Life in the NFL
Speaker cites great work ethic and preparedness of UD athletic training students
3:13 p.m., March 26, 2012--When Shone Gipson was in seventh grade, he wanted nothing more than to play football. But he had epilepsy, and his mother refused to let him sign up. When a coach suggested that he offer to help the athletic trainer at the local high school, Gipson was less than enthusiastic. But he agreed, with the understanding that if it didn’t work out, he could quit after a week.
Much to his own surprise, Gipson found his calling at that Texas high school, and he is now assistant athletic trainer for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. On Thursday, March 22, he shared his experiences with members of the Student Athletic Trainers’ Club at the University of Delaware.
Inside a superstorm
Gipson began his talk by telling the students that several of his friends are UD grads. “I got tired of them talking about how great UD’s athletic training program is,” Gipson said. “I finally decided to come here for a visit so they would stop bothering me.”
As a student at the University of Houston, Gipson said, he had no intention of working in the NFL. “I wanted to be a high school teacher and athletic trainerin Texas,” he said.
But an internship with the Washington Redskins changed his mind. “The guys there were so detail oriented,” Gipson said. “I wanted to be like them.”
After he finished graduate school at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, Gipson was offered a seasonal internship with the Bills.
“I drove 26 hours with everything I owned in my Hyundai Elantra,” Gipson said. “When I got there, it was May and there was snow on the ground. Before I worked with the Redskins, I had never been north of Dallas.”
The next time Gipson went to Buffalo, he was offered a job. This time, the Bills packed up his belongings and took care of getting his car north.
He still had a longing to teach, but working with interns has helped fill that need. “I love working with interns,” he said. “I want people who will work hard. That’s one thing I don’t worry about with interns from Delaware because I know the work ethic is strong in this program.”
“This might be little old Delaware,” he added, “but you guys should look at your numbers. UD has put more students in the NFL than big schools like Florida and West Virginia. You’re doing something right.”
Gipson urged the students to network and always behave professionally. “Be careful of how you handle yourself,” he said. “You never know who’s watching.”
He also told them to “pick the brains” of people like UD’s Prof. Tom Kaminski and assistant athletic trainer Jon Boone. “I’m a criminal,” he said. “I steal knowledge from others so I can get better.”
An active member of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association’s Ethnic Diversity Advisory Committee, Gipson said that the Bills have at least one female intern every year, despite the fact that all of the players are male.
“But we don’t limit it to one,” he said. “We mostly look for a good fit for the team and the best candidates for the job.”
Kaminski, director of athletic training education at UD, goes back a long with the Bills himself.
“In the summer of 1983, between my junior and senior years in college, I had a chance to serve as a summer intern with Buffalo,” he says. “They actually held training camp that summer at Fredonia State Universityin my hometown, so I was able to ride my bike to work each day. As a lifelong Bills fan, I found it extremely rewarding to experience football at its highest level. Each time one of our students gets an opportunity to serve as an intern, I see in them the same excitement I had almost 30 years ago.”
“The Bills head athletic trainer, Bud Carpenter, and I go way backin fact, he and I were teammates on the same summer league softball team during my college years. When Shone was appointed to the Bills staff nine years ago, he and I cultivated a relationship that has enabled our students to work as summer interns on numerous occasions during that time.”
Kiefer Gooch, current president of UD’s Student Athletic Training Club, is one of the lucky ones to have had that experience.
“Being a student of the University of Delaware’s Athletic Training Education Program strongly prepared me for both of my NFL internships, with Buffalo and with Washington,” Gooch says. “I felt like an integral part of the organization in Buffalo because of the assets I had acquired during my sophomore year. Shone made the internship one of the most educational experiences of my life, and I consider him one of the best mentors I have had so far. His dedication to students is exemplary, and his passion for the athletic training profession is contagious.”
Article by Diane Kukich
Photos by Doug Baker