News at Mason
He's living his NFL dream as an athletic trainer
May 21, 2019 / by John Hollis
It wasn’t exactly how he had envisioned it while growing up, but George Mason University’s John Johnson has realized a lifelong dream by making it to the NFL.
It doesn’t matter to the former college football player that he is doing it on the sidelines as an athletic trainer rather than as a player. Johnson, who graduated from Mason in May with a master of science in athletic training degree, says he’s living the dream.
The 25-year-old Ashburn, Virginia, native spent last fall as an athletic training student intern with the Washington Redskins and will be joining the Jacksonville Jaguars for a similar training camp role later this summer.
“As a former athlete, there was a time in my life that I dreamed of making it to the pros just like every other kid,” said Johnson, who played football at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia, while completing an undergraduate degree in biology. “Going through my own injury experiences from athletics, I was inspired by the medical professionals who helped get me back to the sports I loved. My dreams transitioned from being on the field in pads to helping other athletes keep competing in the sports they love.”
Johnson’s daily responsibilities with the Redskins included assisting players with their daily rehabilitation; preparing players for practice and games through manual therapy, modality treatment and wound care; and setting up water coolers and Gatorade stations. Other duties included packing travel trunks for road games that essentially housed the team’s entire athletic training room and tending to other player needs such as stretching.
“I loved my experience with the Redskins,” Johnson said. “I was able to learn a lot from my opportunity to work hands-on with the players and alongside the full-time athletic trainers.”
Mark McCracken, a Mason alumnus now serving as an assistant athletic trainer for the Redskins, was Johnson’s mentor last fall and credited him for being a fast learner in his first NFL experience.
“Throughout the course of his time with us during the 2018 season, J. J. continually improved,” McCracken said, referring to Johnson. “When our athletes gain trust in an athletic trainer, we know they’re on the right track to success.”
She cited Johnson’s strong sense of empathy and compassion for his success.
“Those are characteristics that have served him well in the MSAT program and will translate into his professional development,” she said.
Johnson is already looking forward to his next chapter in Jacksonville.
“I’m extremely excited,” he said. “Blessed and beyond thankful to have been given a shot to prove myself and represent not only myself, but my family, my alma mater and those who have vouched and supported me to be in this position. I can’t wait to have the opportunity to continue to grow in my profession.”