"I dreamt of becoming an athletic trainer in the NFL. In 2021, I secured a seasonal internship with the Buffalo Bills as an athletic trainer. This led to the life-changing moment of becoming an athletic trainer with the organization this year."

Marissa Figueroa (’19) became the first woman hired as a full-time athletic trainer for the NFL team Buffalo Bills in May 2023. As an assistant athletic trainer, she plays an integral role as part of the overall medical team for the Bills. In addition to helping the football players recover from injuries, she also trains athletes through injury prevention techniques and treatment. Marissa Figueroa was among the medical staff honored on Jan. 8, 2023. The medical staff is credited for helping save the life of football safety Damar Hamlin who suffered a cardiac arrest during a game on Jan. 2, 2023.

Quick Facts

Program: M.S. in Athletic Training
Graduation Year: 2019
Current Job Title: Assistant Athletic Trainer with the Buffalo Bills (NFL)

Life at CBU

What was your path to achieving your dream as an NFL athletic trainer?
After graduating from Humboldt State in 2015, I came back home to Corona, California, to work as a student intern athletic trainer for Centennial High School and as a physical therapy aid in sports rehabilitation.

To achieve my dream, I needed to get a master’s degree in athletic training and I chose to attend California Baptist University in 2017. During my second year in the program, I secured a summer internship as an athletic training intern with the Los Angeles Chargers football team.

When I graduated from CBU, I sent out my resume to every NFL team for an internship as an athletic trainer. I didn’t get a response from anyone right away. Ultimately, I received a fellowship with the University of California, Davis, as an athletic trainer. From 2019 to 2021, I worked with the football and women’s lacrosse teams and gained a lot of invaluable experience.

In 2021, I secured a seasonal internship with the Buffalo Bills as an athletic trainer. The first year was about growing as a professional. The second year was a time to show what I can do to support the athletic training staff. This led to the life-changing moment of becoming an athletic trainer with the organization this year.

How did CBU help prepare you?
One of the biggest things about going to CBU was it helped me come back to my faith, which was important to me. CBU did a great job preparing me for a career in athletic training. The trauma training course was a great course that helped prepare me for the unexpected, and manual therapy was a good way to connect with players. Better understanding players and their athletic training needs was essential.

What advice do you have for students in the athletic training program?
My advice for students is that the amount you get out of it ties to what you put into it. There will be times when you will not get hands-on experience. That is when you need to have an open mind and be able and willing to observe and ask good questions.

It is also important to find people who can support you as mentors. I didn’t do this alone. There are people out there who are willing to help you get through the journey.

Life after CBU

What was your response to being the Buffalo Bills’ first female full-time athletic trainer?
It was incredible, and it’s still super exciting. It was emotional as it brought me back to the moment eight years ago when I dreamt of wanting to be an athletic trainer in the NFL while at Humboldt State University as an undergraduate student.

What was your most memorable experience as an athletic trainer?
There are so many memorable experiences every day. However, in 2020 with everything that happened (COVID-19 pandemic), we could no longer be in the same space as the players due to restrictions. We also couldn’t be hands on, which is such a big part of what we do. We had to shift how we connected with players and utilized technology platforms such as Zoom and tele-med services to continue helping our student athletes during social distancing.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life and why?
My grandparents on both my parents’ sides have been my biggest influence. They have faced adversities throughout their lives as they sought to give their children a better future. From working since a very young age to support their families to immigrating to a new country from Mexico to serving in the military — their shared experiences created a better life for my parents and thus myself. I learned about hard work and resilience from the opportunities they cultivated for me. They inspired me to do well and dream big. I am so grateful for the support I had and the opportunities I have experienced.

What are your career goals?
I have a lot of professional growth and learning ahead of me, but one day I would love to be a head athletic trainer.