A helping hand: NFL grant allows Coyle to have training staff

A helping hand: NFL grant allows Coyle to have training staff

COYLE – Austin Adams limped to the sideline, cramping in his right leg – not unusual for a player’s first football game of the season.

Patrick Smith went to get a muscle roller to alleviate the pain. Usually, the Coyle High principal would be one of the only people at the Bluejackets’ games to help in these situations.

However, this year, he had help as Coyle, home to the 8-man Bluejackets, received a grant from the National Football League Foundation that allows for athletic training staffs.

Coyle has Smith, who does it all as a trainer and social media extraordinaire while also helping out in the Bluejackets’ pregame drills, but this grant takes some pressure off of him as well as Coyle coaches Shane Weathers and Marcus Cooper.

This season, the Bluejackets have the services of Langston University trainers Ross McCulloh and Melissa Katzenberger as well as Dr. Gary Anderson on the sidelines for incidents that are more than just a cramp.

Adams, a junior tailback, hopped back up a couple of plays later to finish with a 124-yard contest in the Bluejackets’ victory against Pioneer-Pleasant Vale on Sept. 1, but if anything serious would have happened to any Coyle players in this game or beyond, there will be no worry.

“When we heard that this was possible, we wanted to extend them our help,” McCulloh said. “In our profession, we want to be there for kids who do get hurt. We want to do prohibitive stuff and it’s a big deal to a school this size to have somebody out here who can get that done and get it done right, the right way. It’s going to be a big help and kind of point them in the right direction as far as what can be done in the future, if they decide to go that way and hire somebody full time.”

Coyle is one of four schools across the country to receive this grant that partners athletic trainers with schools that are deemed to have a need for help. The NFL started this program in the last couple of years after the Chicago Bears started putting an athletic trainer at every Chicago Public School football game in 2013.

Since then, 600 schools have received help from the NFL in this matter, and for the Coyle School District, which is off the beaten path between Perkins and Langston on Highway 33, this is a big help.

“The coaches, they tape, they do injury stuff and they try to figure these things out,” McCulloh said. “As these things evolve and our profession has gotten pretty big in athletics so being there to kind of back them up and being the one on the site to tell the kid what is going on and to make a referral if we need to for a doctor, it takes pressure off of them and it takes pressure off the administration. It takes the liability factor of the school, so it’s a big deal when trying to treat kids the right way when they get hurt.”

McCulloh and Katzenberger are going to be splitting duties as they both have to work the Coyle games, as well as maintain their duties for Langston. McCulloh said it is tough to work the longer hours, but he enjoys it.

Anderson, who is LU’s team physician, as well as having a orthopedic practice in Oklahoma City, knows the toll of having multiple duties, but he loves getting to help out on Friday nights.

Anderson, who was trained under famed surgeon Dr. James Andrews, has been working Friday night football games since 1997. His first game was at another remote school in Deer Creek, which was Class 2A at the time and has become a 6A school over the years.

Now, as he helps out another school that is miles from a hospital, Anderson is happy to provide a service that even if nothing happens, the Bluejackets will be glad to know that he is there.

“The first thing I would say about how much it helps is that I’m here,” Anderson said. “Without the grant and people executing the grant, people like the administration here in Coyle, then this wouldn’t have been a place that I identified that would have the need so once an infrastructure is developed where you have an athletic trainer and you have a communication mechanism installed, you can bring in other resources that might help.”

Anderson has to balance being on the road either helping the Lions or the Bluejackets, as well as having time for his family and four school-age children. While none of them have come out to a game in Coyle yet, he joked that hopefully they will come out and see some good football while also getting to see what their dad does.

While it takes some extra time from the trainers and Dr. Anderson, it gives the players, coaches, parents and administrators in Coyle an invaluable service. Without the NFL grant, Anderson said he would have never known Coyle had such a need for medical help and hopes the NFL finds more schools like the Class C Bluejackets to assist.

“I hadn’t been familiar with the situation here in Coyle,” Anderson said. “Obviously there are many other schools like it in Central Oklahoma that I don’t really know what their level of athletic training and medical care are. I’m sure there are more out there, though.”