Marco Zucconi has made some history.
It's not a surprise to those who know the Chargers associate athletic trainer well.
Zucconi was named the AFC recipient of the Tim Davey Assistant Athletic Trainer of the Year on Tuesday evening, becoming the first Chargers athletic trainer to earn the accolade.
Zucconi was presented the award in Phoenix at a ceremony for the Pro Football Athletic Trainers Society by James Collins, the Bolts former head trainer who hired Zucconi over a decade ago.
"As soon as James got called up, my heart was beating out of my chest," Zucconi said. "I did not expect it at all. It's special because James gave me my first opportunity in the NFL, so it was special for him to be able to call me up there.
"I've seen a lot of people get this award and they are legends in this space as athletic trainers," Zucconi said. "I don't feel like I am as deserving as them. But to be seen in that light is pretty incredible."
Zucconi initially interned with the Chargers for the 2007 season but returned to the team in a full-time role in 2012. He was an assistant athletic trainer until 2016 before he was promoted to associate trainer.
Collins, now the Chargers Director of Football/Medical Services, said he has watched Zucconi flourish over the years.
"I saw something that was different than all of the other students I'd had," Collins said. "It was his ambition, character and his attitude, plus wanting to be as good as he can be.
"He had a knack for understanding how an athletic trainer should work and take care of an athlete, even at a younger stage of his career," Collins added. "And he's grown so much. His skillset is different from other athletic trainers because of how he's gone out and learned other techniques to help get athletes better."
Chargers center Corey Linsley recently spoke with Chargers.com about the impact Zucconi has on himself and his teammates on a daily basis.
"Marco and I built a great relationship from the start," Linsley said. "Coming from Green Bay, he had a pretty good relationship with some of the trainers that I was close with back there, so it was definitely a little bit easier to kind of bridge the gap there.
"But as I started to work with him on some of the things you go through during the season with general ailments and aches and pains … the thing he does really well is finding a lot of variety of solutions to a particular problem," Linsley continued. "Like, if I say, 'Hey, my shoulder is bothering me', we do an exercise. But if I'm not really getting what I want out of it then he'll say, 'Let's switch it up and find something that works for you.'
"It's never just linear with Marco. He's always thinking of new ideas, new ways to not only fix problems, but just maintain the general maintenance of things that you have to keep up with throughout the season," Linsley added. "And his willingness to work … he has a phenomenal work ethic. I really appreciate that."
Zucconi was nominated for the award by Chargers colleagues and fellow athletic trainers Allison Miner, Alvin Cabrera and Sam O'Leary.
The three of them raved about working with Zucconi and noted how he constantly puts others before himself in all facets of his job.
"A professional through and through," Miner said. "But he's able to have fun, too. You enjoy going to work and working with him.
"He cares so much about our department and wants us to be elite," Miner added. "He constantly pours into all of us. That's rare and doesn't always happen in professional sports. He really pours into us to make us a great functioning unit. Whether it's his co-workers or the athletes, he always has time."
O'Leary added: "It's his people skills. He can talk to anybody in a room, whether it's somebody from the front office to somebody on the practice squad. He treats them all with the same level of respect."
Cabrera said: "His professionalism and his body of knowledge is immense. It's how much he knows and how he's able to discuss things with a player so they understand it as well."
Those around the Chargers also praised Zucconi, a husband and father of three, for the way he brilliantly balances a demanding job and his family.
"It's amazing how good of a person and family man he is. He's a great role model to everything from how he treats people to how he creates time for his wife and his family," O'Leary later added. "There's no fall off between [his work and family] … and he's elite at both."
Linsley added: "He loves dad jokes. I would say that's his forte."
Zucconi has taken on a larger role in the department in recent years as he is responsible for organizing data from player trackers in practices and games.
Miner gave an example where a running back might hit a typical yardage amount and speed in a given practice. Based on the data Zucconi is in charge of, other athletic trainers know what marks that player needs to hit while rehabbing on the side with an injury.
"You can get in the weeds looking at all that," Miner said. "But he helps you know what to look at and what we're trying to do with each player."
For all that Zucconi does for the Bolts, it's clear that he has built up a trust with those in the building.
O'Leary gave an example where a player specifically leaned on Zucconi for help in a tough situation.
"The player went out of his way to seek out Marco because he trusted him," O'Leary said. "He was instrumental for that player because he had built up a level of comfort and trust."
Linsley expanded on how the Bolts locker room feels about Zucconi.
"You want somebody that has a heart and has a high level of character because they're dealing with your well-being to some degree," Linsley said. "They're dealing with how you feel for us day-to-day and it's part of our livelihood and part of our career.
"So, for someone like him who has our back as players and understands, is a good person in general, you know when it comes down to it, he's going to make the right decision for you," Linsley added.
Zucconi credited the team around him for helping energize him to be his best on a daily basis.
"It's all about giving care to the players and showing that you're all in it for them," Zucconi said. "That's challenging at times, to always give of yourself, so to have the staff that we have is something we try to do.
"It's amazing to have friends and family like that to recharge you and keep you doing what you love to do," Zucconi added. "It can be tough at times, but they make it all so much easier and that much better."
Collins recalled Zucconi's relationship with former Chargers running back Danny Woodhead, who was with the team from 2013-16.
"Danny was a real go-getter and always played with a chip on his shoulder, so missing practice or missing time wasn't on his agenda," Collins said. "Marco always put in whatever time he needed to make sure Danny missed as little time as possible.
"And you could tell that Danny always appreciated it," Collins added. "He doesn't just go through the motions. He genuinely wants them to get better."
Zucconi has displayed that work ethic and empathy on a daily basis with the Chargers.
And he has now been rightfully recognized for his impact within the organization.
"He's so good at what he does," Miner said. "I don't have the words to say how great he is. He's so deserving of this award.
"He's just a wonderful leader, but he's collaborative in his leadership and he's going to take you along with him," Miner added. "He's not climbing the ladder on his own. He's putting his hand back and pulling everyone along with him. That's a special and rare trait."
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