Less than 2% of high school athletes become D1 athletes. Of those D1 athletes, less than 2% advance to the pros. So what happens to the other 98%?

I talked to four former D1 athletes to find out about life before and during college athletics, what their transition into “real life” was like, and whether sports continue to play a role in their lives as adults. Plus, they offer some sage advice to future adult athletes who don’t go pro.

You’ll meet a former D1 soccer player, a basketball player, a track and field athlete, and a football player. And one thing that was immediately palpable in talking to all of them? Their drive.

Interestingly, while drive was a common thread among the former D1 athletes I spoke with, their paths to the NCAA were vastly different. Yet, somehow, they all defied the odds and made it to the big leagues of college sports. Let’s delve into some of the individual odds they faced to get there.

  • Rikishi Rey was a soccer player at Cal State Fullerton. Her chance to make it as a D1 athlete? 2.4%.1
  • Spencer Remick was a track and field athlete at the University of Southern California. His chance to make it as a D1 athlete? 1.9%.1
  • Scott Deans was a football player at Portland State University. His chance to make it as a D1 athlete? 3%.1
  • Trent Beckley was a college basketball player at Colorado University. His chance to make it as a D1 athlete? .9%.1

Statistics like those make it astoundingly clear why only 2% of student-athletes make it to the pros. While college athletes are stars in high school, so are nearly every single one of their teammates at the university level. And let’s not think every college athlete wants to turn pro. For some, they are happy for the privilege of a scholarship or simply to play college sports at all, but after graduation, they are ready to move on.

Meet the D1 Athletes

Rikishi Rey: The Cal State Soccer Player

Kishi Rey playing soccer
Kishi Rey in her soccer days

Rikishi–who goes by Kishi–started playing soccer at four years old. That melded into a life of weekday practices and weekend games. Soccer was essentially her life from the age of four until she graduated college. A Southern California girl, Kishi chose to play for Cal State Fullerton after high school.

The privilege of being a D1 athlete is not lost on her.

“Playing in college, it gave me everything,” says Kishi. “I was very fortunate to be on scholarship. I came from a background where had I not gotten [a scholarship], I wouldn’t have gone to college.”

So, as Kishi put it, she “worked her butt off to keep it,” but soccer was so much more than just a scholarship to her. “It gave me my life, and it taught me everything.”

This D1 Athlete’s Life After College

Kishi Rey headshot
Kishi Rey today

After graduation, Kishi was in unfamiliar territory–the “now what?” territory a lot of D1 athletes experience when college is over. Her fierce drive was still there, but she was unsure how or where to channel it.

Kishi tried her hand in retail, then became a wedding photographer but eventually got bored. So, ultimately, Kishi continued with her education. Goal-setting is in her DNA, so the goal of completing a master’s degree parlayed into the goal of earning her PhD. She is now an assistant professor of Health and Sport Communication at Clemson University.

“I went to school. I played soccer. That’s all I knew for so long,” recalls Kishi. “No one ever tells you about afterward. Everything ends all at the same time.” This, Kishi says, can impact your mental health.

She is not alone. One recent study notes 55 percent of college athletes felt uncertainty about life after university. This is a commonality among most of the other athletes in this article as well.

The Role of Sports in This D1 Athlete’s Life After College

Kishi continued playing soccer in recreational leagues after graduation. She also, like many other former D1 athletes, got into coaching. She coached two girls’ club soccer teams. And once she moved to South Carolina last July, she got rid of her cleats, thinking she was ready to move on.

“I don’t know why I did that,” Kishi laughs. “I was like, ‘You’re done. You’re moving on with your life,’ and that lasted about three or four months.”

Now, Kishi kicks the ball around at a nearby park with her husband while she searches for local soccer leagues in her new town (I let her know about the Adults Play Sports directory). “I was thinking that I can do without. I cannot. It’s the healthiest side for me.”

Her Advice to Future Former D1 Athletes

Some of the things Kishi wishes she knew she’d experience after D1 athletics were the mental health aspect and the feelings that come with transitioning out of a D1 body. She stays very connected with the student-athletes at Clemson and regularly communicates on these topics with them.

Her advice to soon-to-be-former-college-athletes? Take some time after graduation to figure out what you don’t want to do, and work backward from there to figure out what you do want. And then put your goal-setting drive into high gear.

She jokingly says about D1 athletes, “We’re kind of crazy.” She advises those athletes, “You make a goal. You make a plan. Nothing gets in your way. Use that to your advantage. Use that beauty of craziness to your advantage.”

