Staff Photo: Brandon Brigman Norcross athletic trainer Brian Struck.
Brian Struck, 28, is the head athletic trainer at Norcross High School.
Struck graduated from Le Center High School in Minnesota in 2003. He received his bachelor's degree in exercise science from Minnesota-Duluth in 2008 and masters degree in Health and Physical Education from Valdosta State in 2010.
In this latest installment of "Getting To Know ... ," Struck talks to staff writer Brandon Brigman about being a part of Norcross' championship run this school year, the job duties of an athletic trainer and growing up on a farm.
BB: So I hear you are the lucky charm at Norcross High School with all these state championships this school year.
BS: That's what they say. That's what Doc says. I was only lucky enough to work with great athletes and coaches and helping them work together to reach their goals.
BB: Did you ever imagine being around so much success so quickly with football and boys and girls basketball winning state championships?
BS: No, because I was the head trainer for the Georgia Force until September when they folded. They made some changes at Norcross and thought I would be a good fit out there and it worked out. All this came together at the same time.
BB: You were part of three teams winning state titles in the last four months. Had you been a part of a championship team prior to that?
BS: Not championship teams. I've been a part of winning teams, but never championships.
BB: How cool is it to be a part of these teams' success?
BS: It's fun, especially after you got to work with them for a while and got to work with them on their rehabs and got them back on the field.
BB: So is it fair to say you're responsible for getting Myles Autry healthy enough for the state championship game to catch that touchdown pass?
BS: He did the work, I just helped him get out there.
BB: What spring sports are you doing?
BS: Right now we're covering baseball, soccer, lacrosse and track.
BB: Do they feel they can win state titles with you on the sidelines?
BS: Hopefully, one more. Get all three seasons.
BB: How hectic is an athletic trainer's schedule? It seems like y'all are always working.
BS: I work two separate times. I work in the morning at Sports Medicine South and I go out to the high school as a part of Gwinnett Medical Center. We get out there about 12:30 or 1 p.m. and start doing our rehabs. After that we do the in-season treatments and then we go into games at night. So we won't leave until about 10 or 10:30 p.m.
BB: What do you do in the morning at Sports Medicine South?
BS: That's when we try to get my students in from Norcross and try to expedite the process of getting them in faster to either see Harris Patel or Dr. (Gary) Levengood. They help us see our patients quicker, so we can get a diagnosis faster and I can get on their rehabs faster and in turn get them playing again faster.
BB: What exactly do you do as an athletic trainer?BS: Basically, just taking care of the kids when they come up with bumps, bruises or determining if there's a fracture of if they need to be seen by another provider or if they need an X-ray or any of that. That's where Harris and Dr. Levengood come in. They help me figure out what I need to do with them and then I'll take their rehabs and get them back on the field.
BB: How did you get involved with all of this?
BS: I actually learned about this my second year of college. We didn't even have an athletic trainer in high school, but a combination of sports and the medical field came together and this is what it is. I wasn't really into physical therapy, but I like the sports part of it. You take it all together. It's fun to watch the kids return to play or what you can do to help them get back on the field.
BB: You used to work with the Georgia Force Arena Football League team. What's the biggest difference between working with pro athletes and high school athletes?
BS: Dealing with different attitudes is the difference. High school kids need to understand what you are about and what you are there for. Because we are only there to help, we never try to hinder a kid by taking him out of a game or practice. It's for their benefit in the future. Hopefully, they can play more at the end of the season. With the Georgia Force, they know your responsibility, they know when they need to sit and when they need to play. I was an intern for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a year and I learned a lot of that management stuff -- resting, sitting, playing -- when I was down there.
BB: You spent a year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. What made you not want to pursue the pros more?
BS: I had actually never worked high school until I got to Norcross. Bucs for one year and two years with the arena football team, so that was kind of my pursuit for a while. Once the Georgia Force folded, I ended up at Norcross and it has been a good fit.
BB: You get to see a lot of different sports and athletes in the county. Are you amazed by the quality and quantity you see each game?
BS: Yeah, especially when I got to Norcross. The first game I worked was Collins Hill. I went out there with Harris Patel and we were out there on the sidelines. The first two offensive plays was Alvin (Kamara) for an 80-yard touchdown and then Alvin for a 75-yard touchdown. I was like these athletes are a little different. Especially since I came from small town Minnesota. We don't have that caliber of athletes.
BB: You spent 28 years as a grunt on the Struck Family farm. I'm not sure what that is, but it doesn't sound like a fun job.
BS: I just grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota and there was always work to do before school and after school doing whatever needs to be done.
BB: So before school you were literally feeding the chickens and milking the cows?
BS: Yep. When I was younger.
BB: Were you ever late to school because you were doing that?
BS: No, my dad made sure I got up early enough.
BB: What did you do in the afternoon -- bail hay?
BS: In the summer that's what we did. Sweating it out.
BB: Do you miss getting that fresh milk from a cow?
BS: (laughs) It's been a while. I've gotten over it at this point.
BB: How did you get from Minnesota to Georgia?
BS: I wanted an opportunity to go work in the NFL. I had a connection to get me into grad school at Valdosta State. They said if you work hard for the right people, you'll get where you want to go. That put me at Valdosta State and I had two years there. After that they connected me with the people in Tampa. That's actually how I got up here, the people at Valdosta State. My boss at Gwinnett Medical called Valdosta State and recommended I come up here and work for the Georgia Force.BB: How often do you make it back up to Minnesota?
BS: I actually make it back up there four or five times a year for about five days at a time, depending on the season. I have a graduate assistant at Norcross, so during spring break or winter break we can split the time.
BB: Do your parents put you back to work when you come home?
BS: Yep. Last time I went home, my dad picked me up at the airport and we went and picked up some hay before I even got home. But it's good, it's a good lifestyle.
BB: You've only been with Norcross for a few months. Is this something you'll stick with or do you want to pursue other things?
BS: I don't know. I like where we are right now. It's definitely fun when you are winning, of course. Once you get to know the kids and you get to watch them accomplish their goals, it's fun. Plus, I really don't mind high school. It's a good gig, especially out there. The caliber of athletes, everything you get to watch. Plus the support we get from the hospital and Dr. Levengood and Harris, they make it easy for us to do our job.