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Shepherd Lands Dream Internship With NFL

By Staff | Jan 5, 2011

Pictured is former New Martinsville resident and Magnolia High School athlete, Jeremy Shepherd, left, taping Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson Shepherd’s athletic training room while he was with the Detroit Lions in 2008.

An ambitious local man has proved that hard work and determination can lead to big things. Jeremy Shepherd, a 1995 graduate of Magnolia High School, recently landed a dream internship with the San Diego Chargers as an athletic trainer.

Earning this position hasn’t been easy for Shepherd, who not only worked hard to get where he is now, but took big risks to turn his dream into a reality. Following his high school graduation, Shepherd enrolled at West Virginia Wesleyan College where he started his undergraduate education as a pre-med student. He then changed his major to computer information science and added a business minor. He graduated from Wesleyan in 1999 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in CIS and moved to Virginia where he worked in the IT industry in the Washington, D.C. area until 2005.

However he soon realized he was straying from what he truly wanted to do. “I did not enjoy the work and knew I wanted to get into a medical field as I originally began at WVWC,” says Shepherd. Sports had always been a big part of his life and he adds he always enjoyed talking to friend and fellow graduate Drew Mason (MHS 1996, WVWC 2000) about his work and experiences such as working for WWE wrestling for Larry Heck, another athletic trainer and MHS graduate. “It was at this time I realized that someone from ‘small town West Virginia’ can make it into professional sports,” Shepherd resolved.

Unhappy in his occupation, Shepherd boldly quit his job in 2005 and went back to school. He enrolled at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. in the fall of 2005 and graduated three years later with a bachelor of science degree in athletic training. During his time at JMU Shepherd worked with the college’s football, baseball, basketball, track, tennis, archery, and soccer teams to earn the 800 clinical hours required to sit for the Board of Certification exam, which he passed in 2008.

Starting in December of 2007, Shepherd took advice from a JMU graduate assistant athletic trainer and sent cover letters and resumes to the head athletic trainer of every NFL team. He eventually received a call from an assistant athletic trainer with the Detroit Lions which led to an internship for the 2008 training camp. Following the camp, Shepherd was asked to continue his position through the 2008 season.

After the season ended in January 2009, Shepherd moved back home to New Martinsville briefly. He then set his sights higher by enrolling in a masters degree program in athletic training at California University of Pennsylvania in the summer of 2009. He started this plan by moving to Pittsburgh where he worked part-time as an athletic trainer with UPMC. “I got a variety of experience with this job,” Shepherd said. “Anything from working at the Steelers/Pitt facility, to working in high schools, marathons, to working at the Pittsburgh Ballet with the ballerinas.”

Shepherd worked through graduate school as a graduate assistant athletic trainer with Cal U’s football team, and graduated with honors in May of 2010 with a Master of Science Degree in athletic training.

As he’d done before, Shepherd sent out updated cover letters and resumes to all of the NFL teams (except for the Detroit Lions) with no luck. However, in early March, during a fly fishing trip at Elk Springs, Shepherd received a voicemail from an assistant athletic trainer with the San Diego Chargers and was soon offered and accepted a seasonal internship athletic training position.

Shepherd notes the athletic training staff with the Chargers was awarded the Professional Football Athletic Trainers’ Society staff of the year award. “I am learning from the best in the business,” he boasts. “I am getting a lot of experience rehabilitating and treating many different types of injuries.” He also works with the head team physician’s orthopedic practice as a physician extender where he was able to observes surgeries. “This experience is giving me the opportunity to learn how to work more efficiently and also to gain experience working the administrative side of the job such as inventory management, and insurance claims.”

The hard work was just beginning for Shepherd when he earned his internship with the Chargers. He works seven days a week in his position and most days start at 4 a.m. with an exercise routine, followed by preparing the training rooms for treatments and rehabilitation sessions with players. Other daily tasks include taking trunks with supplies to the field, setting the field up for practices, and treating or evaluating injuries at the end of players’ field work. Toward the end of the day Shepherd cleans the athletic training room and takes care of administrative odds and ends. His day typically finishes around 5:30 p.m., except for game days or Saturdays, when he’s able to go home between 1-2 p.m.

As an athletic trainer, Shepherd has seen many different types of injuries. The most common injuries Shepherd sees are strained muscles, followed by ligament sprains. The worst injury he recalls treating was a compound fracture of a high school football player’s femur. He adds such an injury is very rare in football. At one time or another, Shepherd has helped every player from both the Lions and Chargers football teams. Some of the more well-known players he’s treated are the Detroit Lions’ Calvin Johnson and Antonio Gates, Philip Rivers, Ryan Mathews, and Vincent Jackson of the San Diego Chargers.

While much of the job is grueling, Shepherd says there are also many perks. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are catered most days, providing him with a variety of healthy and satisfying meals. In addition, his living arrangement is cozy and convenient as he rents a condo from the Chargers’ equipment manager which is located near the stadium.

Another perk for Shepherd has been the opportunity to travel and see lots of sites, including many stadiums. So far in his blossoming career, he’s visited the stadiums in Buffalo, New Orleans, San Francisco, Kansas City, Seattle, Oakland, and St. Louis. In his opinion St. Louis’ Edward Jones Dome has the nicest athletic training facilities he’s seen thus far. “The memories I will take are having the opportunity to travel to cities that I probably would never have gone to if it were not for this experience,” says Shepherd. “I get to see a lot of different places for free, get paid, and I’m learning.”

“Jobs like this are obtainable,” Shepherd reiterates. He encourages those with similar dreams to be ambitious with goals and never give up. “Don’t quit if it doesn’t happen the first time or two.” Shepherd explains that 30 other NFL teams passed on him both times he applied. “Choose a job that you like and makes you happy, be good at it, and then the money will come.”

Shepherd credits his time with the Chargers as the opportunity to not only work alongside some very knowledgeable fellow athletic trainers working in the NFL, but to also learn under some of the best physicians, too. “I wish everyone could have an opportunity similar to this in their chosen field.”

After this season with the San Diego Chargers Shepherd says he’d like to move back to West Virginia, but is willing to listen to any opportunity that presents itself. Other plans include an upcoming marriage in May 2011 to Sarah, an athletic trainer he met in graduate school at California University of Pennsylvania. Shepherd is the son of Jerry and Brenda Shepherd of New Martinsville.