The Whittier Poets are down by 50 points. The scoreboard, the time left, and the bigger, faster, stronger teams they compete against have dashed hopes that they will win this — or any — game this season. Despite the stacked odds — fate, if you will — Sebastian Pimental hasn’t given up, not on or off the field.
At only 20 years old, Pimental acts and carries himself like a true NFL veteran in all aspects of his life. As his classmate last semester, it was clear to me that the 6’2, 190-pound student athlete always had a sense of urgency. Whether that was watching practice film during long lectures or constantly wearing his spirit pack uniform, Whittier College’s starting quarterback was always preparing for the next play ahead.
Adversity on the field began way before college for the starting quarterback. During his high school years, rumors about him transferring to other schools in hopes of achieving a greater football career surfaced. Pimental ultimately stayed at California High School, finished his senior season with a 4 – 6 record via MaxPreps, and received the opportunity to continue competing on the collegiate level at Whittier College.
Unfortunately, success on the field has not yet occurred. After recovering from the 2020 pandemic, which did not allow Whittier football to have an active season, Whittier College went 0 – 9 for the third time in five years. When asked about winning zero games, Pimental quickly defended his team:
“Obviously, losing all the games in a season is tough on any team. It was mentally draining and challenging in dealing with some attrition in certain positions. Regardless, this team never quit, and we maintained the belief in each other to go out there each week and give it our all. We never backed down; we just kept fighting through it regardless of each outcome. I think the biggest thing this year was continuing to treat each week with a life of its own. We had to forget about the game before and continue to learn from each game, and practice to better execute in each game. Coach Neale and the rest of the coaching staff did a great job on film corrections, helping us fix the mistakes on the field, and adjusting gameplans each week to put our team in the best position possible.”
Pimental emphasized how the team approached their season: “Our focus each game was to be better on all three phases and to continue to grow and compete to the best of our abilities. Our main goal going into 2022 is to become a complete team, and we’re focusing on taking full advantage of an off-season we have this year to develop just that.”
Never quitting is what Pimental lives by. In retrospect, his journey to even play collegiate football this year was difficult. “Enrolling back to Whittier was a struggle,” he said. “I had a decent amount of money owed and even had to sell my dream car in order to prioritize academics and football. I missed fall camp and the start of the season.”
During weekday evenings, you can find Whittier’s starting quarterback off the field and near the grill, bagging and serving California’s favorite burger. In an environment where employees have to stay alert, having no “kill time,” as ‘rush hour’ is every hour, a great amount of Pimental’s time goes into his shifts at In-N-Out.
Many who work in the food industry part-time can relate to some struggles that Pimental must overcome during shifts. From the wear-and-tear that non-slips can bring to ankles and knees, to the daily smell of carbs and fats that bring fatigue to the mind and the eyes, the food industry is designed to hire young people who are in willing to sacrifice their well-being in order to receive $500 to $1,000 checks every two weeks, depending on the amount of hours and days sacrificed.
Many school athletes have to choose between having some form of financial freedom or pursuing the joy that their childhood sport brings. Many athletes won’t get a job and pursue their varsity sport at the high school level in hopes of one day having the opportunity to receive a college education. Many of those same athletes have to quit their college teams once enrolled because scholarships are not enough to cover tuition.
Although his hustle and dedication is respected, critics may differ from the idea of “paying to play,” since Division III collegiate programs are restricted from disturbing athletic scholarships. In a situation where stress and fatigue controls the body and mind, Pimental spoke about why he pursues this route rather than taking the easy way out:
“As much as it seems to be, I don’t look at it as ‘pay to play.’ I look at it more as paying for education than to play. I have been blessed with this opportunity at Whittier College to achieve a prestigious education in my own hometown — more importantly, to play the game I love while doing it. Football has been around my life since I was a kid, and I promised myself I would play as long as I could. This game continues to help reveal myself in ways I wouldn’t be able to without football — the ability to compete and play the best you possibly can and lay it all on the line, even when it might not be good enough at times. This game makes me the ultimate competitor to perfect my game, even when I think it’s good enough. This mentality will translate after football, and I strongly believe it will have a positive impact on anything I set out to do after I stop playing.”
Many young men and women around Pimental’s age give up on their passion, their academics, or their income. Pimental, on the other hand, is a special talent. A worker at one of the most established food chains in California goes to school full time and has hopes of reshaping Whittier College’s football program. Primental works, studies, and practices all on the same day during football season.
Those days where Pimental is absent in class are days where he is either working to pay for school or on the field to elevate his leadership and talent to the next level. Improving himself as a student, an athlete, and a member of society are all opponents in themselves before the real games begin in September.
Pimental only has about two to three years left of producing quality football at the Division III level; however, his hunger and drive to open as many opportunities for a successful future may never be empty.
“Maybe I won’t ever win a SCIAC title as a Poet, but that won’t ever stop me from trying. Despite my struggles as a young adult, I am still seen as a leader on and off the field. Not winning a single game last year motivates me; it makes me ambitious to be a perfect football player, but, more importantly a well-respected man.”
At the end of the day, life is not about how many wins a person has; it’s about how many losses they can overcome, and what the next steps are after being, essentially, punched in the mouth.
For Sebastian Pimentel, life can throw any twist or turn, but one thing is certain: QB1 will never be fazed. . . .
Featured Image: Courtesy of wcpoets.com