Article reposted from dailycomet.com
Author: Chris Singleton
Seven Thibodaux High School baseball players wanted to share their senior night limelight with their school’s athletic trainer Jerry Blackwell on April 19.
After a game against District 7-5A rival Hahnville High School, the Thibodaux players and their parents came together to honor Blackwell, who has spent the last 16 years as the school’s head athletic trainer.
The players and parents executed the perfect plan to surprise Blackwell, who was busy working a District 7-5A track meet on the same day Thibodaux’s baseball team celebrated its senior night. They waited until after the baseball game ended to call him to the field to get honored with a cash gift of $250.
“They had asked me to come and watch their senior day, but we also had a track meet going on,” Blackwell said. “So I leave the track meet to go out there to the baseball field and it was a total surprise to see them honor me. It caught me off-guard.”
Blackwell, a Chalmette native who spent four years as a trainer assistant with the New Orleans Saints and two years as a graduate assistant at Nicholls State University before joining Thibodaux’s athletic department, said it touched his heart to get recognized. He is known by his nickname “JRock” around Thibodaux.
“A lot of times athletic trainers get pushed to the back,” Blackwell said. “A lot of people just sometimes take it for granted what we do for their kids. It meant a lot to me. It shows that my work at Thibodaux High School is seen by the parents. I do care a lot about those kids. It feels great to know your hard work is appreciated.”
Saul Barrilleaux, who joined fellow Thibodaux seniors Hayze Talbot, Tyler Brown, Seth Boudreaux, Austin Ford, Brice Daigle and Matt Benoit in the tribute, said it was the perfect way to honor a man who has dedicated endless hours throughout the school year to help athletes rehab injuries.
“It was super special. He means a lot to every sport at Thibodaux High,” Barrilleaux said. “He’s always out there. Without him, the program wouldn’t be as good as it is now. He’s the best there is. It was just something special to show him how much we love and how much we appreciate everything he does.”
Thibodaux head baseball coach Marc Gonzales said Blackwell is the hardest-working person in the school’s athletic department. Blackwell can be found in Thibodaux’s athletic fieldhouse every day – including weekends, holidays and during the summer months – giving treatment to athletes.
“Everything that he does, it’s for the athletes,” Gonzales said. “It’s not just baseball. We honored him, but we have a lot of sports, and he takes care of those players. He cares about each and every one of them. The least we could do is show him a little appreciation for taking care of our guys during the season – even during the offseason.”
Blackwell, who was the first-ever certified athletic trainer hired by the Lafourche Parish School Board in 2002, said his job isn’t easy. He’s usually the first person to arrive and the last to leave.
He goes to work every day at 7:30 in the morning to perform a variety of tasks, which includes providing athletic training to all high school events held at Thibodaux, traveling to road games with Thibodaux teams, giving treatment to injured athletes, keeping the coaches updated on an athlete’s injury status, working with area physicians when serious athletic injuries occur and more.
Blackwell said it is a grind, but the best part of his job is leading the athletes through the injury recovery process.
Many of Thibodaux former athletes, including Los Angeles Rams football player Greg Robinson, Los Angeles Chargers football player Trovon Reed and professional basketball player Shavon Coleman, often return to Thibodaux to get treatment and advice from Blackwell.
“I love working with the kids to get them back on the field doing what they love to do,” Blackwell said.
Barrilleaux said he got to see Blackwell’s expertise first hand when he injured his knee while playing quarterback for Thibodaux football team last year.
“If there is any chance you can come back, he’s going to get you back out there,” Barrilleaux said. “I really appreciate him and I know everybody else does.”
Blackwell expressed gratitude to everyone he has worked with at Thibodaux.
“I know in my heart I’m appreciated by the majority of the people at Thibodaux High,” Blackwell said. “I thank everyone at Thibodaux High. I appreciate everyone I work with. I really do.”
And the Chalmette native said he plans to continue serving all athletes at Thibodaux.
“I’ve had some chances in years past to go to a rival school in another parish, but I’m staying in Thibodaux High,” Blackwell said. “This is where I want to be. I plan on retiring at Thibodaux High but that’s a long way ahead. I don’t plan to go anywhere any time soon.”