First woman as athletic trainer in NFL

Portland State has had it’s share of athlete’s make the jump to the professional level, but never has an athletic trainer, especially a female, been able to reach the professional level, until recently.

The Pittsburgh Steelers hired Ariko Iso, former PSU assistant athletic trainer, to be their assistant trainer in the NFL.

Iso is not only the first PSU athletic trainer to reach the professional field, but more importantly, she is the first woman to ever be hired in the NFL as a full time athletic trainer.

At age 31, Iso has put in her time as an athletic trainer at the collegiate level. She started her athletic training career at San Jose State University in 1993. She came to PSU in 1996 to become an assistant athletic trainer and has been with the program up until her recent move to the NFL.

Iso knew she wanted to be an athletic trainer ever since she was a high school athlete.

“In basketball I injured myself and I knew that I wanted to help with other athlete’s injuries,” She said.

Iso has always been dedicated to helping other athletes recover to the best of their abilities. That dedication was always present during her stint at PSU.

“Ariko has a unique personality that will be missed,” Jim Wallis, head trainer for PSU, said. “She was very committed to the university and committed to providing care to the student athletes.”

Although Iso knew she wanted to be an athletic trainer, reaching the professional level was never really top priority for her.

“I never thought of professional sports as one goal,” Iso explained.

Now that she is at the professional level, Iso is going to soak in as much as she can.

“I want to learn as much and as quickly as I can, and give as much help as I can; so I can give something back,” she said.

Jumping up to the professional level in any sport can be tough, but the jump to the NFL wasn’t as nerve racking as it might seem for Iso.

She has been involved with the Steelers training program for two years and involved in athletic training for football for five years.

Iso had a summer internships with the Steelers in 2000 and 2001, as well as football being her primary sport while at PSU.

Along with her experience in the sport and her two years as an intern, the transition to the NFL was also eased by her co-workers, said Iso. Since she knew the other assistant trainers, coaches and head trainer, the step into the Steelers training room was easier, Iso added.

“Ariko is an exceptional athletic trainer, as well as a good person,” Pittsburgh Steelers head athletic trainer, John Norwig, said. “She is very well educated and has been well prepared.”

While the NFL is an exciting experience Iso said she will miss the excitement of being a trainer at the collegiate level.

“It’s a different kind of excitement,” Iso explained.

At the collegiate level you work with athletes who are also students, said Iso, so you can still play a part in educating them.

During her time at PSU, Iso’s primary sport was Viking football. Football wasn’t her only sport to cover though, she also assisted with the wrestling program.

“At some point in time I think Ariko covered every sport we have,” Wallis said.

Since the PSU program is so short handed, off the field and in the training room Iso had numerous responsibilities. This is a major difference from her new job with the Steelers, in which each person has specific responsibilities to attend to.

“Portland State was a great experience and I enjoyed it very much,” Iso said. “PSU was big, but small enough to work closely with a lot of athletes.”