Nuggets athletic trainer Gillen honors four Colorado schools

2012 Excellence in Athletic Training awards

Nuggets athletic trainer Jim Gillen spent a few minutes with high school senior Ryan Fergen before a recent game at Pepsi Center.

That was all he needed to appreciate the teenager’s heart and determination.

Fergen tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee while playing football at Rocky Mountain High School as a junior. The injury occurred in the first game after he returned from a concussion he sustained earlier in the season.

After several months of rehabilitation, Fergen returned to the football field last fall and started for the Lobos at defensive back. He then went on to average 7.8 points as a starting guard for the Rocky Mountain boy’s basketball team.

In recognition of his hard work, Fergen was named Comeback Athlete of the Year when Gillen handed out his annual 2012 Excellence In Athletic Training awards.

“What he had to work through was very difficult,” Gillen said. “The rehab is very tedious, very monotonous. Mentally it can be a little draining.”

Fergen, who plans to attend Colorado State University, received $1,500 in scholarship money, and Rocky Mountain High School received $1,000 for its athletic training department.

“I was very surprised when I found out,” Fergen said while attending the Nuggets’ game against the New Orleans Hornets. “I didn’t expect this at all, but it’s a great honor.”

Gillen, now in his 21st season with the Nuggets, established the awards in 2003 to help provide supplies, education and training for high schools in Colorado and Wyoming. Before starting his career in professional sports, Gillen spent 12 years as a Certified Athletic Trainer at high schools in Texas and Colorado.

“I always remind people that high school athletic trainers have the same qualifications as I did,” he said. “Most of them are responsible for 400 or 500 kids on a very tight budget, and they don’t get enough recognition for what they do.”

This year’s recipients were Alyssa Fredericks of Durango High School, Lindsay Adcock of Regis Jesuit High School and Kat Koehler of Windsor High School. Each school’s athletic training department received $2,000, plus an Automated External Defibrillator.

The athletic trainers also will have an opportunity to spend a day working with Gillen and his staff and tour the team’s training facilities.

Fergen got a bonus when Nuggets forward Chris Andersen talked to him before the Hornets game.

“I basically told him that a lot of us know what he’s going through, especially me with the injuries I’ve had,” Andersen said. “When you play hard, you’re bound to get hurt. It’s a matter of keeping strong mentally and coming back even stronger and better than what you were before.”

Program sponsors include Centennial Sales, Gold Crown Foundation, JCGC Foundation and Kroenke Sports Charities.

Aaron Lopez
Aaron J. Lopez is the primary writer for, providing behind-the-scenes content, including feature stories and video for the site. Before joining the Nuggets in 2009, he spent 15 years covering Colorado sports for the Rocky Mountain News and the Associated Press, making him one of the longest-tenured sports writers in Denver. Aaron's full bio...