Alumni Spotlight: Athletic Trainer of the Year, Jacob Woodard

Athletic Trainer of the Year Jacob Woodard

Similar to most college freshmen, Jacob Woodard didn’t have a clear definition of what he wanted to do after graduation. But his love for sports and a feeling of being called to serve others led him to Cumberland’s Athletic Training program. 

“We all have a calling, but when you find one that comes along with some of your favorite things, it’s too hard to pass up,” said Jacob, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training in 2016 and a Master of Arts in Education in 2017. 

As a part of Vanderbilt Wilson County Hospital’s (VWCH) outreach program, Jacob is now the Head Athletic Trainer at Lebanon High School, where he provides evaluation, rehabilitation and treatment of injuries for student athletes. This past year, he was named the High School Athletic Trainer of the Year by the Tennessee Athletic Trainers’ Society after being nominated by his team physician, Dr. Lance LeClere. This award is given to individuals whose efforts embody those of Sandy Sandlin, an athletic trainer for the University of Tennessee – Chattanooga whose dedication to athletes at the high school, collegiate and professional levels set an unforgettable example for the profession.

“The most rewarding part of my job is the relationships you make with student athletes, parents, and coaches. The relationships are what last through the years,” said Woodard. “I say this often, and my student-athletes don’t really understand it until graduation, but athletic training is one of the few professions where you can directly impact someone’s life on a daily basis. I have a “Wall of Fame” where all of the athletes who have signed to play college sports pictures are hung. I always get a kick out of their reactions when they come back and go ‘I haven’t seen that picture in a while’ or ‘that was such a good day.’” 

From the first day he set foot on campus at Cumberland University to the day of graduation, Jacob said always felt at home. Now, as a preceptor for Cumberland’s Master of Science in Athletic Training (MSAT), he works with students currently in the program during their clinical hours that consists of a minimum of 250 contact hours. When it comes to treating injuries, he focuses on rehab-based athletic training. As a preceptor, Jacob is able to teach athletic training students from his perspective while highlighting aspects of  high school sports medicine and athletic training that they may not normally see. 

“In an ever-evolving field such as athletic training, it’s always good to show the future of the profession that you care about them and can relate to what they are going through. Once again it’s all about relationships…develop them and your future is endless,” said Jacob. 

Jacob stays connected to Cumberland both as a preceptor and as an engaged alumnus and hopes that other graduates will see the importance of Cumberland’s network. 

“Cumberland provided me with the networking possibilities that I needed to be where I am today. Fellow CU MSAT alumni, Nathan Johnson, had a big hand in that and is someone I still consider a mentor to this day. From my first year as an athletic trainer into my now seventh year, he has always been there for me and my family. CU brought him, as well as many others, into my life that are still friends and colleagues to this day.”

His biggest piece of advice is to remember that failure leads to growth. “If you have never failed, have you truly even tried?”

“From the first day at Cumberland University to the day I picked up my last diploma for my master’s, I found out really quickly how God’s plan for my life was going to work. CU has not only brought me a passion for a profession that I truly love, but it has also brought me lifelong friends and mentors that have never failed me and always been there when I have needed them the most. As far as the rest of my story goes, it is still being written, just by a much greater author.” 

During National Athletic Training Month, Cumberland will host several events highlighting the profession. Specifically on March 8th at 11:45 a.m. in the Phillips Dining Hall, the Office of Advancement and Alumni Relations will host an Athletic Training Alumni and Friends Luncheon. For more information, contact the Alumni Relations Coordinator, Caroline Haynes at

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