Sam Graff – Athletic Training


Tell us a little about your background.
My name is Sam and I was born and raised in Tri-Cities, Washington, more specifically Pasco! Both of my parents are recently retired educators. My mom taught elementary and then moved into reading recovery and LLI and my dad was at the high school teaching weight training, PE and health and was also the head football coach. I have three younger brothers who all played multiple sports so there was lots of competition growing up. I pretty much grew up in a family that revolved around athletics so we kept my parents very busy. We spent many off days in our mom’s classrooms and PE gyms, at our dad’s school in the basketball gyms and out on the fields. My dad was a high school football coach my whole upbringing and into adulthood and for much of that time I can’t remember a Friday or Saturday in the fall that didn’t involve a football game. My grandpa was a college basketball coach for many years and my uncle is a current college basketball coach so we spent many holidays traveling to support when we could! The only way we were able to all get together and take a family vacation was if we had a tournament or post-season game to go to! Athletics and education have always been a huge part of my life!

What did you study at WSU? Did you always know you wanted to study that?
While at WSU I received my Bachelors in Athletic Training and became a Certified Athletic Trainer after completing the Board of Certification Exam. As I mentioned I’ve grown up around sports and coaches but more specifically around football and basketball and knew that I wanted to be involved in that in some capacity. During my first semester of college I went home one weekend in the fall and went to watch one of my dad/brothers football games. At the time I was still trying to figure out what degree I wanted to pursue. I was watching their athletic trainer during the game when I realized that athletic training was something I might be interested in. There was the athletics portion of that but more importantly an opportunity to take care of people. From then I went back to Pullman and started looking into the athletic training program. I reached out to the program and was able to get more information/requirements on how to apply. Long story short I am now in my 11th year of being an athletic trainer at the collegiate level.

What has been your favorite thing about WSU, as well as the College of Education?
Although to me at the time, WSU felt like it was such a HUGE school, there has always been that family atmosphere and a sense of a home away from home. No matter what, I always felt like I had people to go to and confide in during my time there. Whether it was within athletics or within the athletic training program, the faculty and staff made us as students feel cared about. I love keeping in touch with everyone I’ve crossed paths with there and always love returning to visit and catch up.

Is there a memory you have from WSU that stands out in your mind as unforgettable, transformative, etc.?
When approaching the end of my time at WSU there were many discussions about what I wanted to do next. Those conversations and the decision to go to graduate school was pivotal in contributing to my career now. I remember it being a very stressful time because I knew I needed a master’s degree if I wanted to work at the collegiate level but the thought of it was so intimidating. I was a home body and thought that moving to Pullman was a huge accomplishment. I also struggled in school at times so the thought of moving even further and getting a master’s degree was daunting and I really did not think I was capable. I would have stayed at WSU forever, if I had it my way. The mentors I had at WSU are the reason I was able to get out of my comfort zone and further my education. Our Director of Athletic Training and Head Football Athletic Trainer at the time and Athletic Training Program Director and Clinical Coordinator were my biggest supporters. If I didn’t have them I would never be where I am today. I remember talking to each of them about my next steps and feeling that they had all the confidence in me to be successful. All of these mentors are people I still confide in and keep in touch with. I am forever grateful for them.

What has your career path been since you left WSU? What do you currently do? Tell us about your NOW life!
After graduating I stayed at WSU another year and was an Intern Athletic Trainer for the football program. After that I went to grad school at the University of Wyoming where I was a Graduate Assistant Athletic Trainer. After that I actually came back to WSU as a temporary assistant for football and filled in as someone had left right before the season. I then went onto work another internship at Stanford University as an Intern Athletic Trainer for the football program there. After that I finally landed my first full-time job at the University of Montana as an Assistant Athletic Trainer with the football program. I grew to LOVE Montana and would have loved to stay with the Griz. I spent 4 years there but eventually it was time for me to look into what the next step would be for me. An opportunity to be a head football athletic trainer kind of fell in my lap and it was the next step that I needed to take in order to further my career. I am now at New Mexico State University as the Head Football Athletic Trainer and in the fall of 2024, it will be the start of my 3rd season with the Aggies.

What makes you an agent of change?
I hope to be a positive influence on the next generation and hope that they can learn from me in a way that will help prepare them for the next stages in their life after college. Many life lessons have been learned throughout my time and I’m sure there are many more to come. I think that as a young adult I can offer some great advice to young athletic trainers and young athletes who are pursuing any type of leadership role within their profession. Times are changing but I think it’s important to remember that life isn’t always fair and its not about what hand you’re dealt but how you handle it. Work hard and treat those how you would want to be treated. It goes a long way.


Food: BBQ or Mexican (the southwest spin on Mexican food does hit different)

Restaurant in Pullman: Feeling “fancy” South Fork or Sella’s, but Cougar Country was always our go-to

Band/song:Don’t really have a favorite song or band cause I have many. Big country music fan but also love my fair share of rap, pop, hip hop and R&B. Anything with a good message or a good beat, I’ll listen.

Movie: Remember the Titans

TV show:Pretty much any reality TV on Bravo but I’m also very competitive so The Challenge is also one of my favorites

Favorite Coug sport: Football obviously but also love seeing Coug basketball make a run in the NCAA Tourney! Will always be pulling for the Cougs no matter what sport it is!