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Where are they now: Road to recovery helps Red Wing native find his calling

Nate Foot’s interest in athletic training started during one of the toughest times of his life.

After tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee while playing summer soccer for Red Wing before his senior year of high school, Foot stared down the long recovery from surgery.

But with the help of Paul Irwin, who worked at Fairview Red Wing Medical Center at the time, Foot was back playing hockey in the winter, five months after his injury.

“I had an ACL reconstruction, that’s what initially got me into the sports medicine field,” Foot said. “Sports were always a huge part of my life. If you had asked me before the injury, I probably would have told you I wanted to play hockey in college or play juniors and try to pursue hockey in college.

“I just felt like I hadn’t been exposed to that kind of medicine and to know that sports medicine existed. I kind of wanted to be on the other side of it and help some athletes get back to it. It was a big achievement to go through that five months of hard work and have it pay off and get back to your potential. A lot of athletic trainers have those kinds of stories. Those are the moments that are most rewarding. You know what that means to them.”

Now, Foot, who graduated from Red Wing in 2008, is on the other side of the trainer’s table.

In June, Foot received a Master’s Degree in athletic training from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He finished his undergraduate degree in athletic training at the University of Vermont in Burlington.

“The program director at Vermont was a Virginia grad,” Foot said of going from Vermont to Virginia. “He definitely advocated for UVA. He was very helpful in me eventually going there.

“There aren’t too many master’s programs (in athletic training) and Virginia has one of the only ones that has a one-year program. They’ve got a pretty good reputation as being one of the top schools. It was kind of a no-brainer.”

Foot got to experience athletics at the highest level with both the Division I Catamounts and Cavaliers. But during his time with Virginia, he was the head trainer for the men’s tennis team, a perennial NCAA powerhouse.

The second-ranked Cavaliers went 30-0 last season and won the NCAA championship May 21 against top-ranked UCLA in Urbana, Ill.

“I really couldn’t have asked for a better experience,” Foot said. “You’re learning from the top people in the field and I was working with the top collegiate tennis team. … I definitely felt like part of the team.”

Foot received a trophy for the championship just like every other member of the team and he said he will get a championship ring. The team also gets to visit the president at the White House and, if it fits with his schedule in Colorado, Foot will be joining.

“That’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Foot said. “There’s definitely a lot of perks from winning.”

In the athletic training field, a wide variety of possible careers exist and Foot is keeping all his options open. Foot is currently taking part in a sports medicine fellowship program at the Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colo. The orthopedic clinic work will allow Foot the opportunity to transition into that work in the future if he enjoys it.

“I’ll be doing different rotations with the surgeons who each specialize on a different body part,” Foot said. “I’ll get to do some time in the operating room as well and observing that. … I’ve had more experience at the Division I level working in the traditional athletic program with a team and this opens the door to work in more of a clinic setting. I wanted to have that to keep my options open.”

The business of well-being runs in the family as Foot’s sister, Elizabeth, is also involved making others feel better. She is getting a double master’s degree in education, focusing on psychology and nutrition, in the Seattle area.

“She’s going at the total health, mind and body, thing,” he said of his sister. “I can help if someone sprains an ankle.”

With his next step still up in the air, Foot, 23, is looking at all the possibilities. With his fellowship at the orthopedic clinic and time spent with a NCAA championship-winning team, many avenues are possible.

“Maybe I’ll miss working with a team or maybe I’ll really enjoy working in a clinical setting and I’ll pursue that,” Foot said. “Not many professions you can go from working with an undefeated tennis team to go to work in an orthopedic clinic in a totally different setting.”

Chris Harrell
Chris Harrell is a sports reporter for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he interned at the St. Paul Pioneer Press and The Daily Caller in Washington, D.C. For updates on local sports, follow Chris on Twitter at @RECHarrell.
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