MIDDLESEX TWP — Principles.
Ed Totin has lived his life by them and they are a big reason why he has endeared himself to so many people, both inside and outside the Mars Area School District.
Totin, 84, served as Mars’ athletic trainer for 35 years (1962-97). For much of that time, he was the only trainer on site during sporting events involving the Planets, even ones on the road.
“Back when I started, no other high school in the area had an athletic trainer,” said Totin. “Everybody was amazed that Mars had one. I’d treat any kid that needed my help, no matter the team.
“I live by three rules,” he added. “One, there is some good that can be derived from any situation, no matter how dark. If we are patient, we will find out what it is. Two, we are not created for ourselves, we are created for each other. And last, I’m no better than anybody else and nobody is better than me.”
Totin grew up in Fayette County and played football and basketball at German Township High School, now part of the Albert Gallatin School District.
After graduation in 1946, he worked several jobs and married in 1950. It was his wife, Leatrice, who persuaded him to study to become a physical therapist.
“Ever since I was in the second grade, I wanted to be a doctor,” said Totin. “But medical school was far too expensive, so my wife urged me to get into physical therapy.”
Totin enrolled in a five-year program at the University of Pittsburgh and afterwards found work at St. Francis Hospital. He moved his family from Pittsburgh to southern Butler County in 1962 when he began working at Butler Memorial Hospital. Shortly after the move, Totin approached the head athletic trainer at the University of Pittsburgh, Roger McGill.
“I asked him to teach me everything he knew, all the wraps for shoulders, ankles, knees, everything,” said Totin. “My intent was to become an athletic trainer and help out at Mars High School.”
His efforts were warranted. After talking to several people at the school, including then-Planet football coach Gene Danser, Totin began to volunteer his services at Mars, aside from his duties at the hospital.
It wasn’t long before he had acquired an affectionate nickname from the athletes at Mars.
“One day, I was with a group of student athletes and one of them called me “Doc.” I told them that I wasn’t a physician and they said, ‘but you’re our doctor.’ From that point on, that’s what they called me,” he said.
When Totin first arrived at Mars, the only two sports available at the school were football and boys basketball. As time passed, more sports were introduced to the student body. By the mid-1970s, girls sports had taken hold, which meant more responsibility for Totin.
“I also used to treat kids from other schools,” he said. “Coaches would bring their players who were battling injuries from Armstrong, Clarion, Mercer, as well as from all over Butler County, to Butler Hospital and that’s where I would treat them after my work day was done. I did it for free.”
The Totin’s ended up having six children — Ed Jr., Andrea, Mary, Pamela, Leatrice and Anne. With Ed Totin spending so many hours at his job and as a volunteer trainer at high school events, his wife shouldered most of the responsibility at home.
“Not once did my wife complain about me spending so much time helping the high school kids,” he said. “She knew I loved to do it and never said one word against it. She died last June from pancreatic cancer. She was such a good woman and deserves a lot of credit.”
Outside of his time as a trainer, Totin expended much energy toward his occupation.
“In 1974, I became the first physical therapist in Pennsylvania to open up a completely private practice,” he said. “It was in Butler in the old Morgan Management Building, the one that burned down several years ago.”
Totin retired as a physical therapist on Dec. 31, 1993, but continued on as an athletic trainer at Mars. By that time, he was being paid for his efforts.
“They started to pay me in 1985,” Totin said. “It made me feel good to know they thought that much of me.”
Through the years, Totin shared his knowledge, first in the mid-1960s with Dick Lane, who would go on to become an athletic trainer at Seneca Valley. Then, before retiring in 1997, he took Eric Calderwood under his wing at Mars, teaching him everything he had learned in his many years in the field.
In the fall of 1996, Mars’ football team made it to the WPIAL title game at Three Rivers Stadium.
“That experience was exhilarating,” Totin said. “I set my feet on that field and said to myself, ‘This is the big game.’”
At one time, athletic training was non-existent. Totin has seen the profession grow immensely.
“Back when I was playing in high school, if you got hurt, you either took care of yourself or went to the doctor,” he said.
Totin has remained active in his later years. He officiated the state track championships for 10 years and still oversees local high school and college track meets as well as high school and junior high volleyball.
“The kids keep me feeling young,” he said.
The Mars Area School District still has a special place with Totin. He serves on the selection committee for the Mars Athletic Hall of Fame, which he was inducted in to in 1982.
“I have so much respect for the school,” he said. “The coaches respected me. If I said a kid wasn’t okay to play, they respected that. And (current football coach and athletic director) Scott Heinauer is a real gentleman. He puts the welfare of the kids ahead of wins and losses.”
“When I got here 25 years ago,” said Heinauer, “Doc was an integral part of all the sports programs at Mars. He was a pioneer among high school trainers. He is a kind-hearted soul and will always be welcomed here.”