s history in doing so — he follows Lionel Rice (2011-14) as the second Monarchs football player to intern with an NFL team.
Armstrong announced the news at the football team’s banquet, where he received a standing ovation. First, though, he acknowledged those who helped him along the way.
He’s always had Perez there as a sounding board, always pushing him. Janik did the same at King’s, while Mohr helped him get started.
“If I didn’t have those three, I definitely know for a fact I’d be lost,” Armstrong said. “They’ve been my guiding light ever since they came into my life.”