USU athletics: Dale Mildenberger retires after 38 years at Utah State University

By Megan Allen

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, April 30 2013 12:10 p.m. MDT

When Dale Mildenberger first set foot on the campus of Utah State University in 1975, he did so very reluctantly, sure it was just a job to get him started. Now, 38 years later with numerous accolades, including his name on the wall of the Dale Mildenberger Sports Medicine Complex, he leaves Utah State having dedicated his career to the care and well being of countless student-athletes.

When you talk about leaving a legacy, you think of people who have completely devoted themselves to their career and their community. Though he may hate to admit it, Mildenberger has done just that.

What started as a job just to get his feet in the door turned into not only a career, but also a lifestyle.

“When I took the job, I never counted on staying that long. I never counted on liking it when I took it. I was 25 years old and taking a Division I job, who knew where that could lead,” Mildenberger said. “It has been a fantastic personal and professional platform for me. I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ve had some opportunities to leave and have chosen not to.”

And after a while, time starts to add up.

“Every Tuesday turned into 38 years,” Mildenberger said. “You were still here one Tuesday which turned into another Tuesday and sooner or later there were 38 years of Tuesdays.”

As an athletic trainer, you are interacting with countless people on a daily basis. From student-athletes to coaches to the athletic trainers, being enthusiastic and happy around the people you are working with is a must. Mildenberger says that is what he will miss the most.

“I’ll miss the interaction with the athletic trainers and the student-athletes. Athletic training is a people business,” he said. “We’re taking care of highly-motivated, highly-skilled student-athletes. You have to work with great people to get that job done.”

Nate Wickizer played basketball for the Aggies from 1992 to 1995. Now the chief operating officer of Cache Valley Electric, he looks back fondly on the days of interacting with Mildenberger.

“I was with him a lot during the years I played basketball at Utah State. He prepared us to play when we had injuries. He took care of us when we traveled. He was in charge of everything from the flights to the rental cars, the food and meal money, all the preparation,” Wickizer said. “He was kind of the man. I had as much interaction during my years at USU with him as I had with anyone.”

Wickizer is just one of easily thousands of people whose lives have been touched by Mildenberger. After 38 years in Cache Valley, he knows and works with a lot of people. Many of the athletes and trainers he has worked with have gone on to have highly successful careers of their own.

Jim Thornton started his career at Utah State as a student trainer. Now the head trainer at Clarion University, as well as the president of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, he is quick to credit his success to Mildenberger.

“From my standpoint, if you measure the effect that Dale had on me and my success, I’d say his career was definitely a successful one. He has left a legacy in me as an athletic trainer. He has affected my career and my life in a way that I can never repay. I only pray that I can have that sort of effect on my students,” Thornton said.

Now 25 years into his own career, Thornton cites Mildenberger as his drive and motivation to teach his own student trainers how to work with athletes.

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