Wall Street Decathlon Draws Ex-NFL Players for Top Athlete CrownErik Matuszewski
Jake Stoller was in training camp with the Pittsburgh Steelers last summer, trying to win a job in the National Football League. The former Yale University defensive lineman and Barclays Plc debt capital markets analyst is pursuing a new goal this year: the title of Wall Street’s best athlete.
Stoller this weekend will be among 170 financial industry workers competing in the RBC Decathlon, a 10-event charity competition that raised more than $1.3 million for Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York last year.
Stoller, 23, is also among a handful of decathlon participants with NFL experience who, instead of sweating through training camp workouts, have been preparing to test their speed, strength and agility in the 10-event competition scheduled for July 28 at Columbia University’s Wien Stadium.
“Initially it was a good way for me to have an end goal, something I could train for, but it’s quickly become very competitive,” the 6-foot-4 Stoller, who’s down 60 pounds from his training camp weight of 300 pounds, said in a telephone interview. “I’m getting e-mails from buddies at competing firms talking about where I’m going to be in certain events. The trash talk has begun, and it’s exciting.”
Mark Rubin, Stoller’s colleague at Barclays, is the defending decathlon champion and a former Pennsylvania State University safety who went through training camp with the St. Louis Rams in 2009 before being cut in Week 1 of the NFL season. He also had unsuccessful tryouts with the Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings and is now in his third year at Barclays selling fixed-income futures.
Tom McCarthy of Morgan Stanley, Stoller’s former teammate on the Yale defensive line, is in the decathlon for the first time after spending time in training camp with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars. The 6-foot-6 McCarthy, Yale’s football captain as a senior in 2011, works as a fixed income strategist and said he’s looking forward to facing Stoller in the event.
“We’re getting the competitive juices flowing,” McCarthy said last week on Bloomberg Television’s “Taking Stock.” “For three years we played together on the defensive line and we were always working together. Now we finally get a chance to go head-to-head and see who the best athlete is.”
Collin Zych, a former Harvard University football captain who in 2011 signed with the Dallas Cowboys as a free agent, is also making his debut this year and said he’s hoping to follow Rubin as the second straight ex-safety to win the decathlon.
Zych, 24, is now a third-year investment banking analyst at Cogent Partners, where a termination letter from the Cowboys is the lone item that hangs on a wall of his cubicle at the advisory firm’s Dallas office. In the notice, which is signed by Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones, there’s an X next to an item that says Zych’s skill was judged by the team to be “unsatisfactory as compared with that of other players competing for positions” on the roster.
“It’s just one of those little motivational things,” said Zych, who flew into New York yesterday for the decathlon. “I was looking for a challenge and this really fit the bill. I’m expecting it to be pretty intense.”
There are three running events in the Wall Street Decathlon -- at distances of 40 yards, 400 meters and 800 meters -- a football throw and an agility drill that NFL scouts use to compare players. Also in the one-day competition are pull-ups, rowing, vertical jump, bench press and dips -- a triceps exercise using one’s own weight.
The day before the decathlon is the inaugural Wall Street Mile in which participants run, in a series of heats, around the Wien Stadium track on the northern tip of Manhattan to accumulate charity donations.
Awards will be presented to the top three finishers in the men’s and women’s divisions at the decathlon, as well as the top executive performer, the winners in three age groups (under 30, 30-39 and over 40), the most successful fundraiser and the top three-person team. This will be the first year there’s an official women’s champion.
All contributions go to pediatric cancer research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering and participants are required to raise a minimum of $3,000 in donations. Fundraising is also driven by “charity bets,” with competitors generating donations by surpassing pre-event goals.
Stoller and McCarthy are doing a head-to-head charity bet in the agility drill and reached out to friends, colleagues, family and Yale alumni groups for donations on who will have a better time in the event. The drill tests lateral quickness and acceleration, with competitors starting in the middle of a marked 10-yard space, running five yards in one direction, 10 yards in the other direction to touch a line and then returning the final five yards to the starting point.
“It’s been a good source of fun from our side,” said Stoller. “I’ll still have some insight in terms of where I was a year ago that will help me in terms of technique. It’s not completely gone, but I’ve told family and people that have been supporting me that I won’t be sharing the results with them.”