A little help from the Hurst


Contributed photo

Athletic trainer Jeff Haft assists Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster during camp.

Shannon Gotham, Staff writer

September is here, and football fans are starting to break out their jerseys as the football season is gearing into full swing.

Most of us have only just begun thinking about the 2018-19 football season, but not Mercyhurst athletic trainer Jeffrey Haft.  Haft spent part of his summer at the Pittsburgh Steelers football training camp standing in for an athletic trainer on maternity leave.

Working at the training camp was a no-brainer for Haft, who said that working in professional sports “is my end career goal.”  This opportunity was presented to Haft by John Norwig, the Head Athletic Trainer and former president of the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society.  Haft and Norwig met when Haft was the Erie County delegate to the Pennsylvania Athletic Trainers Society a few years prior and have kept in touch since then.  Norwig requested Haft’s résumé when looking to fill the training camp and preseason athletic training position. Haft was offered the position not long after.

Haft credits his experience in his field and his networking with earning him this opportunity.  His suggestion to current students hoping to walk in his footsteps is to “Network as much as you can,” Haft said. “Strive to become the best athletic trainer that you can and to be better than you were the day before.”  When asked about the operations within the training camp itself, Haft said he was pleasantly surprised by the attitude and manners of the players.  “Everyone said ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and acted with professionalism in every aspect of their career,” Haft said. The players “truly appreciated the work that we were doing on them and for them.”

Haft said the athletes’ mindsets on their health is one of the main differences between collegiate and professional athletes.  He highlighted that collegiate athletes typically look at their health on a short-term game-to-game perspective.  Professional athletes look at their health from a long-term perspective, thinking of every potential season ahead.  His time at the training camp came with experiences that he is excited to bring to Mercyhurst.  “I have a notebook full of stretching, evaluation and rehabilitation techniques and tips to implement into my own skill set and share with our staff and students,” Haft said.

It’s clear Haft’s experiences at the training camp not only influenced his professional life, but also his personal life.  “I have been a Buffalo Bills fan my entire life but have always had great respect for the Steelers organization and what the Rooney family has built,” Haft said. “Not only from the football side but the overall professionalism within the organization, including opportunities for minorities, women, etc. Safe to say, I am a Steelers fan now!”  Haft will be back at Mercyhurst after the NFL preseason with new experiences, memories and a team that he will treasure for years to come.