Athletic training interns score big

This time comes only once a year. When two of America's greatest pastimes overlap and people get to experience professional football and the Major League Baseball World Series at the same time.

Fans are usually glued to the television, and if they're lucky, attending a game in person. But wouldn't it be great to be part of the action? Sit on the sidelines…walk around the dugout…meet the players?  That's exactly what three University of Northern Iowa students got to do this summer during internships with professional baseball and football teams.

Jonny Diercks, Destry Sperfslage and Brandon Harthan, all seniors majoring in athletic training, got to experience something most can only dream about. 

With help and encouragement from the Division of Athletic Training at UNI, and a good word from a recent UNI grad, Diercks got the opportunity to intern with the Tennessee Smokies, a minor league baseball team, for the summer. 

"I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but soon found out it was a lot more than just being an athletic trainer," said Diercks. "I had more responsibilities and this internship taught me to be more organized and made me brush up on my people skills."

The UNI Athletic Training Program also prepared Sperfslage and Harthan for their internships with professional football teams.

Sperfslage spent his summer in Colorado with the Denver Broncos where he not only got to meet Tim Tebow, but also was part of a team that valued his expertise and hard work and invited him to come back for a yearlong internship. 

"The atmosphere of an NFL game is unreal," said Sperfslage. "Everyone has a goal to put the best football team out there. The players were just as excited as we were."

Harthan traveled to Michigan where he worked for the Detroit Lions. He was put right to work and soon found out that NFL practices were no different than football practices at UNI.

"We would practice at a different pace and had endless supplies while I was in Detroit, but the basics were still the same," said Harthan.

Like Sperfslage, Harthan was invited to come back for a yearlong internship with the Lions, which is something he was counting on.

"My experience with the Lions reaffirmed what I want to do," said Harthan. "Professional football is where I want to be."

These students not only had an amazing summer, but also found out that their hard work at UNI paid off and led them to something big. Not every university can say they had three interns working with professional sport teams, and hopefully there's more where that came from.

UNI senior Brandon Harthan interned with the Detroit Lions this past summer. "Almost every kid watches football on TV," said Harthan. "To actually be a part of it is huge."
Athletic training student Brandon Harthan with the Detroit Lions