RICHBURG -- Way back in August when school opened at Lewisville High, the storage room in the hallway outside the gym was dark, filled with cleaning equipment and in bad need of a remake to whip it into shape.
Monday night, it was illuminated by bright lights, the floor was clean enough to eat off of and the room was fully equipped and on display to the public as the school's athletic training room.
Lewisville athletics director and football coach Floyd Drum said only four of the state's Class A schools have an athletic trainer and only Lewisville has a training room.
The athletic trainer is Al Shuford, the first in his position ever at Lewisville. He's been on the job since January.
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He sat proudly behind his desk as guests poured through the 24x18 room and saw the strides the school has made. To help guide them through, Shuford had signs posted that identified several areas.
And he answered every question thrown his way, each with a smile and in layman's terms as not to confuse anyone.
"Since I got here on January 4th, we've done 612 treatments," said Shuford, who is 48 years old and has been in the business 33 years. "We have a quality training facility and you can see the eyes of our students light up when they walk in here.
"We have five student trainers, something this school has never had. And I have four and sometimes five students in here every afternoon from 1:30 to 3 learning what athletic training is all about. They have found out that if you can't play athletics, you can still be part of the team as a trainer."
Hiring Shuford and getting an athletic training room has been a work in progress that took many hours of recording information, applying for a grant and cleaning, painting, carpeting and equipping the room.
Lewisville principal James Knox said he's tried for six years to get the district to hire an athletic trainer but was told the district had no funds to pay for one.
This school year, a $35,000 grant was presented to Chester Regional Health Care and its director, William Bundy, who partnered with Chester County Hospital to make the wish come true.
They will pay Shuford and helped equip the room. Drum said close to $60,000 of equipment is in the room, but through his contacts, Shuford was able to "wheel and deal" and get most of it at discount prices.
The effort included Drum's wife, Sandy, who visited area high schools to see what equipment was needed. She turned her findings over to math teacher Susan Varnadore, who organized it to move the project forward.
"But it all started with that guy sitting over there," Drum said while pointing at former Lewisville standout and Philadelphia Eagles defensive back Sheldon Brown. "He got the ball rolling several years ago when he built and equipped a new weight room for us. That allowed this room to come open.
"My wife called Sheldon and asked if he could come down tonight, so he and his family caught a flight out of New York to be here. It has nothing to do with the weight room. He came because he's part of the Lewisville family."
Brown, his wife Jenny, 2-year-old son, Dion, and 4-month-old daughter, Simone, hung back because this was Shuford's night. But Drum said he recently watched an old interview Brown did, where he said when he gets through in the NFL, he's coming back to be the football coach at Lewisville. "Don't come back too soon, Sheldon, because I know when you do I'm outta here."
Shuford, a Shelby, N.C., native, has quite a background. He has an undergraduate degree from Campbell University in education and health. He has a master's in secondary administration in education from The Citadel.
He has worked as an assistant athletic trainer for the Cincinnati Reds, Texas Rangers, the University of Miami, Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Royals and Carolina Panthers, who he left after the 2000 season.
From there it was on to NASCAR and the Chip Ganassi team, where he cared for driver Sterling Marlin. He moved to the Joe Gibbs team and worked with Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte.
"Last February a year ago, my son asked if I was ever going to stay home with him," Shuford said. "I decided then it was time to slow down. Since then, I did some ergonomics at two plants in Columbia.
"I kind of showed up here after seeing an ad for the job and the rest is history. I needed to back off and decided to apply."
Shuford, his wife, Sherrie, and their 8-year-old son, Trey, live in Charlotte. He will commute, but if the funding becomes long term, Shuford said he wouldn't mind living in Richburg.
"Being from Shelby, I like the feel of a small town," he said. "I like to get out in the woods to hunt and fish, and this is the right kind of place for me. And it's a good place to raise a family."