LHS Athletic Trainer, Alex Nelson, described accepting a job in Lufkin, Texas, a three-day drive from Oregon, as “a leap of faith”.
“My mom gave me the idea. She said there would be a lot more job openings in Texas. I had never been to Texas. With that big move, I proposed to my wife. I said, “I’m going to Texas, how do you feel about that?” She didn’t renew her teaching contract. She had never been to Texas. She was raised in Portland, Oregon,” said Mr. Nelson.
Just like that, he and his new fiancé, headed south to start a life in East Texas. The job he was looking for was an Athletic Trainer position. He had already graduated from Oregon State University; held an internship in Ohio; worked one week for a semi-pro football team in Connecticut that disbanded; and worked for a PT office in Oregon at the same time being an athletic trainer for a high school in a suburb of Oregon. With that kind of experience, he was ready for a job with Coach Quick and the Lufkin Panthers.
His degree is in Exercise Sports Science with an option in Athletic Training. He attended Lewis & Clark High School in Spokane, Washington where he was on the wrestling team and was a student athletic trainer. He wanted to wrestle in college but was not allowed to wrestle as a trainer. It would possibly give the team an advantage and was a conflict of interest.
He said, “Knowing what I know now, I could have walked on the team. The coaches could have convinced them to make sure I was on the team and that I could be a trainer, too.”
Oregon State was his first choice. He was an only child and it was a good enough distance from Spokane where he was raised since he was three-years-old. He was born in Idaho.
One of the worst injuries he ever saw as a trainer was while he was a senior in college.
He said, “It was my senior year in college, the last game of the season. I was working a soccer game and the goal keeper hit her knee. When I looked at it, I saw what I thought were two knees. It was just the broken bone. I had to hold her leg for a half hour. It felt like the ambulance took forever until they got there and splinted it up.”
Going on three years at Lufkin ISD, Mr. Nelson and Assistant Athletic Trainer, Vanessa Jimenez, have to be ready for everything and anything.
He said, “The pads and face masks can scrape. We are constantly cleaning up blood on jerseys and pants from scrapes. We do a lot to combat cramps. During the hot temps our guys on the field might be fatigued so we do a lot of Power Aid. We also do a better job of cooling out there with the cooling fans. Some kids are more prone to cramps and need more hydration. We’re not giving the players Power Aid because it tastes better than water, the players need it if they are out in the sun and on the field a lot. We also help the players stay flexible during the game by riding the stationary bike on the sidelines.”
Mr. Nelson rises at 6:20 a.m., eats cereal something sweet like Cinnamon Toast Crunch, watches the news for the weather forecast and heads to work to start treatments on the LP athletes. Along with attending games and treating athletes, the athletic trainers also work on Emergency Action Plans and make sure the team has the technology they need for quick recovery. He also advises coaches using gadgets like the Heat Stress Tracker that helps determine if the weather outside is optimal for training. The coaches can use these devices to make sure athletes get more hydration during hot workouts.
Speaking of coaches, Mr. Nelson couldn’t ask for a better coach to work with than Coach Quick.
“He’s great. He’s backed me on everything. He’s always right there. He knows what to do without us having to say anything. I’ve had mixed coaches in the past, but he’s great,” said Mr. Nelson.
Mr. Nelson enjoys football season and is a Saints fan where Lufkin Panther Eric McCoy now plays football. When he first met KeKe Coutee, he had no idea he was a former Panther and plays for the Texans.
He said, “He came in the training room, and I was asking who is this guy? Do you go to school here? I don’t know you. Then I was told that’s Keke Coutee. He plays for the Houston Texans and then it made sense to me.”
When he’s not on a field or in the training room, Mr. Nelson enjoys shooting at the USPSA matches where he does practical shooting with mostly handguns.
“My dad got me started when I was around 12 to 14 years old in Oregon. I also like to play indoor soccer with the coaches. We played last year,” he said.
His favorite food is pulled pork sandwiches which he definitely ate back home, but he misses chicken & waffles like he had in Oregon.
With the new construction on a gym and baseball/softball fields on the horizon, Mr. Nelson claims to be very excited totally for selfish reasons.
He said, “We have to take kids and drive them over. We have to take supplies and the water over every day. We take ice and everything. It will be much more convenient for us.
As for living in Lufkin more than 2,000 miles away from home, Mr. Nelson is enjoying his new environment.
He said, “There’s nothing like Friday Night Lights in Texas – the whole experience.”