Athletic training, physical therapy graduate helps players for NFL's San Francisco 49ers perform at highest level

Taylor Witczak long knew that he wanted to spend his professional career working with highly motivated athletes at the highest levels of sports.

He is fulfilling that aspiration by working as a seasonal athletic trainer for the NFL's San Francisco 49ers.

Witczak graduated from Grand Valley in 2016 with a bachelor's degree in athletic training and in 2019 with a doctor of physical therapy degree.

When a hospital system residency was disrupted by COVID-19, Witczak said the connections he had from Grand Valley helped him obtain the position with the 49ers.

Taylor Witczak
Taylor Witczak is working with the San Francisco 49ers this season.
Image Credit: Courtesy photo

"Besides the education and skills you get from going through both of these programs, you also get great networking connections," Witczak said. "I found out how broad that network was; those connections are all over the place in the professional environment."

Witczak's current professional environment is seven days a week in the midst of an NFL season, helping top athletes who push their bodies for a living to heal as well as get ready for the next game.

He has been impressed by the professional football environment.

"The talent level, the skill level, the discipline and the awareness of their bodies that these individuals have — everything here is about playing at the highest level by the kind of really motivated people I want to work with," Witczak said. 

His duties involve everything from taping and bracing to helping with rehabilitation of injuries. During games, Witczak and fellow seasonal athletic trainers also work as support for the permanent athletic training staff members, reporting as needed to assist with any issues that have arisen along with other duties such as ensuring supplies are available.

He said the fast pace and high expectations have reinforced for him a key tenet of athletic training: quick decision making.

For his day-to-day duties, Witczak is assigned to work with the tight ends. That position group is interesting from an athletic training standpoint, he said, because tight ends carry out both offensive line blocking assignments and receiving duties during a game, meaning Witczak and his colleagues who are treating these athletes are cognizant of the distinctive issues that can crop up with each of those skill sets. 

Witczak said the connections he builds with players have been a rewarding bonus. He has enjoyed getting to know them and laugh with them. He said the players also make clear their appreciation for the work and dedication of the athletic training staff.

Looking forward, Witczak said he would like to eventually serve as a rehabilitation coordinator or director for a high-level football or baseball team. He is hopeful his dual credentials along with his developing breadth of experience, which also includes a stint with Major League Baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks, will serve him well as he works to advance in his field.

And as always, he knows another tool for his advancement is the backing of the strong Grand Valley network in the sports environment.