Scott Williams works on the Achilles tendon of a Razorback football player in the training room at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Athletic Training Student Earns Prestigious Scholarship to Work with NFL Team
University of Arkansas student Scott Williams will spend time this summer helping prepare New England Patriots players for the upcoming NFL season.
Williams, who recently started his second year in the graduate athletic training education program in the College of Education and Health Professions, was awarded the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society Ethnic Minority Scholarship to work with the Patriots from mid-July through the end of August.
“Basically, I will be involved with field setup and breakdown; inventories of equipment, medical trunks and supplies, and storage rooms; hydration of athletes; and acting as an extension of the athletic trainers assisting with rehab exercises and treatments,” Williams said.
One of the most successful teams in NFL history, the Patriots are based in Foxborough, Mass. They are led by quarterback Tom Brady, who has taken the team to the Super Bowl five of his 10 seasons in the league and been named Super Bowl MVP twice.
Although Williams prefers following college football because of its pageantry and rivalry, he has been a fan of the Patriots for the past decade or so. One reason relates to his chosen field of study and future career path.
“They had a strength and conditioning coach named Mike Woicik, whom I idolized since earning my CSCS after graduation,” Williams said, referring to his designation as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist awarded by the National Strength and Conditioning Association. “Mike Woicik holds the most Super Bowl rings (6) of any coach in the league. He earned three with the Cowboys and three with the Patriots. I have always envisioned myself working under him to gain valuable experience. He is now back with the Cowboys as their strength and conditioning coach.”
Two other students in Arkansas’ athletic training education program have also won the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society Ethnic Minority Scholarship: Adrian Pettaway worked with the San Diego Chargers and Kevin Kikugawa worked with the Buffalo Bills, both in the summer of 2010. Williams heard about the opportunity from the two students when he visited campus in the fall of 2010. He had earned a bachelor’s degree in exercise science from the University of West Florida following six years of active duty in the Air Force as a tactical aircraft maintenance specialist on the F-15.
“Working alongside professional football players has always been a passion of mine,” said Williams, who is also a Licensed Massage Therapist. “I felt that it would be a great experience and help raise my stock and give me an advantage over others when applying for season-long internships upon graduation.”
Each year, University of Arkansas students complete four clinical rotations to put what they’re learning in the classroom into practice at athletic venues of several levels. Williams worked at Springdale’s Har-Ber High School last fall and with Matt Summers, head athletic trainer for the Razorbacks, for spring football this year.
Williams credits a letter of recommendation from Summers for getting him noticed in the NFL internship process. Williams continued to work the early part of the summer in the Razorback training room helping athletes with therapy and treatment.
The athletic training education program was established in 2002 and attracts students from around the world. It’s one of only 27 master’s level programs in the United States, according to the website of the accrediting agency for athletic training education, and its placement in the athletic powerhouse Southeastern Conference is one reason for the popularity of the program. Arkansas currently has the only master’s level athletic training education program in the SEC. Texas A&M, whose addition to the conference becomes effective July 1, is starting one, said Jeff Bonacci, Arkansas’ program coordinator.
For Williams, it was the quick and attentive response from Bonacci, a clinical assistant professor of kinesiology, that made Williams feel he was destined to come to the University of Arkansas.
“I had reached out via email to about five warm-weather schools located in the south and the southeast,” he recalled. “Within two hours of my email, I received a phone call from Dr. Bonacci, and he immediately directed me to the Arkansas program’s website and explained the admissions process and prerequisites for entry into the program. I never did hear from the other schools.”
He was also impressed by the scholarship opportunities available to minority students. He received the Benjamin Franklin Lever Graduate Student Fellowship and the UA Military Scholarship for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 academic school years.
“That’s why I say, ‘UA chose me,’” Williams said. “I wouldn’t have had that kind of financial assistance at the other institutions that I was interested in.
“Those were the main reasons,” he continued, “but other reasons included that UA is a huge D-1 university with great competitive sports programs, an accredited program, and moreover, Dr. Bonacci has so many contacts in the collegiate world and at the professional level to help his current students get internships and job placements following graduation.”
Williams hopes to parlay his summer experience with the Patriots into a shot at a season-long internship with an NFL team after he graduates. He’s also interested in helping his alma mater in its effort to move into Division II football.
“I would love to help start that program and double as an assistant certified athletic trainer and strength and conditioning coach, maybe even work at a performance center such as Athletes’ Performance or Andrews Institute back home in northwest Florida,” Williams said. “My dream career would be with the Miami Hurricanes. One of my lifelong goals is to work one of the Olympic Games as an athletic trainer.”