Some say that the idea of their life’s work is like being hit by lightning. For Matt Uftring, it was being bit by a Chevy Blazer.
The teenager took from the accident some minor injuries and a vision of what he wanted to do in life. Uftring recalled, “I had to work with a physical therapist. I was like, ‘Oh, THIS is what I want to do!’ Because I always wanted to help people.”
Uftring would become vice president of a physical therapy explorer group in high school.
But Uftring “didn’t do so hot” in his first attempt at college.
“I wasn’t quite ready to stick with school,” he admitted.
Uftring grew up a lot doing a four year stint in the Marines. But he also had a change of heart.
“I wasn’t sure that being cooped up inside being a physical therapist was what I wanted. For the first time since high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” he said.
This time, Uftring didn’t need to be knocked into a ditch to discover a new career track. He took a suggestion from a friend who was dating someone who was becoming an athletic trainer. He loved that the position combined the health field with sports.
“Me being me, I wanted to know everything there is to know about it,” Uftring wise-cracked.
Uftring’s hometown had several professional sports teams. He got an invitation to shadow the trainer for the Peoria Rivermen hockey team. He recalled, “The week of observation turned into the whole year. It was awesome. After the season, I was left wanting more.”
The following summer, he did the same with the city’s arena league football team.
To help make ends meet, Uftring also sold cell-phones. He met his wife-to-be, Jessica, during a retail encounter.
Jessica graduated from Bradley University and fulfilled her desire to live in Madison, Wisconsin. She got a job with UW Health. She’s currently staff educator for pediatric nursing with the UW Medical Foundation. After graduating from Northern Illinois University, Uftring followed her to Wisconsin in 2006.
The marriage proposal came the day they closed on a house in Madison. As Uftring tells it, “I asked if I should carry her over the threshold. She said, ‘That’s what married people do.’ It kind of just led in perfectly.”
Uftring punctuated this story, as he so often does, with a hearty laugh.
Waunakee High School’s athletic trainer is actually a UW Health employee. After a year in Mount Horeb, Uftring spoke excitedly about being re-assigned here.
“I can’t imagine myself anywhere but Waunakee. I absolutely love it. I’m around sports, which I love. Helping people, which I love. And I feel like I’ve become a part of the Waunakee community. I’ve just been really lucky,” he said.
He’s also trainer for the Madison Mallards during the summer.
“I can sit and watch baseball. Sometimes I can’t believe they pay me to do it!” he added.
He’s contemplated cutting back with the Mallards to spend more time with his three children, Payton, Lucy and Taylor. Payton and Lucy attend school in Waunakee and their parents’ complementary schedules permit them to avoid day care.
In 2016, the Uftrings moved to an acre-and-a-half piece of land in Arlington. Jessica loved the house. Matt wanted more land and a shop.
“I just love being outdoors. I’m huge into fishing. It’s 13 minutes from my door to Whalen’s Grade on Lake Wisconsin. A lot of times, I’ll be on my way to work and stop off at Marshall Park and just cast a few times.”
Uftring is outfitting a shed on the property with table saws, jointers, and the like.
“I started tinkering with wood when I started dating my wife. For Valentine’s Day, she suggested we make something for each other,” he said.
He built Jessica a chest in his late grandfather’s shop. She loved it. But his reaction looking at it now is, “Oh, this is so bad!”
He learns from YouTube videos and is improving with practice. He made humidors for his dad and father-in-law. He also built their kitchen table. While he might dabble in woodworking after retirement, Uftring added a self-deprecating note, “I’m not sure I’m that good.”
He’d also like to be more organized, like his wife. She’s much more of a planner.
“Jess, she’s got to be everything every night. I’m at sporting events, running around taking care of everyone else,” he said.
He summed up, “She’s my rock.”