Over the course of 24 years as an athletic trainer, Brad Nash has made a lot of stops, working in cities like Lincoln Park, Grand Ledge, Rogers City, Alpena and even briefly in the National Football League.
After 11 years in Alpena and more than 14 years in northern Michigan, he's adding one more to the list.
Today is Nash's last day working at Alpena Regional Medical Center and with Alpena High School as its athletic trainer. After being on the sidelines or in the gym for countless Alpena athletic events, Nash is headed to mid-Michigan where he'll work at MidMichigan Health in Midland and be subcontracted to work for Beal City High School as its athletic trainer.
Alpena High athletic trainer Brad Nash, right, tapes the ankle of an Alpena player during a football game. After working at Alpena for 11 years, Nash is headed to Beal City to serve as athletic trainer for the Aggies. Before coming to Alpena, Nash was the athletic trainer at Rogers City High School for three years.
"It was one of the first jobs I had ever applied to when I got out of college, (and I) didn't obviously get the job at the time and it's always been in the back of my mind to get back to the Midland area," Nash said. "My wife's family lives there, so it made sense, maybe not right at this time to do it, but it was a job that I just really couldn't pass up right now."
Recalling his first days with the Wildcats, Nash said he felt accepted almost immediately and remembers being in awe the first time he stepped into Wildcat Stadium and saw 2,500 people packed in the stands. Alpena's passion for sports reminded Nash of his hometown and made him feel all the more welcome.
"I was probably nervous but people just made me feel at home," Nash said. "I never had any issues with coaches with being accepted or them accepting what I was trying to do. It's always been a very friendly place."
Nash has been on the sidelines for numerous accomplishments by Alpena teams including conference, district and regional titles, but he said it's the little things he appreciates the most like seeing an athlete bounce back from an injury and continue to compete at a high level.
"That's always heartwarming for me as an athletic trainer, seeing somebody get hurt and come back to their sport and go on to college," Nash said.
Nash's friendly nature, passion for his job and willingness to help student athletes made him a valued member of Alpena's athletic staff. While he normally put in eight hours days at Alpena on a football Friday, he also traveled with the team and was there in a flash when an athlete was in need.
"One of the biggest things is that he always responded quickly," Alpena girls basketball coach Jenny Poli said. "When someone went down, it was relieving to know someone was there who could take care of our players and knew what to do."
While Nash has been a fixture at Alpena sporting events over the last decade, his initial introduction to northern Michigan came when athletic director Pat Lamb hired him as the athletic trainer for Rogers City High School, a position Nash held for three years before coming to Alpena in the fall of 2001.
"He was great. We never had an athletic trainer until Brad came around," Lamb said. "He was always willing to go the extra mile to help any student athlete and we appreciated that."
Growing up on the Mississippi River in Red Wing, Minn., Nash's career in athletic training got an early start in high school when he realized that his 5-foot-3, 125-pound frame wasn't going to allow him to play football very long and began studying athletic training. He graduated from University of Minnesota-Mankado in 1984 and briefly worked for the Atlanta Falcons during an internship, eventually working two regular season games for the Falcons.
Nash decided against pursuing a career as a trainer for a professional team because of the time commitment required for the job. Making his way to Michigan, Nash worked for Grand Ledge, Dearborn Fordson, Dearborn Heights Annapolis, Dearborn Edsel Ford, Lincoln Park and Rogers City before the efforts of football coach Jack Gebauer and athletic director Mike Cadarette brought him to Alpena.
As for the future, Nash might still be seen around Alpena now and then. His wife Jodi and two children, Meghan and Zach, will stay in Alpena for now. Zach is a three-sport star for the Wildcats and will be a senior in high school, while Meghan will be a freshman and plans to play volleyball and soccer.
Nash admits it will be a tough transition going to Beal City from a place where many of the coaches and players he's been around have become like close family, but he's hoping he sees the same passion for sports in Beal City that he's seen on a daily basis in Alpena for so many years.
"I always tried to everything in my power to make it easier for our coaches, for our athletes. I guess I just had love for the game and love for Alpena," Nash said. "It's a family, it isn't just sports. These players and coaches and parents, they're all pretty close to each other. The support is tremendous. I know Beal City has a tremendous backing for their sports too."