JACKSONVILLE – Scott Trulock wasn’t looking for a job. Far from it.
So, when Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell called recently regarding the Jaguars’ head athletic trainer position, Trulock said the situation needed pretty much to be perfect for him to leave the University of North Carolina.
As it turned out, Trulock said it was exactly that.
“In talking to Dave, it didn’t take long to see the enthusiasm and see what Mr. (Jaguars Owner Shad) Khan and the Jaguars are building,” Trulock said Tuesday. “Meeting with Dave, and (Jaguars Head Coach) Gus Bradley, their passion is infectious. You don’t have to meet with them for too long to realize you want to be a part of what they’re building.
“That starts with Mr. Khan. He’s clearly laying the bricks in the building and in the people. To be a part of that is exciting.”
Trulock – who spent seven years as the head athletic trainer for the North Carolina football team – on Monday was officially named the Jaguars’ head athletic trainer, replacing Mike Ryan, who held the position for the franchise’s first 19 seasons.
“Scott brings a wealth of experience and expertise to our organization that will greatly benefit our players,” Caldwell said Monday in a statement. “His previous experience in the NFL and his tenure at North Carolina has prepared him well for this role.”
Trulock said he thought just as highly of Caldwell, whom he knew from his time at North Carolina when Caldwell worked in the front office for the Atlanta Falcons and as a scout for the Indianapolis Colts.
“As the NFL scouts and personnel people go through the process, they come through the colleges throughout the year,” Trulock said. “You do build a unique relationship with the NFL personal staffs. You get to meet some unique people, and he was certainly someone who stood out as a bright mind in the football world.”
Trulock worked 11 seasons in the NFL before joining North Carolina, working as assistant athletic trainer with the Philadelphia Eagles from 1996-98, working with the San Diego Chargers from 1999-2001, serving as director of rehabilitation with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2002-2003, then serving as assistant athletic trainer with the Denver Broncos from 2004-2006.
“You’re getting the athletes at different points in their progression,” Trulock said. “In college, it’s teaching some basic life skills. How do you eat properly? How do you rest properly? Which injuries do you report? Those are things you can’t take for granted with a 17- and 18-year old.
“Obviously, in the NFL you’re getting the athlete at a different progression and you can progress them into more advanced stages as they go, but a lot of the patterns are similar. You bring someone into your organization; you have a culture and attitude you inject into them and watch them grow.”
Trulock said while medical issues with athletes, rehabilitation and injury is critical in the job, communication and relationship with the head coach and general manager are, too. Trulock will meet daily with Bradley and Caldwell during the season, and the trio will be key in decisions regarding rehabilitation and timing of return to play.
“It’s half-medicine and half-sport, and as Mike has done such a great job with for over 20 years, it’s kind of connecting the languages,” Trulock said. “You’re in a unique role of evaluating players and meeting with physicians and people on the football side. You’re kind of bridging a gap, but it’s the passion for the game of football and the passion for developing football players. It’s the charge of seeing that growth and doing it the right way that makes the difference in personal and team success.
“The goal is to develop your players the right way. As long as everyone has the same goal in wanting to protect and develop them the right way – clearly Dave and Gus have that long-term vision in mind in the players they bring in. Certainly, everyone’s on the same page and that communication is constant.”
Trulock said the Jaguars’ job has meaning, too, as a chance to continue the work of Ryan, a leader in the athletic training community. Ryan, the president of the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society’s Research & Education Foundation, was the first director of that foundation in the 1990s, and asked Trulock to be on the committee with him.
Trulock later served as director of research for the foundation, and was responsible for spearheading the surveillance of injury data in order to establish trends in injury patterns to NFL players.
“Mike was really a leader in that,” Trulock said. “We really worked together on a lot of the early projects of trying to be innovative with the medicine we were applying in the NFL. Mike Ryan has been and will be a leader in the sports medicine community. He certainly will always be a close friend and a peer of mine and someone I won’t hesitate to look to for input.
“It’s a challenge to follow him, but we have a lot of the same visions and the same viewpoints. Medicine is always about progressing, but when you add the sports side, that kind of accelerates that. It’s about being innovative and constantly looking at new ways to provide better health care, and I think Mike and I share that vision.”
An Orlando native, Trulock earned his undergraduate degree in sports medicine at Valdosta State University in 1994 and his master’s degree in athletic training from North Carolina in 1996.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity for me,” Trulock said. “I have a great position at UNC, but for me, this was the perfect situation. I grew up in Orlando and went to school at Valdosta State, so my roots are in the Central Florida, North Florida, South Georgia area. It really presented a unique opportunity from that standpoint and obviously with the people involved.”