Pittsburgh Steelers Head Athletic Trainer John Norwig was awarded the NFL Athletic Trainer of the Year Award, which is voted on by the league's team physicians.
INDIANAPOLIS – John Norwig is a veteran, and his instincts told him something out of the ordinary was afoot.
It was Thursday night here at the NFL Scouting Combine, and Norwig, about to begin his 25th year as the Steelers Head Athletic Trainer, was in his seat at the NFL Physicians Society Scientific Meeting and Symposium. The Symposium is an annual event at the Combine, and it serves to update all of the teams' athletic trainers and medical staffs on the latest procedures and protocols.
The business part of the gathering had concluded, and now all of the trainers and doctors were in the midst of a banquet that included a lot of the things such banquets tend to include. One of the highlights of the evening would be the annual presentation of the Fain-Cain Memorial Award for Outstanding NFL Athletic Trainer of the Year.
And the Fain-Cain Memorial Award is one presented like an Academy Award. The winner doesn't know who won until the name is announced at the podium. Norwig was just enjoying his dinner when he looked up and noticed that Jim Bradley, the Steelers Orthopedic Surgeon, wasn't in his seat with the rest of the group at the team's table.
"I saw Jim had gotten up and left our table, and then when I saw him coming through the curtain up in front of the room, I looked down at the program and I saw I was one of the older guys on the list (for the award)," said Norwig. "A lot of times the old guy gets the award, and when Jim started to speak, I knew."
Norwig's self-deprecation aside, the Fain-Cain Memorial Award is named for Dr. Thomas E. Cain and Dr. Robert H. Fain, both long-time team physicians for the old Houston Oilers. The award named for them was established shortly after Dr. Cain's death and Dr. Fain's retirement. The award is given annually to the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society member who best reflects the virtues of a certified athletic trainer and displays the highest level of professionalism.
"It's a great honor," said Norwig. "I'm very grateful."
When the Steelers first hired Norwig in 1992, he was the head athletic trainer at Vanderbilt, and the 2014 season was his 24th in the NFL with the team. He is a member of the American College of Sports Medicine, the Pennsylvania Athletic Trainer's Society, and the National Athletic Trainers Association.
Norwig received the award as a result of voting by all NFL team physicians. Also in attendance on Thursday night were Dr. Bradley, who presented Norwig for the award; Sonia Gysland, the Steelers Assistant Athletic Trainer; and Dr. Anthony Yates, the Steelers Internal Medicine Physician.
"It was a complete surprise," said Norwig. "Dr. Bradley and Dr. Yates put together a slide show for the banquet. It was very nice. I'm very appreciative."