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Athletic Trainer Spotlight: Collin Francis, ATC, Indiana University

August 19, 2016

Growing up in Laurel, Md., Collin Francis dreamed of going to med school and becoming a plastic surgeon. That was his plan when he enrolled at a science and technology magnet school--Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, Md. To complete the program’s internship requirement, Collin was connected with Darryl Conway at the University of Maryland. “I figured I’d check in monthly to show Darryl my progress on an anatomy project, and he’d sign my paper. Darryl didn’t see it that way, though. He said, ‘If you’re going to do an athletic training internship, you’re going to do it the right way.’ I had planned to coast through my internship, and instead I was put to work on the sidelines. I remember thinking, what did I get myself into?”

By the time Collin graduated from high school in 2006, he realized he loved athletic training…but hadn’t quite abandoned the idea of becoming a doctor. “It came to the wire, and I had to make a decision—and my decision was athletic training,” he says. I knew the University of Delaware had one of the best programs, but my sister was a student there and I didn’t want to follow my big sister to college. Fortunately, my common sense prevailed, and that’s where I went and I loved it.” While pursuing a B.S. in Athletic Training, Collin spent summers in San Diego, working as a summer camp intern for the San Diego Chargers.

After graduating from Delaware in 2010, Collin headed to Clemson University as a graduate assistant, working with swimming, diving, and football. He completed a Masters of Science in Youth Development Leadership at Clemson in 2012. From Clemson, Collin did a one-season internship with the Carolina Panthers, and then in 2013 he was named head football athletic trainer at Morgan State in Baltimore. He landed in the position of assistant football athletic trainer at Indiana University in February 2015, and was recently named interim head football athletic trainer.

“I’ve benefitted from amazing mentors every place I’ve been,” Collin says. “During my summer internship with the Chargers, James Collins and Damon Mitchell showed me that you’ve got to get your hands on the athletes every single day. You have to touch them to know the ins and outs of where it hurts. They taught me the importance of having a good time and having a staff that takes care of one another. My work ethic developed there, too. No matter how early I got to work or how late I stayed, James was already there when I arrived and still working when I left.

“At Clemson,” Collin continues, “Danny Poole provided a great atmosphere and an environment of learning, independence, and personal growth. Ryan Vermillion and his great staff at the Panthers showed me that every task is important, no matter how small it may seem. Ryan impressed on me the importance of always being a professional—in the airport, on an airplane, at the hotel, every moment. We had to be ready to act if the need was there. We couldn’t be out messing around. I learned that athletic trainers have to be the hardest working guys in the entire organization. I was taught by great people, and that has always made me believe that I need to be great and help my students be great.”

Those mentors are still there to help him, Collin says. “When times get tough, when there’s an injury I’ve never seen before, I can pick up the phone and call any of these guys. They’ll be honest. They’ll tell me to stop doing this and start doing that. Or they’ll give me the name of another athletic trainer who might know more. That’s one of the things I love about this profession. There are tens of thousands of us doing the same thing, sharing the same goals. You’re never ever alone in this job.”

Collin swam competitively growing up, and stays involved with the sport as an athletic trainer and medical consultant for the USA Swimming National Team. He was on the staff for the 2013 World University Games in Kazan, Russia.

Athletic trainers get a front row seat to the best athletes, Collin notes. “Before every game I remind my staff that it might get really hard during the week, but we have a great job. People pay an insane amount of money to see what we get to see up close. Our athletes rely on us. We spend hours and hours with them. We go to sleep and wake up thinking about them. No one in this job does it to be thanked or to get a pat on the back, but when Jordan Howard gets drafted by the Chicago Bears, and I know I had a little part in that, that’s enough thanks for me. It’s the best feeling.”

Several years ago, Collin was invited to join Cramer’s Athletic Trainer Advisory Board. “I’ve learned so much from the other athletic trainers on the board,” he says. “In this profession we develop so many important relationships and friendships over the years, and I’m glad to include the advisory board members among my professional and personal VIPs.”

Outside of work, Collin focuses on friends, family, food and flicks. “I have the two cutest nieces—18-month-old twins! I recently took them to a minor league baseball game, their first athletic event. I’m a huge movie buff and try to see every new movie. I also love to eat, cook, and feed my family and friends. When I’m in a new city, I like to find the best donuts and the best burgers. And at home, I’m working on my skills with the grill and smoker.”

Reflecting on his decision a decade ago to become an athletic trainer, Collin says he absolutely made the right decision. “I have the coolest job. I’ve been all over the world for work, and have met wonderful people who are lifelong friends. It’s hard when an athlete gets hurt, and not everyone gets back to perfect health. Some may quit. But you’ve got to take the good with the bad. How can I complain? I love my profession and can’t imagine doing anything else.”