Sports

Stricklin rubs — and tapes — elbows with the pros

David Stricklin always dreamed of making it to the NFL.

However, the 1999 South Kitsap High School graduate and former football standout made his NFL debut in July, not as a player, but as an athletic trainer.

Now a senior at Central Wash-ington University, Stricklin was selected to work as an intern for the San Francisco 49ers for six weeks, which ends Sept. 1.

Stricklin was one of only six individuals in the country to earn an NFL Trainers scholarship.

Stricklin said the experience has been the thrill of a lifetime despite the long working hours.

“The luster of it wore off pretty quick after working 6:30 a.m to 10 p.m.,” Stricklin said. “But actually, it’s not as bad as I thought.”

Stricklin said the toughest part of the internship is the microscope he’s under with observers.

“You definitely get observed by everyone, including the coaches,” he said. “If the feedback is negative, you know about it. If you’re doing things right you don’t hear from them. I take it with a grain of salt.”

Stricklin said interacting with the players eases up the intense atmosphere and constant scrutiny.

“Garrison Hearst is the funniest guy I’ve ever met,” Stricklin said. “Dana Stubblefield is the coolest guy. He’s always yapping. It’s pretty funny.”

The highlight of the summer training camp and pre-season games was Stricklin’s trip with the team to Osaka, Japan.

“Osaka was great,” he said. “The culture was awesome and the surroundings at the football game (against the Washington Redskins) was the highlight.”

But when all is said and done at 49ers camp, Stricklin said the biggest thing he will come away with is more knowledge about athletic medicine.

Stricklin attempted to walk on the CWU football team, but a shoulder injury derailed those plans his freshman year.

He said it wasn’t hard to give up since he also chose CWU for its athletic medicine program.

But his first taste of athletic medicine goes back to his SK days under the tutelage of Pat Olsen and Freda Evans.

Olsen said Stricklin didn’t involve himself with the program until his senior year, but he caught on quickly.

“He got into it late but he took to it fast,” Olsen said. “Anything you taught him he would grab hold of it and come in the next day and say ‘OK, here it is.’ He’s always thinking ahead.”

While the internship will look good on a resume, Stricklin said he’ll be right back at the bottom of the totem pole once he gets back to school for his final year.

“Lots of people think this would get my foot in the door, but it really doesn’t,” Stricklin said. “It’s just a small step. I have to earn my way back.”

Olsen said Stricklin has all the tools to make a career out of athletic medicine.

“He’s a fabulous human being as well as being good at what he does,” Olsen said. “It’s just the way he carries himself. He’s got the work ethic, which we teach to all of the kids we have. I’m very excited for him.”

Olsen said Stricklin is the second SK graduate to earn an internship with an NFL team.

Matt Bussman, who is at graduate school at Vanderbilt University, is in his fourth year as an intern for the Seattle Seahawks.

Though he’s tasted the NFL life, Stricklin said he wants to be an athletic trainer at a Division I college.

“That would be the best job,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll get there.”

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