Jerry May

By Paul Rogers


Jerry May knew early on what his career choice would be. While in high school, playing in a pickup basketball game, May suffered a hip injury. The diagnosis and treatment were so fascinating to him he thought treating, and, maybe more importantly, preventing injuries was something he would like to do.

"I had actually broken my hip," May recalls, "but I didnít know it at the time. It kept getting worse and worse Ďtil I couldnít do anything, so I went to see the doctor. I spent a lot of time healing. My high school coach had taken some athletic training courses at IU. He got me interested in it, and I really enjoyed it."

When he graduated from Valley High School in 1970, athletic trainers were not commonly a part of sports teams, and the only place that offered him a scholarship as a student trainer was Morehead State. At Morehead, May was so much in demand that he spent nearly all his time treating athletes, in all sports, no less. That left him virtually no time for school. After one year at Morehead, he was able to land a scholarship at the University of Louisville.

Sports Medicine, as it is called today, wasnít really part of the curriculum back then, so May majored, and later earned a Masterís degree, in physical education.

When he first went to work full time at U of L, May was the trainer both for football and basketball. When Howard Schnellenberger arrived as the Cardinalís new head football coach, he told May football needed its own trainer. May laughs today when telling the story. "When I told Coach (Denny) Crum that, he said, ĎTell Coach Schnellenberger you are now the basketball trainer.í "

"Jerry May was the first guy to come here who had gone to school specifically to be an athletic trainer," Crum said. "He was a student trainer at U of L under Jim Bible. He caught my eye because of his hard work and his efficiency, and I thought he was way ahead of most trainers. Later he took over the job full time. He did all our travel, took care of the equipment, he handled the managers. He did everything that they have four or five guys doing today."

Mayís primary job was as U of Lís basketball trainer, but that was hardly the only thing he did. It was in large part at the urging of Jerry May that licenses became required for athletic trainers in Kentucky, thereby ensuring a standard of excellence, and making certain athletes were being treated by qualified people.

May was also among a group of professionals who pushed for a doctor to be on sight at all high school football games Ė a practice so common today that it is difficult to imagine that it wasnít always the case.

"We worked hard at that," May says proudly. "Extremely hard. I think that was one of the greatest things we accomplished."

The "we" he refers to is the Jefferson County Medical Society and other such organizations around the state. May is also proud of the fact that eight different governors appointed him to the board that oversees athletic training in Kentucky. In fact, he has been the chairman for the last 25 years. But as he puts it, "Iíve seen a lot of changes and put enough time in that itís time to get out."

When Denny Crum retired from U of L 10 years ago, so did Jerry May. However, you donít ever totally stop being a trainer. Even today, when he is watching a game on TV and a player is injured, May finds himself instinctively knowing, or at least having a good idea of, what the injury is. He says he can usually tell just by the way the player falls or by where the contact came from.

"Your eyes follow the game differently from coaches or spectators," May says. "Youíre always watching from behind. Youíre watching the last person, watching behind the ball, so to speak."

In retirement, May has been able to spend more time on another life-long passion: woodworking. In fact he and his wife, Elaine (at left), currently are finishing up a communion rail for a Catholic church.

And when it comes to the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame, Jerry May is a one-of-a-kind inductee already in exclusive company. While the KAHF includes several people who have been enshrined for training horses, May is the first trainer of humans.

His reaction when he got the news? "Surprised wasnít the word for it," he says. "A trainer had never even been put up for consideration as far as I know. To be accepted? I thought they were kidding when they told me. To be considered is an honor. To be accepted is unbelievable."


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KAHF ceremony photos by Jim Reed