Popolizio ’12 balances athletics, class

Contributing Writer
Friday, September 16, 2011

The men’s soccer team, coming off a successful 2010 season, is stronger than ever. The squad’s motto, “winter is coming,” reflects its ambitious journey toward the ultimate challenge of this season — the NCAA tournament in November.

Forward T.J. Popolizio ’12 will be a key player for the Bears this fall. The prolific striker scored two goals in the Brown Soccer Classic, propelling the team to a weekend sweep over Temple University and George Mason University. For his strong play and unwavering commitment to the team, Popolizio has been named the Herald’s Athlete of the Week.


The Herald: You’ve just won the Brown Soccer Classic. What do these wins mean for the team, and where does the team go from here?

Popolizio: I think they’re important. You definitely want to start the year out strong, because these games are when you build the chemistry and the camaraderie that you need later on. Right now, it’s a time when we need to build the team attitude and mentality, because if you don’t build it now, you’re only playing catch-up.  


The Bears were ranked as high as 11th at the beginning of the season. Does this recognition change the team mentality?

When you’re young, you look at those rankings, and you get excited, and you want to flaunt it — but as you get older, you realize they mean nothing. They are just a reflection of last year’s team. If you do well one year, you’re going to be ranked highly. That’s great, but it really means nothing about this team. All that matters is getting wins and getting results, and the rankings will take care of (themselves). It’s tough, though, because there’s a target on our back. … Everyone gets excited to play us.


As a senior, do you have any personal pressures or goals?

I just want to enjoy it. The guys on the team are the best friends I have. It’s tough to think about losing them, but at the same time, you can’t think about that. You have to take every day and do the best you can on the field. I know it’s going to be over soon, and it’s sad, but I enjoy it so much that I’m appreciative of it and want to enjoy being with the guys for one last year.


You are also a wrestler. What are your thoughts on the situation regarding the potential cuts of some varsity sports?

I understand the financial problems and how the scope of the athletic department is too large. My outlook is that by taking out the human element of what wrestling does to the school, it’s really doing it a disservice. The other sports on the chopping block bring a characteristic to the school, too. The wrestlers are a unique talent — the mental toughness is like nothing you can imagine. The soccer team, we work really hard, but the commitment to be a wrestler, I think, is so far beyond that. We’re adding a level of culture to the school by having so many athletic programs. I think the wrestling team is such a specific culture — blue collar workers — in that the only way to be good at it is to work hard at it. By losing that, I think the school’s losing a lot.  


What are some of your favorite memories during your years at Brown?

The UConn game last year was probably the best memory. Being able to go in there, in a hostile environment, and win really gave us confidence last year that we can go anywhere and beat anyone.  


How do you balance class, soccer and wrestling?

I spend at least 50 hours a week between the two sports. It’s a job, and I’m basically committed all day, every day. But to be honest, it’s all I ever wanted to do, and I’m so grateful I was able to do it.  


What else are you passionate about, other than soccer?

I’ve been looking at a lot of investment banking, venture capital, private equity. I’ve been trying to get into business and finance the next couple of years. Sports is almost over, and it’s going to be a tough pill to swallow. But there’s going to be something else that’s going to get me just as excited, so I’m okay with that. I’m involved with Brown Investment Groups, and I do a lot of work in the community.