This archived article was written by: Austin Fietkau
USU Eastern’s athletic department brought someone special to the teams this year. After almost 20 years without an athletic trainer, players and coaches welcome Jess Brinkerhoff to the ranks.
“I had no idea it had been that long,” said Ammon Bennett, head coach of USUE’s soccer program. “I knew it had been a while, but wow!” Similar statements were expressed by athletes and faculty because, as of the start of the New Year, Brinkerhoff is head athletic trainer responsible for overseeing every sport from basketball and soccer, to softball and spirit squad.
Being not only the head of the athletic training cabinet, but also its only member, he will have plenty of work to do preventing injury, rehabilitating and providing emergency care for athletes on nine teams.
Despite the responsibility placed on Brinkerhoff’s shoulders, he’s excited for his new job. “My job is just to keep calm, even in intense situations,” he says. While it’s a little easier to do with broken bones or ACL tears, he admits it is a bit scary to deal with concussions and spinal injuries.
“Broken bones and ACLs can heal and you can do surgeries and things like that. But with back and head stuff, you really don’t know the outcome. So when you’re talking about people that you really care about complaining about numbness in their back, it’s a really nerve-racking experience.”
“But honestly, this is what I’ve always dreamed of,” Brinkerhoff said. “Working with collegiate athletes here in Utah, close to my parents is seriously everything I’ve hoped for.”
Between time spent gaining his education and getting the experience to qualify him for this position, he has spent time away from his hometown in Bicknell, Utah.
“The biggest risk I’ve taken,” he said, “was when I decided to buy a house, which my wife wasn’t really all that on board with since I had two years of school left and was working a couple jobs and life was just pretty crazy at that point.”
However, after making some good money on the house, he looks back with gratitude for that decision and feels that “everything has really fallen into place since then.”
He graduated from Southern Utah University, and Brinkerhoff and his new family, which now consists of his wife Jessica and two girls, moved to Arizona where he worked at Lee Williams High School athletics until getting the job offer at USUE.
“Moving out of Utah was way out of my comfort zone,” he said. “But I knew that I needed the experience so that when a job came up, like this one, I was ready to get it.” He’s grateful for the experiences he had down there, and was even a little torn when the job opportunity at USUE came up.
Between athletic training and even teaching sports medicine classes, Brinkerhoff feels he was really able to do some good during that time. “Interacting with those high school kids, you get to change their lives and make some great friends. Like, I really consider those kids to be my friends.”
For Brinkerhoff, the only thing better than training college athletes is doing it less than two hours from his parents. With his youngest brother leaving the house, and his dad “getting a little older,” the timing for Brinkerhoff to get this new job has been “perfect.”
“My parents live on a farm, so I’m excited to see them more often and even help them on the farm.”
While he has no doubts about whether or not he has chosen the right career path, Brinkerhoff admits that if money wasn’t a necessity, he would love to stay on the farm. “I enjoy helping my dad sort cows, or taking them where they need to go, that sort of thing.”
It would seem that all the hard work growing up has paid off for him, as his high school students reported that he is a great role model, and co-workers say he has a great work ethic. “If the job’s not done, I’m just going to finish it,” he says.
“I really want to stay here in Price for as long as possible,” he said. All he wants is a job he enjoys, a home close to family and time to fulfill his responsibilities as a husband and father.
“The thing I really want to accomplish with my life, along with gaining complete trust as a trainer, is raise my kids to reflect what I want to be, and what I’ve seen my mom and dad be. That would be my greatest accomplishment.”