- Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion
by Ryan Clark
CHS Communications Director
Last Saturday was not any normal weekend for Jakob Morgan.
It was the first game of the season, and the Graduate Athletic Training student was unusually busy. As as athletic training student with the UK football team, there were an abnormal amount of tweaks and bruises — along with, unfortunately, some major injuries that had to be cared for.
“It’s never a good situation when the athletic trainers are so busy,” said Morgan, a 24-year-old from Louisville who’s in his second year in the Professional Master of Science in Athletic Training program. “I mean, it’s good to get the experience, but it means the team has had some unfortunate luck.”
After participating in sports all the way up until high school, Morgan knew he wanted to have a career in athletic training. And, after choosing to pursue his education in the CAATE accredited program, he was able to participate in an immersion clinical experience over the summer with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.
As it turns out, the AT program has quite the relationship with the team, as three alumni of UK currently work as athletic trainers for the squad.
We caught up with Morgan to discuss that experience, as well as his decision to come to UK, and the high expectations for UK’s football team this season.
Let’s meet … Jakob Morgan.
My family kind of always rooted for UK athletics, so I grew up watching UK football, going to a ton of football games, all the way back to elementary school. Then, when I graduated high school, I visited Lexington, and I loved the small, college-town atmosphere. Everything was blue, and I just grew to love it.
So, originally, I actually was thinking about going the physical therapy route. I had a few knee injuries playing sports, from little league to high school, and I was going to physical therapy for months and months. Just seeing how much a physical therapist was able to help their patients and get them back to playing. My physical therapist was really there for me and helped me get back.
Once I got to UK as an undergraduate, I was a kinesiology major. That was my major from the start. I was a student aid with the UK football team in 2016 and that’s when I kind of knew I wanted to go the AT route and I got lucky enough to get accepted into the athletic training program at UK.
I had a high expectations coming into the program. I would say the academic faculty is great. They've lived up to everything I expected, and more.
The academic side of it definitely took me by a surprise at first. I would say that first summer in the program is a tough one. The facilities are great. Obviously, all of the high schools in the area, and other small colleges that we use as clinical rotation sites are awesome as well.
And one thing I wanted to say, Kentucky has a cadaver lab which is for anatomy where you get to like, dissect a human body and everything, and go through the entire body right there in person. I found out that a lot of schools don't have that.
Right — this was actually for school. I had to complete a rotation somewhere for school, so I ended up applying to the Miami Dolphins. I’d actually previously interned with the Houston Texans (as an undergrad), and in Miami, the head athletic trainer went to UK, as did two assistants, so we have a relationship there. But I still didn’t expect anything.
So I actually sent my resume and a cover letter in and applied. And I remember, at the time I was working with UK’s gymnastics team, and I got a call in the athletics office. It was Kyle Johnston, the head athletic trainer of the Dolphins.
We got there right as Training Camp started, and you have to imagine — normally, you’re working with 53-man rosters, but in camp, there are more than 100 guys. That’s why you need more athletic trainers. So you have all these guys getting nicked up, and you have to be there, and I learned a ton down in Miami. It was a great experience — we had Tyreke Hill come in, one of the top receivers in the NFL, while I was there. But it was great — they really made us feel at home. The head athletic trainer would go out of his way to sit us down and explain things that would help us in our careers, and how he goes about doing things.
But it was also the real deal there. Like, this was people’s careers, and players would get cut. It was serious. And that was eye-opening. Sometimes, the coaches would sit down with guys and they would have to let them go and you just thought, that was their career.
I had my experience with the football team in undergrad, but that was just like doing gruntwork. But this experience is completely different.
For one, there was a chance of thunderstorms for that first game, which changes everything. We had to keep that in the back of our minds. It could cause more problems, and we have to worry about the field and how the players will react to certain amounts of water on it. We’re always paying attention to that.
But the sidelines during games are always crazy. There are more than a hundred people running around, it’s super busy, so you have to react quickly. One guy will come off (injured) on defense. Then, there could be a fumble or something, and immediately, he needs to be back out on the field. On top of that, you may have someone from offense coming off the field and he needs to be taken care of.
But overall, this team is on track. Yes, we had some injuries in the first game, but we’re very confident.
It’s a great program. I love the academic faculty. It’s a growing field — there’s always going to be demand for athletic trainers.
And one of the things I like about UK is they actively seek out student input to make it better. Each year they come to us and ask us what they can do to improve. They meet with us regularly. They’re always trying to change and evolve, and that’s why I think they are going to continue to be one of the best in the country.