September 19, 2019 - TCO
Legendary athletic trainer Gary Smith still going strong after 52 years
There are just minutes remaining before the dismissal bells rings at Eden Prairie, and athletic trainer Gary Smith is hard at work breaking up ice and filling water jugs.
“I’ve got it down pretty efficiently,” Smith said. “In a few minutes, it’s going to be a beehive of activity.”
As soon as the bell rings, EP’s afternoon rush begins. Soon, student-athletes begin lining up outside the athletic training room, and Smith wastes no time providing care (as long as backpacks are left outside).
“I love the kids, and I love being able to help them,” Smith said.
From taping ankles to teaching student-athletes different ways to manage their injuries, Smith’s dry sense of humor shines through as he bounces from one task to the next.
“He’s taken care of a lot of kids and gotten a lot of kids to play a lot of minutes that with another (athletic) trainer maybe they wouldn’t have,” Eden Prairie athletic director/football coach Mike Grant said.
For the past 22 years, Smith has been EP’s athletic trainer for state title after state title. But off the field, he’s won over the hearts of the EP community.
“When you say Smitty, that’s a singular name the whole community knows,” Grant said.
Known for his extensive knowledge and also for running a tight ship, Smith has seen it all during his career. A career that began 52 years ago.
“I heard about a job at the University of Minnesota,” Smith said. “I paid my own way up and got a job as the assistant (athletic) trainer at the University of Minnesota. I met a guy named Herb Brooks, and he took me on the ride of my life.”
That ride includes national championships and the 1980 Miracle on Ice team.
“It was a great group of guys that were very, very young,” Smith said. “The upset of the Russians was like Eden Prairie beating the (Minnesota) Vikings in football.”
Smith would later work in both the NBA and NHL, but his favorite stop has been at Eden Prairie High School.
“The parents and the kids just appreciate everything you can do for them,” Smith said.
Some of the student athletes might not know his backstory, but they do know this 74-year-old still loves what he does. In fact, usually Hall-of-Fames are reserved for those finished with their careers. However, this year Smith becomes the first-ever athletic trainer inducted into the Minnesota State High School League’s Hall of Fame, and he has no plans of slowing down.
“As long as my mind stays sharp, and I can help the kids and the coaches; I’ll keep doing it,” Smith said.
On Friday, September 17th, the Eden Prairie football team will take on Shakopee at TCO Stadium in Eagan. The game will be broadcast by FOX 9+ TV (channel 9.2).
About Our Partnership
TCO is proud to be the Official Sports Medicine Provider for Eden Prairie High School. Our dedicated team of sideline licensed athletic trainers and team physicians support student-athletes on and off the field. We take great pride in providing comprehensive sports medicine services, including strength and performance, physical therapy, nutrition, chiropractic care and more. No matter the circumstance, we can help make our partners the best athletes they can be.