THE SACRIFICES TO PURSUE A CAREER AS PRO PLAYER – An interview with former CFL player Billy Pavlopoulos

Luisa Germer

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Billy Pavlopoulos, 22, a huge batman and walking dead fan says: “I feel no regrets”. No, I’m joking. Well, I didn’t lie about him being a comic freak but Billy Pavlopoulos is a former Canadian Football League (CFL) player working on his career as a professional football player and he feels no regrets about the choice he has made.

Billy Pavlopoulos kicking
Photo Credit: Coach-Adam Tanalski

Being a professional player – this is a goal for some, a dream for many. I hear people talking about how they just can’t find the right team, or they are too busy with other stuff in life, but if they could just get that figured out, they say: “You know, I could be pro”. These people truly don’t understand the sacrifices made by those who give so much to us.

Ten seconds remain on the game clock and the crowd is cheering madly. Snow swirls around the football field like confetti in a parade. A field goal is being kicked as time runs out! You might think the victorious players would head straight to a bar to celebrate, and then be on their way to their mansion to relax decadently. But this doesn’t apply to reality. The reality is – being a professional player is a full time job. Being a professional player forces more – tell your parents you’re not going to college, tell your friends you’re not going out with them anymore. A great relief for Billy is his family supporting him in his choices. He can happily say: “They are my biggest fans”. But being a professional player requires sacrifices, for everyone.

There is a very important distinction that is made once you become a professional. You’re not playing just for fun anymore. This is your job. Previously, playing was a break from responsibilities. Now, that game becomes your responsibility. You no longer get to play. You have to play. These aren’t 40 hour weeks either. “Everyday is a workday in some way”, Billy says. When he’s not playing and regardless from field work, gym work, and film, he makes sure that he’s doing something everyday. “Even if it is while I’m watching TV, I’ll move from the couch to the floor to make sure I’m stretching and doing something productive”, he laughs. It’s not just a game. It’s a lifestyle.

How it all began: Billy had been an athlete at a high level for all his life. He started with soccer and kickboxing. He became a second-degree black belt and competed provincially for soccer. In high school he played football, soccer, basketball, and swimming and was the male athlete of the year in his graduating class. “I really thought swimming would have been my career because I had started at thirteen and became seventh nationally and thought I would have swam for Greece in the Olympics by now but injuries had prevented me from continuing. Luckily, around the time this happened in high school, the football players all got big lockers in school, so I figured I would get a locker and sign up.  My soccer background must’ve done quite a lot for me because I hit a 53 yarder in Grade 9 and it became football ever since than.”

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Billy Pavlopoulos, Mike Renaud, Justin Palardy, Tim Hutchison, Chris Cvetkovic and Brett Cameron play a bit of soccer during practice at Investors Group Field, Tuesday, June 11, 2013.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ Billy Pavlopoulos, Mike Renaud, Justin Palardy, Tim Hutchison, Chris Cvetkovic and Brett Cameron play a bit of soccer during practice at Investors Group Field, Tuesday, June 11, 2013. Photo Credit: TREVOR HAGAN/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Billy Pavlopoulos’ career as a professional has been short lived so far. Winnipeg Blue Bombers gave the kicker/punter a second chance by signing him from draft day till week 3 of the 2013 season. Billy was eligible for selection despite being suspended for violating Canadian university sport’s drug policy. He said it was an unlisted ingredient in a supplement he had taken; an explanation the Bombers said they believe. (read more)

He is not playing for any team currently, but he has dedicated himself to being in the States training the last 6 months for kicking specifically. Just now, Billy Pavlopoulos is working out in Alabama and heading to New Orleans to do a camp. “I have taken the year off right now to focus on football”, he confirms, “I was a CFL draft pick last year and I believe my leg strength is hard to match in Canada, so I believe there is a good chance”. His faith requires sacrifices: “I want a degree more than anything. I would like to be educated, and sacrificing my education to pursue this career choice does bug me a little. Other than that I’m quite happy with myself all around”.

Food as a sacrifice: “I have really taken my training and dieting to another level this year. I am very picky about what I eat now to make sure I’m in shape”, Billy says, “My nutrition right now is carb cycling”. That means, he is primarily switching between high carb and low carb days – high carb on heavy lifting days, and low carb throughout the rest of the week. “I do this in order to look my best. People always ask why I do this to my self, but a lawyer wouldn’t show up to work without a suit because he is a professional. My body is my uniform and I feel it would look unprofessional if I didn’t look my best. How can I be called a professional athlete, if I don’t look like one?”

More sacrifices: “There is always a little voice in the back of my head that will say: ‘oh you want to go party with your friends’, or ‘do you really need to drive to the States to kick a ball?’, or ‘you can skip one day at the gym’.  But for now I feel it will all be worth it if I make it”, Billy says.

For Billy football is the most important thing other than his family in life right now. “I have invested so much time and want it so badly from so young that I truly am determined to make it”. His dream: To play for the Bills. “It would be the best thing possible, being able to be in the NFL close enough to Toronto by my family”. Billy’s favourite moment of the Super Bowl 2014 was seeing Jon Ryan punting in the game. A Canadian specialist shows it is possible.

I asked Billy to describe himself in one sentence and he said: “I’m very outgoing and enjoy leaving an impression, I like to be noticed”. Let’s hope he gets noticed and his chance to prove himself again as a professional. His motivation is the ability to be so close to accomplishing his dream from young of being a professional athlete. He admits: “I may not be the biggest, the strongest, or the most talented, but I know I can out work my competition”.

“I think we covered everything other than my love life, which I wouldn’t have anything to answer about that anyways it is hard to find someone who would understand what I am doing right now”, was Billy’s answer to my last question, if there was any question I haven’t asked him.

 

If you have any further questions for Billy, please feel free to comment underneath the post and I’ll try to answer your questions!

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Luisa Germer