Back in 2016, Sam Mattis had just graduated from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School with a degree in economics and had a lucrative job offer at JPMorgan Chase. But the NCAA champion discus thrower turned down the Wall Street firm to pursue his dream of competing in the sport full-time.
"It's the outright dream of most boys to be a professional athlete," Mattis recently told NJ.com. "I never really thought that would be my path, but after I won NCAAs for Penn in 2015, I thought, 'Maybe I can do this for real.'"
Fast forward five years and Mattis, now 27, is on the precipice of representing the United States in the Tokyo Olympics. Ranked 16th in the world, Mattis needs to place in the top three during Friday night's U.S. Track and Field Championships in order to represent his country this summer.
If he makes it to the Olympics, it would be the capstone on an already glittering career, which includes the title he won in 2015, the fourth-longest throw in college history as well as being named a three-time collegiate All-American. He most recently placed 9th at the 2019 World Athletic Championships in Qatar.
But it hasn't been easy to get to where he is today. Mattis explained to NJ.com that after foregoing hefty Wall Street paychecks in order to pursue discus, he took odd jobs to help make ends meet, such as working in marketing for a local pharmacist and working "for a company that tried to be an Uber for laundry."
During the pandemic, he survived off of unemployment funds as well as stipends from USA Track and Field. Being a top tier track athlete, he was eligible for a $12,000 annual stipend, which roughly breaks down to about $250 per week, plus $2,000 for a medical savings account.
But despite the hardships, Mattis has no regrets about leaving Wall Street in hopes of reaching Tokyo.
"You only get to do something like this once," he says. "Regardless of how things shape up, I'm very happy I made that choice and decided to do something a little more fulfilling than making rich people richer."