NFL Internship Helps Miami Student Work Toward Athletic Training Dream Job

Joey Barbetta 

James M. Loy, Miami University

It was mid-summer when Joey Barbetta received one of the most important calls of his life. He had been accepted. His clinical placement with the Detroit Lions was about to begin.

“I was so excited I started packing the day after I received the news,” Barbetta says. “Working for the Lions will influence the rest of my time as a professional. You are expected to be the best you can be.”

As a Miami University senior and athletic training major, Barbetta would soon arrive at the preseason training camp, where he helped administer therapeutic techniques to prevent and treat injuries and optimize performance. He also prepped the field before practices and helped ensure that all COVID-19 guidelines were followed.

His internship also stretched into the start of the 2020 season. He was even on the sidelines during the first home game. And, yes, he also worked directly with a few NFL superstars.

“I worked with Adrian Peterson, Kenny Golladay, Matthew Stafford, and many more,” Barbetta says. “I would provide them with treatment with direction from the Lions medical staff, and provide anything they needed on and off the field. I was actually assigned to the running back group, so I got a lot of time with those guys as well.”

For Barbetta, working with the Detroit Lions was the latest phase in a chosen career path that began before attending Miami University.

His interest in athletic training started in high school, where a love of sport intersected with a close family member’s connection to the healthcare industry. “So I put them together and found athletic training, and never turned back,” he says.

At Miami, he pursued a program through the Department of Kinesiology, Nutrition and Health and completed a clinical rotation with the university’s football team in 2019. He also recalls an important class focused on upper and lower extremities, which connected classroom learning, evidence-informed practice, and real application.

“It was fun learning about the different clinical injury tests and how to utilize them,” he says. “It really made me feel like I was gathering skills needed to succeed at being an athletic trainer.”   

He found strong guidance and support among the faculty as well.

“Without Dr. Eric Brooks and Dr. Emily Davie, I would not be where I am,” Barbetta says. “Dr. Brooks really helped me with academic counseling, professional development, teaching me about the field, and really made me feel welcome. Dr. Davie has helped me with clinical placements each semester and making sure I am taken care of whenever I need something.” 

Now Barbetta is back on campus, and he already sees his Lions experience as another stepping stone toward his dream of one day becoming the head athletic trainer for an NFL organization.

“I can bring the many things the Lions athletic training staff taught me into any future situation,” he says. “I learned how much time and consideration goes into everything. Details like player workouts, treatments and nutrition programs, COVID-19 protocols, and even how the field was set up and torn down were talked about to make sure the season goes smoothly.”

“I will make sure I keep up the work ethic I learned from this organization,” he says.