Life as a star athlete or captain of a successful sports team can make people feel like they could do anything.
Justin Pumputis graduated from Nazareth College in 2021. He helped lead the Golden Flyers to their first conference championship in over ten years.
“Those years include some of the best memories I will ever have. I will never forget lifting that trophy with all my teammates,” Pumputis said.
Pumputis captained the team for two years and was an integral part of leading the team to the NCAA DIII Tournament. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.
“After school it didn’t really hit me until recently. I just started a new job at Paychex and I have been out of school for two years. It seemed like the two year mark really hit me hard like ‘woah I am done with soccer’,” Pumputis said.
The transition from key player in college sports to acknowledging the most competitive form of playing that sport again will most likely be a winter league or a Thanksgiving turkey bowl can be difficult for some.
“I would say I really like having money and not having homework but I definitely miss the competitive nature of being an athlete the most. Nothing replaces that competition feeling you get,” Pumputis said.
Based on a 2019 study, fewer than 2% of college athletes make the jump to the professional level. The 2% includes the four major leagues; NBA, MLB, NFL and NHL.
Another route post graduation is through lower level professional sports such as arena leagues, semi-pro leagues and going overseas.
Brian Wilkin graduated from Nazareth College in 2021 as well however he has taken a different path than Pumputis.
“I currently play for Utica City FC in the Major Arena Soccer League. This will be my third professional season,” Wilkin said.
Wilkin holds the record for saves at Nazareth College and was a starter for all four years of his collegiate career.
“For me the only natural step after college was always going to be some form of soccer. I coached a few high school varsity teams and weekly camps while working on my craft. Once I got the opportunity to sign with the Rochester Lancers I haven’t looked back,” Wilkin said.
Wilkin graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Business Management with a minor in Digital Marketing and uses it in a slightly different way.
“I use my education to create opportunities for myself. I use my Business degree to set up camps in the summer where I coach and earn an additional income. From the Digital Marketing minor I have been able to use techniques learned to create more buzz around who I am as a player. I found the tools I gained from Nazareth have helped me open up opportunities in my professional playing career,” Wilkin said.
Competing collegiately creates an opportunity to be a member of a team working toward a common goal. The different paths these former athletes take creates their story.