Ex-NFL player finds new career

May 19, 2015

by Ric Burrous

Jason Pociask is getting used to life’s little curve balls.

The former Plainfield High School athlete wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school, but wound up a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection at the University of Wisconsin, playing in three post-season bowl games.

He never expected to play in the NFL, but was drafted by the New York Jets in 2006. Pociask spent time on with several NFL teams (primarily the Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys), plus short stints with Indianapolis, New England, Carolina and Seattle.

Jason Pociask

Jason Pociask

Jason Pociask (blue shirt, left) works with a woman during a neuro-wellness lab.

“I never expected to play in the NFL,” Pociask said. “I planned on going to PT school after I graduated. But our offensive coordinator (Paul Chryst) helped me realize it was possible. I got invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, and wound up getting drafted.”Through it all, Pociask has learned to adapt and move forward, and now has a new career in mind: he’s a graduate student pursuing a Doctor of Physical Therapy in theSchool of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at IUPUI. And his pro football experiences are paying dividends now in ways he could not have imagined.

The combine, an annual February event based in Indianapolis since 1987, opened Pociask’s eyes. It included a wide range of medical checkups, physical workouts, tests, and much more. In college, Pociask dealt with occasional injuries, but once in the NFL, he faced more significant injury concerns, such as shoulder and neck injuries.

“I knew I was interested in sports rehab, that it might be a career for me, so I had a chance to see how athletes responded to the physical challenges,” he said. But people who run marathons or triathlons can need physical therapy, too, as do other weekend athletes. And workers with back problems and other work injuries also need help.

Since starting the DPT program, Pociask finds that his horizons are evolving. “In my clinical rotations, I’ve experienced types of therapy and treatment that I’d never considered,” he said. “I have learned to keep my mind open to other career options.”

For example, working with older patients proved to be both a challenge and an inspiration. “I really enjoyed working with them. I really like the idea of helping them regain their health and quality of life, or to return to life in their own homes,” Pociask said.

The idea of becoming an advocate for physical therapists intrigues him. “A lot of people don’t know much about what physical therapists do, or understand the help we can provide,” Pociask said. “But I’ve seen it from the patient’s side, and know it’s important.”

He has plunged into numerous service and civic engagement since arriving at IUPUI. Pociask has participated in football camps for children with disabilities and service activities with the Hawthorne Community Center. He also is the education co-chair of the IU Student Outreach Clinic in downtown Indianapolis, providing real-world help and support to populations with medical, legal, social work and therapy needs, among others.

“Being part of the SOC has been one of the greatest experiences of my life,” he said. “I’ve been able to meet people from different walks of life, to learn what they are facing. That is always a valuable skill.”