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Spencer Remick: The Walk-On D1 Track and Field Athlete

Spencer Remick running track at USC
Spencer Remick running at USC

It seems the Remick kids were born to be D1 athletes. Spencer was a track and field athlete at the University of Southern California, his twin brother played soccer at Brown University (and eventually went pro), and his sister swam at Princeton University.

But even born athletes have to work hard to become D1 athletes. Spencer recalls his high school days in Illinois, leaving the house at 6:15 am, driving nearly an hour to school, then going to soccer practice and track and field practice after school. He often got home at 10 pm, using the commute home as time to finish homework.

Toward the end of high school, Spencer felt burnt out on soccer and leaned into track and field. He decided to go to USC as a regular student, not a student-athlete. But when being an athlete is in your blood, it’s hard to ignore.

“I really didn’t know what I wanted to do,” recalls Spencer. “Then when I got to SC, I was like, “Shoot, might as well try to be a D1 athlete.” And so he did.

Spencer reached out to the coach, tried out, and made the team. And after his grueling high school schedule, the D1 athlete schedule didn’t seem so bad. The same couldn’t be said for the practices.

“Practices were brutal. But it was also appealing,” says Spencer. “SC has one of the most prestigious track and field programs in the country, so some of your teammates are Olympic medalists. You’re training with the best.”

This D1 Athlete’s Life After College

Spencer Remick headshot
Spencer Remick today

Spencer was a realist and recognized that unless he was the best of the best, going pro in track and field wasn’t going to afford him the lifestyle he wanted. But he also recognized there was an advantage to putting “former D1 athlete at USC” on his resume. If nothing at all, it had the potential to open some doors.

Spencer got his degree in marketing and set his sights on Nike after graduation. He was fortunate enough to land his first gig with an agency that worked with Nike. Spencer’s background made him a perfect candidate to work on Nike’s upcoming project, scouting where to build a course for the company’s high school cross country championships in Oregon. He’s since continued to work with well-known brands like Facebook, Salesforce, and Southern Distilling Company.

What role did his time as an athlete play in his career? Spencer actually credits not being the best of the best at USC with helping him post-graduation.

“When I transitioned from high school to college, I went from the top to the bottom. But when I got into the real world, I’m at the bottom again,” he remembers.

“Being at the bottom of the SC track team was way more intimidating than becoming a marketing coordinator.” Spencer credits that feeling with helping his versatility in being able to work across a vast array of people in his present career, from marketing coordinators to C-level directors.

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The Role of Sports in This D1 Athlete’s Life After College

While running was much of his life for a long time, Spencer eventually hung up his running shoes because of past injuries. Sports are still a major part of his life, nonetheless. Now he bikes and golfs. While his wife ran a marathon, he biked the same path.

His Advice to Future Former D1 Athletes

“The biggest thing hands down is to cherish the relationships you’ve built,” is Spencer’s first piece of advice. He said it wasn’t until after he graduated that he realized how valuable this is.

And like Kishi, Spencer jokes, “Anyone who is a college athlete is, to a degree, a little bit not right in the head.” So his additional advice? “Harness it and put it into use somewhere else because you will be able to be as successful as you were if you can apply it in a different way.”

Scott Deans: The College Football Kicker and Punter

When Scott wasn’t playing baseball or football, he was running around the docks of the 36-foot trawler boat he lived on in the San Francisco Bay Area until he was 18 years old.

In high school, Scott was the football team’s quarterback, kicker, punter, and also pitcher on the baseball team. Recruiters were after him for his baseball skills. That is, until he broke his elbow. Like any commodity, when you’re no longer of value, the interest quickly dries up. The recruiters stopped calling.

Scott Deans kicking football
Scott Deans as kicker for Portland State University

So, what did Scott do? He pivoted. His focus became kicking and punting. But, unfortunately, that didn’t earn him a scholarship–yet.

Scott went to junior college, where he played for two years with the San Mateo Bulldogs, and eventually landed a scholarship at Portland State University. He continued to dream big dreams with aspirations of playing in the NFL.

“I had only one mission, and that was the NFL. Every single hour was to get to the NFL,” says Scott. So when Portland State didn’t make the playoffs, it was crushing. “At that moment, I’m like, ‘Holy moly, I’m done.’ It still gets me,” Scott says emotionally.

When the NFL didn’t happen, Scott pivoted again. “I was so focused on a goal, which was the NFL. When it wasn’t going to happen, I shifted goals and went 100 percent into school and excelled.” He got his bachelor’s degree and then continued at the University of Texas and earned his master’s degree in architecture.

