T. Pepper Burruss is the Director of Sports Medicine
Administration and Athletic Trainer/Physical
Therapist for the Green Bay Packers.
Describe your setting:
Our athletic training facility was recently renovated, and
we have only been in it since July. It includes an expanded
treatment area, functional rehabilitation area, recovery
room, examination rooms, GE iDXA body scan room, digital
X-ray room, 4 Athletic Trainer offices, conference room,
hydrotherapy room with 2 walk-in hot tubs and a walk-in 4 x
16 cold tub, and a SwimEx rehabilitation pool. In 2013, we
were fortunate to have an addition to our building that houses
a 10,000-square-foot weight room and an adjacent regulation
width indoor 35-yard in-filled field.
How long have you worked in this setting?
This is my 39th season in the NFL. I spent the last 23 seasons
with the Green Bay Packers and the first 16 with the New
York Jets. I trace my career path to the choice to move
from New York state to attend Purdue University under the
legendary NATA Hall of Famer, William “Pinky” Newell.
As I was leaving high school in 1972, a chance encounter
made me aware of the many Purdue graduates with influential
athletic training jobs all across the country. Several of those
were in the NFL, which I had my sights set on at a very
early age. I decided I needed to be mentored by the best;
after all, Pinky was known to have the most high profile job
opportunities come across his desk.
It was 800 miles from my New York state hometown to
Purdue University. Pinky wrote to me that it was an awful long
way for an out-of-state student, and he couldn’t guarantee me
a spot in the athletic training facility. I wrote back that I was
coming. Years later Pinky confided that my decision to make
the trek showed I was determined and willing to put my money
where my mouth was.
After Purdue, I chose to attend Northwestern University
Medical School to receive my second bachelor’s degree in
physical therapy. Then, eight weeks prior to my graduation
from Northwestern, I received a call from Bob Reese, the new
Head AT of the New York Jets and 1970 Purdue alumni. He
asked if I wanted to be the Assistant AT of the Jets. Keep in
mind, this is my home state and “my” team growing up. Bob
had made a call to Pinky seeking a recommendation, and as
they say, “the rest is history.”
I spent 16 seasons with the New York Jets as an Assistant AT.
In 1991, Jets Director of Player Personnel Ron Wolf became
the general manager of the Green Bay Packers. He called me
in early 1992 and asked if I would be interested in becoming
the Head AT of the Green Bay Packers after the late Dominic
Gentile retired. I wasn’t quick to jump at the offer, as the
An In-Depth Look
Meet an Athletic Trainer for an NFL Team
T. Pepper Burress