Leigh brings 44 years of experience to Simpson athletic training


by Gunnar Davis, Editor-in-Chief

When David Leigh first stepped on the American River College campus in 1970, he originally planned to study history.

Thanks to a few days spent job-shadowing Lee Crowl, owner of the first sports medicine clinic in the United States, and talking with his father, his future changed.

Forty-four years later — after time spent working as the head athletic trainer at Division I Marquette University, the Pan American games and with U.S. Olympic teams — Leigh finds himself working with athletes in the training room at Simpson College.

“People say ‘Well, why [did] you come to Simpson?’ and I go it doesn’t matter what level you’re at,” said Leigh, assistant athletic trainer. “It’s never really mattered to me that people say you’ve been on TV or done this or that. I just go ‘Yeah, but that’s not what you’re doing it for.’ You’re doing it so you’re getting people back.”

Growing up, Leigh moved multiple times across the country, as his father worked in the computer business and was transferred every four years. From there, he went to a junior college and transferred to Cal-State Long Beach, where he got his bachelor’s degree in athletic training.

He got his master’s degree at the University of Arizona shortly after.

He took a job as the head athletic trainer at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse and worked there for six years. Then, he took on the head athletic trainer job at Marquette University in 1984. He worked as a trainer and professor at Marquette until his retirement in 2018.

The day after Marquette’s graduation in May of 2018, Leigh packed his car up and moved to Iowa.

“The reason we came to Iowa is because I have a granddaughter who is 19-months-old and I wanted to help raise her and be around her,” Leigh said. “She’s my only grandchild. So we came to Iowa.”

After his daughter’s maternity leave was over, Leigh and his wife took over baby duties, but his wife knew something was up.

“My wife basically said to me, ‘You’re bored. When are you going to get a job?” Leigh said. “So I started working per diem for a company in Des Moines. I was doing some high school and middle school coverage. Then this job opened up.”

Now, Leigh works part-time at Simpson College and helps out the young athletic training staff on campus.

Taylor Witzel, head athletic trainer, says Leigh’s vast knowledge and understanding of the profession has helped him tremendously.

“He brings a lot to the table,” Witzel said. “He brings in a lot of different concepts that he’s learned over 40 years. He’s brought some different things we’ve learned from.”

In his 44 years in the profession, Leigh has worked with athletes such as NBA stars Dwayne Wade and Tim Duncan. He’s worked with track and field stars, such as Harvey Glance and Franklin Jacobs. He’s even met Edwin Moses and Magic Johnson.

Leigh worked for the Pan American Games in 1983. He worked with the U.S. Olympic volleyball team right before they won gold in 1984. He’s been to Argentina and Russia in the ‘90s and even worked a few NFL games as an injury spotter in the booth.

Despite all this, Leigh says it’s about the athletes, not what level he’s at.

“My favorite part is to see an athlete who is injured play,” Leigh said. “Getting someone ready to play is the most rewarding part of the job, for sure. Whether that’s a six-month rehab for an ACL or that’s a one-week or two-week ankle sprain, whatever the injury is, that’s the rewarding part. It’s why I do it.”

While people see athletes competing, most don’t understand the hard work that went into making sure those athletes are healthy. Leigh says it’s not a glamorous job, but he couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

“I’ve never had a day where I went to work and I dreaded going to work, ever,” Leigh said. “Most people probably can’t say that.”