Shaler graduate goes to the Super Bowl as part of Panthers training staff

| Friday, Jan. 29, 2016, 9:39 p.m.

A Shaler native will be on the sidelines at Super Bowl 50.

Steven Labate, a 2008 graduate of Shaler, is an athletic trainer with the Carolina Panthers.

The Panthers will take on the Denver Broncos on Feb. 7 in Santa Clara, Calif.

Labate called reaching the Super Bowl “a blessing and a dream.

“Going to the Super Bowl is something that I have dreamed about doing since I was a freshman in college.”

Labate, an athlete in his own right, became interested in sports medicine while in high school after watching athletic trainers work with Shaler athletes.

He credits Bill Couts, Shaler's athletic trainer, with introducing him to the that facet of sports.

“During the spring after basketball season, I would help Bill in the athletic training room, and this is when I knew I wanted to pursue this profession,” he said.

Couts said he tried to give Labate background knowledge on being an athletic trainer.

“I remember he was a member of our basketball team, and he helped me out when he could,” said Couts. “He was a very personable kid.

“He was very ambitious and knew where he wanted to go and what he needed to get there.”

Labate went on to Cal (Pa.) and graduated with a bachelor's degree in athletic training in 2012.

He also did two summer internships with the NFL.

Going into his junior year of college, he interned with the Cleveland Browns during training camp.

The following summer, he interned with the Buffalo Bills.

“After this experience I knew that the NFL was where I wanted to be,” he said.

After graduating from college, Labate went to South Dakota State, where he was a football graduate assistant athletic trainer for two years.

He also earned his master's degree in exercise science and graduated in May 2014.

He then spent 11 months working at The Physical Therapy Institute before being hired as a seasonal athletic trainer with the Panthers.

The athletic trainers work with a team of specialists to provide the players with medical treatment throughout the week and on game day.

Labate said a typical day starts at 5:30 a.m. and ends about 7:30 p.m.

In the morning, they treat the players and rehabilitate injuries, and they get the practice field set up for the day's practice.

Following morning treatment, they tape the players and get them ready for practice, which usually starts about 11:15 a.m.

After practice, they do more treatment.

“Though the days are long and can be very stressful. I love every minute of it,” Labate said. “The players and staff here at Carolina are amazing.”

Larissa Dudkiewicz is a freelance writer.

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