One of the more visible people in the Green Bay Packers organization, Pepper Burruss embarks upon his 24th season with the Packers and his 40th in the NFL overall. Burruss, a certified athletic trainer and physical therapist, enters his second season as director of sports medicine administration after 22 years as the head athletic trainer. He joined Green Bay in 1993 following 16 seasons with the New York Jets as an assistant athletic trainer.
The 62-year-old Burruss was hired by the Jets in 1977 after receiving his B.S. degree in physical therapy from Northwestern University Medical School. One year earlier, he had graduated with honors from Purdue University, where he earned a B.A. in health and safety education. At Purdue, Burruss was fortunate to be a student trainer working under a legend in the field, the late William “Pinky” Newell.
Burruss has won several awards during his NFL tenure. Most recently, he earned the NFL Physicians Society’s Outstanding NFL Athletic Trainer award for the 2012 season at the annual NFL Scouting Combine.
The Packers’ athletic training staff was honored by its peers with the NFL Athletic Training Staff of the Year award in 2011. It was the second time Burruss had won the award; the first came as a member of the Jets’ athletic training staff in 1985. Burruss’ Jets staff also was honored at the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) clinical symposium in 1994 by former Jets defensive lineman Dennis Byrd, who credited the team’s emergency care as a contributing factor in his miraculous recovery from quadriplegia. Byrd had suffered a fractured neck after an on-field collision in a 1992 game against Kansas City at the Meadowlands.
Burruss has been involved in multiple head, neck and spinal-care initiatives. In 2010, he was chosen by the NFL to represent the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society (PFATS) on the league’s Head, Neck and Spine Medical Committee, which led to his subsequent serving on both the Equipment Standards and Return to Play Criterion subcommittees.
Professionally, Burruss has served two terms on the executive committee of the PFATS, first as an AFC assistant athletic trainer representative, then as the NFC head athletic trainer representative.
A product of Wappingers Falls, N.Y., where he attended Ketcham High School, Burruss was inducted into the school’s hall of fame in 2000, and in 2011, he was also inducted into the Wisconsin Athletic Trainers Association (WATA) Hall of Fame.