This D1 Athlete’s Life After College

Scott worked in architecture after college, including a 12-year stint at BP, working in a unique role after the Gulf oil spill in 2010. His career involved working in nanotechnology and AI, and all that eventually converged and led him back to sports.

In 2022, Scott launched BeONE Sports. Instead of the old-school method of filming yourself to evaluate form, the BeONE Sports app takes it to another level. It uses AI to comparatively evaluate your form against its catalog of college and professional athletes who contribute data to the platform.

Scott Deans headshot
Scott Deans today

Essentially, the BeONE Sports app will transpose your form against a high-level athlete and calculate the difference between you and that athlete so you can immediately see areas where you can improve. The app goes live in May, and Scott intends for it to be accessible and affordable for athletes at any level (including us adult athletes). Keep an eye out for a detailed post on the BeONE Sports app within the next week.

The Role of Sports in This D1 Athlete’s Life After College

Obviously, Scott’s latest venture shows his passion for sports well beyond college. And he continues to play sports as well.

“My wife and I play co-ed soccer. I play ice hockey. I still do martial arts. I think when you’re an athlete, you can’t ever not be one. You just don’t feel good unless you’re out there doing stuff,” says Scott.

Trent Beckley: The D1 Basketball Player

Trent Beckley playing basketball at University of Colorado
Trent Beckley at the University of Colorado

As a 5’8 high school freshman, Trent couldn’t have imagined he would be recruited to play college basketball just a few years later.

Trent grew up in Vail, Colorado, in an active family. They skied and mountain biked together. Basketball was the furthest thing from Trent’s mind. He spent his energy playing soccer and baseball and was a competitive ski racer until his freshman year of high school.

And then the growth spurt happened. Trent shot up to 6 feet 10 inches tall.

Of that growth spurt, Trent says, “It really kind of predicted the next 10 years of my life.”

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While Trent only got one D1 athletic scholarship offer, another D1 opportunity arose. The University of Colorado’s head coach was at one of his games to scout another player but liked what he saw in Trent. Trent made the team as a walk-on his freshman year of college and eventually earned a scholarship the following year.

Unfortunately, Trent’s college athletic career was turbulent. He was sidelined by a broken back and plagued with rheumatoid arthritis. He was able to make a comeback his senior year, ending this chapter of his life by playing in the Final Four.

This D1 Athlete’s Life After College

Just like Kishi, Trent felt the “what do I do now” twinge familiar to so many graduating D1 athletes. His initial aspirations of going pro weren’t going to happen, so he had to shift gears.

“It was really hard for me,” Trent admits. “When you look at the world from an athlete’s perspective, you’re competitive, you want to perform, you’re a perfectionist.” And that drive is attractive to many employers.

“Athletes have a privilege in a way. It attracts a certain type of employer,” says Trent. He used his drive to perform and to succeed and turned it into a successful sales and marketing career, including seven years at Google.

But, if money were no object, he’d have given it all up. “If I came from a family of money, I would have quit corporate America and been some sort of coach,” Trent says.

The Role of Sports in This D1 Athlete’s Life After College

Trent Beckley and girlfriend at a race
Trent Beckley current day with his other half

After D1 college basketball, Trent played in some adult basketball leagues but admits it can be a hard transition because the level of play is vastly different. He was getting injuries playing with less skilled players. Trent’s sport of choice now is cycling. He mountain bikes and road bikes.

For Trent, sports are like the connective tissue of life. They’ve helped him establish lifelong friendships, including many with his former college teammates who now play in the NBA.

His Advice to Future Former D1 Athletes

Trent understands the benefit of a strong drive but would also tell D1 athletes to explore life outside of their sport.

“I encourage athletes to spend time understanding what they are passionate about outside of the game,” advises Trent. “If someone has a sound identity and other hobbies outside of the sport, they’re actually going to be a better-performing athlete. And when that last whistle blows, you’ll know yourself better.”

Sports Transcend

They may seem commonplace because we see them all over TV, but the reality is that D1 athletes are rare. They have different mindsets. While most of us weren’t D1 athletes, we continue to play sports into adulthood, and there is a lot of inspiration we can take from these individuals. Drive and passion are great traits, but don’t forget the joy sports can bring into your life as well.

If you’re looking for a sport to play near you, don’t forget to check out our directory!

Footnotes

  1. Scholarship Stats