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Speaking of Sports: Trainer Jack

by Brent Harris, Director of Sports Information
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After 22 years, Jack Mansfield is leaving Wabash to teach others the skills and compassion that Little Giants have come to depend on.

When Wabash kicker Todd Bower’s right leg snapped in a compound fracture during the Little Giant’s game at Hiram in 2001, you could hear the sound all the way to the press box.

Trainer Jack Mansfield rushed to Bower’s side, stabilizing the leg and calming the Wabash junior.

"I owe Trainer Jack so much," Bower says as he recalls that autumn day. "About the same time my injury took place, another college football kicker suffered a similar injury to his leg. He had serious complications, forcing the doctors to amputate the leg shortly after the accident.

"I was so fortunate to have Jack there. Not only did he push me during my rehabilitation, he also knew when to make me hold back if I was trying to do too much. I’ll never forget the care and concern he showed me."

For 22 years, Jack Mansfield has been showing that same care and concern for Little Giant athletes in all sports. But winter 2005 was the last season for Wabash athletes to walk into the training room before practice to get ankles, fingers, and other injuries taped and prepped by Jack. Trainer Jack has fulfilled a longtime dream to become "Teacher Jack." Mansfield has been appointed program director of the athletic training education program at Lincoln Memorial University.

"I never thought I would leave Wabash," Jack says. "When I interviewed with Dean Paul McKinney years ago, I told him I wanted to retire from Wabash. Even in my initial conversations with LMU, I had no real plans to leave. But the opportunities presented by the school to teach forced me to make a tough decision."

Mansfield has served the past two years as a member of the Allied Health Advisory Board for LMU. When the school’s program director announced she would be leaving in January of 2006, the board initially developed a plan to fill the administrative position by using Mansfield’s expertise as a contact at Wabash. The plan called for Mansfield to file paperwork by computer.

But the more they talked about Mansfield’s role as an advisor, the more the group realized he was exactly what they were looking for in someone to take over the director’s position permanently.

"It sounds like a line, but they really made me an offer I couldn’t refuse," says Mansfield.

Trainer Jack, as every Wabash athlete calls him, takes a wealth of experience and memories to his new job in Tennessee. During his time at Wabash, Mansfield has served as the president of the Indiana Athletic Trainers Association, where he initiated the licensing act for Indiana high school athletics trainers. He served as a representative to the Great Lakes Athletic Training regional board, and has worked as an athletics trainer at the Olympic Training Center and the Olympic Trials. Mansfield was named as a local co-chair of the National Athletic Trainers Association convention in Indianapolis in 1990, helping to develop a format that became a benchmark for the annual event.

Mansfield also worked as one of only five trainers at the White River Park State Games before eventually being named the medical director. Under his guidance, the training program increased to 243 athletic training volunteers and incorporated an educational seminar for trainers working at the Games.

He’s been inducted into the Indiana Athletic Trainers Hall of Fame, the Ball State University Ring of Honor, and was named a Distin-guished Hoosier by the late Indiana Governor Frank O’Bannon.

"It would be difficult to guess how many ankles Jack has taped or treatments he’s prepared to get an athlete ready to perform," Wabash Dean of Students Tom Bambrey ’68 said at Mansfield’s farewell reception. "It would be even harder to measure the impact he’s had on those athletes’ lives as a friendly face on the sidelines or as someone to talk to about a problem."

"There are so many special friendships and memories I’ll take with me," Mansfield says. "While it would be tough to come up with one special moment, I do remember my first year at the Polar Bear track meet. It was cold with freezing rain, and when I showed up at the track, Coach Rob Johnson looked at me with disbelief and said, ‘What are you doing here?’ I took that as a huge compliment. I’ve always tried to provide the same care and attention for every student-athlete. It’s been one of the greatest challenges. I’ve tried to do my best to provide consistent care throughout my time at Wabash."

"Students come to Wabash because they know the type of liberal arts education they’ll receive here," Mansfield says. "I want the athletic training program at Lincoln Memorial to gain the same level of excellence for students who want to enter the field of athletic training. I want Lincoln to develop the same kind of reputation in that field that Wabash has in the liberal arts."