By Dallas Bordon
Most people wish for a dream job. While growing up, most kids dream of what they will be when they grow up.
Clint Haggard, a 1998 graduate of Madison County High School, might have dreamed of being a professional ballplayer one day — dreams that most kids in sports have. For Haggard, a former Raider soccer player all four years at MCHS and football player for the Raiders in 1994 and 1996, he is living a different kind of dream. Not a dream of playing any type of sport, but a dream of being around the sport of football.
Haggard is the youngest Division I head athletic trainer in the history of the modern NCAA and also the youngest head athletic trainer in the history of the Southeastern Conference. He is currently the head athletic trainer for the South Carolina Gamecocks.
“I’m very thankful to be one of 14 head athletic trainers in the SEC,” Haggard said. “This year was my 13th season of college football and I hope that I have at least 30 or more left in me.”
It was a knee injury suffered in high school that grabbed Haggard’s interest in sports medicine.
“I hurt my knee my junior year playing football and did not play my senior year,” said Haggard. “I reinjured my knee the spring of my senior year which sparked my interest in sports medicine.”
Haggard originally entered the University of Georgia as a pre-veterinary medicine major, but quickly became interested in athletic training and sports medicine. After changing his major, he worked behind the scenes for many different UGA athletic events including football, baseball, soccer, and swimming and diving programs.
“In the summer of 2001, I was also fortunate enough to work with the Indianapolis Colts during training camp where I got to meet many people with whom I still talk to today,” said Haggard.
Haggard’s road to South Carolina had many stops along the way. After graduating with a BSEd in Exercise Science from Georgia in 2002, Haggard immediately went to the University of Alabama as a graduate assistant athletic trainer for the football team.
“One of my mentors at UGA, Ron Courson, was an assistant athletic trainer at Alabama and helped me get my foot in the door over there,” Haggard said.
The Madison County native was at Alabama from 2002-2006, first as a graduate assistant athletic trainer, and then was hired as an assistant athletic trainer. Haggard served at Alabama during the Franchione, Price, and Shula era.
Haggard recalls a fond memory during his first two years with Alabama when the Tide faced the Georgia Bulldogs.
“In 2002, we played Georgia in Tuscaloosa being one of the hottest games I have ever been part of. That was the year Billy Bennett kicked a last minute field goal to beat us,” Haggard said. “In 2003 in Athens, Thomas Davis blitzed off the end on consecutive plays and knocked two of our quarterbacks, Spencer Pennington and Brodie Croyle, out of the game.”
Haggard graduated from Alabama in 2003 with a MA in Health Sciences and was promoted to assistant athletic trainer in 2004. Rice University in Texas would be where Haggard would land his first head athletic training position in 2006.
“It was a great opportunity for my family and though it was much different being at a small highly academic institution, I cherish the time and the experience we had there,” said Haggard.
But for Haggard, a Georgia boy at heart, he longed to be close to home and back in the SEC. In 2009, that opportunity came for Haggard.
“My mother had just passed away a couple of weeks earlier and I did not tell my father that I was coming to Columbia to interview,” said Haggard. “I had some other opportunities to go other places that didn’t work out and I didn’t want to get my dad’s hopes up that this would so I decided that if the interview went well and they offered me the job, I would go to Athens and see him and if not I would just go home to Houston and not say anything.”
South Carolina didn’t offer the job to Haggard right at that time, but despite his plans to return to Houston, he surprised his dad with a visit anyway.
As most Georgia fans’ feelings aren’t pleasant ones of the head ball coach Steve Spurrier, Haggard’s dislike towards the Gamecock coach were no different during his younger years.
But then one day in 2009, that all changed. “Imagine my surprise when he (Spurrier) called me a few days after my interview to offer me the job!” Haggard said. “He opened the conversation by saying he heard I was a Georgia graduate and I told him not to hold it against me.”
Haggard and Spurrier’s conversation continued and a relationship grew almost instantly.
“I’ll have to say that he is one of the nicest people that I have ever met,” said Haggard. “He and his wife Jerri do so much for me and for the rest of the staff that many other football coaches and their wives do not do. He is a big family man and our families are around the complex often.”
Haggard’s duties at South Carolina as head athletic trainer include taking care of medical needs for the student-athletes and staff. He is the liaison between the physicians and the football program and coordinates the medical care for upwards of 200 people. Haggard interacts with Coach Spurrier on a daily basis and says that between the coach and the team’s physicians, he sometimes spends more time in conversation with them than he does with his wife.
Haggard sees a different side of Coach Spurrier than most people see in the media.
“I have been fortunate enough to spend a lot of time away from the office with him (Spurrier) and have gotten to know him very well,” Haggard said. “Times spent with coach gives me a different perspective of him from the one people see in the media.”
Haggard’s spends many hours as the head football athletic trainer. He is on call 24/7 and logs in anywhere from 70 to 100 hours a week depending on the time of the year.
Haggard married his wife, Erin, in 2004 and they have two children: Reagan, born in 2008 in Houston; and Brewer, born in 2009 in Columbia.
“My job requires many hours of work and my wife does a great job of keeping our house and me in order,” said Haggard. “I try as much as I can to have the kids around me at work and to leave as soon as I can to go home to see them, but there are many days that I leave before they get up and come home after they are asleep at night.”
As for Haggard’s loyalty to Madison County, he quickly stated in the Gamecock’s media guide that he is from Ila and not Athens so that Madison County would get a bit of publicity.
“I am very happy to be able to be close to home and do what I love doing on such a big stage,” said Haggard.
If you are a former Madison County athlete (five years ago or longer) and would like to be featured in The Madison County Journal, please contact Dallas Bordon at firstname.lastname@example.org.