Several times in the past two years, Sam mattis looked at a pair of blackjack cards on his phone, and two questions crossed his mind:
Hit or stick?
How did I get to this point?
When Mattis graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2016, many believed he was headed for a lucrative investment career. He had just finished his internship at JPMorgan Chase, and the company was so impressed that they offered him an immediate job on Wall Street.
So what did he do? He politely declined the offer, never thought of business again, and decided to make a living by releasing records. Mattis, who grew up in Middlesex County, started participating in the event at East Brunswick High. He won an NCAA title at Penn.
âIt is the outright dream of most boys to be a professional athlete,â said Mattis. âI never really thought this would be my path, but after winning the NCAAs for Penn in 2015, I was like, ‘Maybe I can do it for real. “”
And the investment in itself paid off: Mattis is ranked 16th in the world in the record, the No. 2 ranked American. After an Olympic qualifying throw last summer, if Mattis finishes in the top three at the U.S. Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon on June 25, he will be on his way to the Summer Games in Tokyo, Japan.
However, when he turned down the job on Wall Street, he turned down the money that came with it. Discus athletes don’t earn what stockbrokers earn, so he had to get creative by working odd jobs ââ and playing ââ while training.
âAt the beginning, I didn’t make any money on the track,â he said. âTo pay the bills, I worked in marketing for a pharmacist in my area. I worked for a company that tried to be an Uber for laundry in 2019. Then last year I started a supplements business and did a lot of sports betting and blackjack just for the sake of it. try to get out of it.
Mattis was also hired as a volunteer assistant coach for the Rutgers track team. He was unpaid, but he was able to use their facilities and add “Division I track coach” to a resume that he hopes will include the Olympics.
âThe coaches at Rutgers were kind enough to let us get into their training situation, and we volunteered a few hours a week to help coach there,â he said. “It was a decent relationship.”
Mattis’ job at Rutgers lasted about a year and a half before their facilities were shut down due to COVID-19. After that, he returned to Pennsylvania, where he and six other athletes created a “training bubble” at a local facility. It was there that he began the final stages of training towards his Olympic dreams.
Mattis’ longtime roommate and training partner Noah Kennedy White is a witness to his training. He watched his friend grow up to be a world class athlete in a money-flowing sport.
âSam is someone who was very successful in high school and college, and was not immune to the difficulty of the career path,â White said. âBut he remained very consistent in his work ethic and his self-confidence, and it clearly paid off. He has truly established himself as one of the best pitchers in the country, and it’s well deserved.
Mattis coach Dane Miller was also instrumental in the rise of the native of Eastern Brunswick. Miller, who is active on Instagram and puts him through a number of high-intensity workouts, says if Mattis reaches his potential, he will win on the sport’s highest international stage.
âHis cap is going to work to the point of winning a medal at the world championships or a medal at the Olympics,â Miller said. âI think that has to be our overall goal. He is capable of doing that.
After suffering multiple back injuries this season, Mattis is eager to prove himself.
âI’m finally starting to put stuff together,â he said. âI’m excited. Just being at an event like the Olympic Trials is very exciting. It’s just a different level of competition.
When Mattis reflects on training hours, grueling practices, and opportunity costs, he still has no regrets. USA Track and Field’s tight money, unemployment, and small benefits have helped him survive this year, but he’s proud to have pursued his dream.
âYou can only do something like this once,â he said. “No matter how things turn out, I am very happy that I made this choice and decided to do something a little more fulfilling than making the rich richer.”
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