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‘Golden Boy’ living dream as trainer with Seahawks
There were the draw plays run with precision by Curt Warner. The impeccable routes that Hall of Fame wide receiver Steve Largent used to gain separation from defenders. And the blur of blue as safety Kenny Easley accelerated faster than a treadmill to intercept another pass.
David Stricklin has plenty of fond memories from watching the Seahawks in the Kingdome during some of their best seasons in the mid 1980s. But nothing for the 1999 South Kitsap High School graduate is comparable to the ones he shared with his father, Gary Stricklin, a former Seahawks’ season-ticket holder.
The younger Stricklin still can recite the father-son ritual a quarter-century later. Peanuts during the first quarter, followed by hot dogs, pretzels and frosties in each successive period.
While that time has passed — his father now works as a tribal-gaming agency investigator in California — Stricklin is as entrenched with his childhood team as ever.
In April, he was hired by the Seahawks as an assistant athletic trainer.
Stricklin, 29, who lives in Bellevue with his wife Courtney, said it might not have occurred had he not suffered an injury in 1997.
As a high-school junior with visions of creating his own gridiron memories — Stricklin said he was being recruited by Central Washington University — he suffered a dislocated left shoulder that required surgery.
“Getting injured in high school probably was a shaping event,” Stricklin said. “It helped me realize that football probably wasn’t what I was going to be playing for a lifetime.”
As the recruiting interest slipped away, Stricklin developed a new interest.
He frequently found himself rehabilitating his shoulder under the guidance of former South Kitsap certified athletic trainer and teacher Patrick Olsen and his staff.
“I wanted to learn more about it,” Stricklin said. “I took the class and fell in love with it. It was just natural being around athletes and active people. It just fit.”
Stricklin took the entry-level athletic-medicine program at South, which put him behind many of his peers. But Olsen said Stricklin’s dedication helped him overcome his lack of experience.
“He never used that as a crutch,” Olsen said. “He worked harder than anyone.”
That showed during the spring of 1999 when the Wolves traveled to the state’s athletic-medicine competition. Olsen said Stricklin made such a positive impression on the instructors after that event that trophy for the top junior-varsity placer was dubbed the “Strick Award” two years later.
“It’s a relationship-type business,” said Olsen, who now oversees the career and technical-education programs in the North Kitsap School District. “Once he makes that connection, people figure out he’s really intelligent.”
Stricklin attributes those qualities to his success. He noted that athletic medicine, which he said encompasses about 80,000 people throughout the United States, is a small field.
That, he said, makes interpersonal relationships important.
Working with professional athletes is different from those in college. Stricklin noted that a popular topic among college athletes is the latest video games, while veteran Seahawks cornerback Marcus Trufant discusses his daughters.
But Olsen said there is another difference — money.
Despite that, he said, players and coaches earning significantly more than Stricklin did not treat his protégé any differently when he visited the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton.
“Every coach and player that walked by talked with David,” Olsen said. “You could just see the connection between the coaching staff, players and David.”
That became apparent when Stricklin was hired by both Oregon State University and the Seahawks after previous stints with both.
After earning his degree in 2003 from Central Washington, he worked as a graduate assistant for the football program while pursuing a master’s degree in athletic medicine at OSU.
He then interned for the Seahawks in 2005 before he returned later that year to Corvallis, Ore., to work with the Beavers’ football and baseball programs.
He said it was the impression he made during previous stints that enabled him to be hired at OSU and later with the Seahawks.
“It worked out for the best because of the position I put myself in five years earlier,” he said.
Olsen refers to Stricklin as the “Golden Boy” because of the success Stricklin’s teams have experienced.
His only year with the Seahawks resulted in a Super Bowl appearance, and when he returned to OSU, Stricklin was part of the Beavers’ baseball program that won national championships in 2006 and ’07.
While Olsen acknowledges that talent was a significant factor behind that success, he said Stricklin and others helped put those teams in position to win by keeping them healthy.
The Seahawks, who have a 5-4 record, already have matched their win total from last year.
But it has not always been easy. Seattle suffered about a half-dozen significant injuries during its 33-3 loss Oct. 30 at Oakland.
“I hate Mondays like the rest of the world, but I hate Mondays because of what happened on Sunday,” Stricklin said.
Because of privacy laws, he is limited in what he can share about his position. But it typically involves arriving at 5:45 a.m. at the VMAC to set up during weekdays and usually continues until 7 p.m.
During the regular season, it is a seven-day-a-week undertaking, as most games are played on Sunday.
He tells high-school students they should be aware of the commitment required before they pursue careers in athletic medicine.
“For the hours we work, you don’t get paid that much,” Stricklin said. “You’re not going to be famous. You have to have that internal motivation to see an athlete succeed.”
He then reflects on advice he received as a teenager.
“There will always be another party,” Stricklin said. “I never really missed out on too much when it came to social stuff.”
Another lesson learned from his father.