When Super Bowl LII is played next Sunday in Minnesota, Iowa State University alumnus Jordan Pierce will have a front-row seat.
But the 2015 graduate in athletic training won’t be sitting much. As an athletic training intern with the New England Patriots sports medicine staff, he’ll be at the center of the action, helping players to stay healthy and prevent injuries.
“As a professional, I strive to continue to be at the forefront of sports medicine best practices,” Pierce said. “I hope to have a positive influence on the athletes I work with and can hopefully help them navigate challenges.”
Pierce’s professional preparation found a boost while at Iowa State. In addition to his coursework and involvement with state and district athletic training associations, he had ample opportunities to work with the Cyclone football team. He also spent two summers interning with the Denver Broncos.
Iowa State has a strong tradition of sending well-qualified athletic training students to intern with the NFL. The students have worked with teams such as the Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, and Arizona Cardinals. Some of them, such as Evan Craft with the Kansas City Chiefs, land full-time jobs as athletic trainers.
“The national prestige for the ISU athletic training program comes in part from the history of having eight NATA Hall of Fame members but also from our staff members holding leadership positions and the professional networking done on a national level each year,” said Vic Miller, a program coordinator in kinesiology and the assistant athletic training director. “Our staff members are very well connected and colleagues across the country have grown to understand that our students are more than capable of becoming positive contributors within our profession.”
Pierce had numerous opportunities to contribute while at Iowa State.
“The passion for the profession that I cultivated at Iowa State stays with me today because of the experiences and opportunities afforded me by the great Iowa State sports medicine staff,” Pierce said. “Having the opportunity to experience big-time sporting events, such as Iowa State football games and a bowl game, Iowa State wrestling matches, and Big 12 tournament championships in wrestling and track and field, helped me to develop an understanding of the demands for the profession that I am so thankful for.”
Were it not for an injury Pierce sustained in high school, he may never have found his career path. While working with an athletic trainer to participate in the spring track season after a fall football injury, Pierce grew interested in athletic training as a profession after seeing the impact. Today, that same interest and impact continue to drive him.
“Over the last three years as a certified athletic trainer, I have found the reason I continue to love being an athletic trainer,” Pierce said. “It provides me an opportunity to help people get through great challenges they are dealing with. I am able to be a person they can count on — to be there for them in their time of need and help them get back to what they love to do the most.”
Now, as an NFL intern, Pierce continues to learn more about his trade. He said the experience with the Patriots has been invaluable to his career.
“The opportunities I've been fortunate to have and the individuals I have worked with while with the Patriots this season have taught me so much about what it means to truly be a great athletic trainer,” he said. “Every day I am learning something new from someone on the staff. Everything from specific clinical evaluation, treatment, and rehabilitation skills to time management, people management, and especially, what great leadership looks like.”
As Pierce prepares for Sunday’s big game, he’s quick to show his pride at being not just a Patriot, but a Cyclone.
“Being a Cyclone is something I am so proud of,” he said. “I am absolutely certain that without the educational and clinical opportunities I had while at Iowa State, I would not be where I am now — working for a team playing in the Super Bowl.”