LOS ANGELES — On Tuesday, USC defensive lineman Nick Figueroa was named a member of the Academic All-American first team. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in real estate development with a 3.76 GPA in 2021, Figueroa finished his master’s in finance last week.
As someone with All-Pac-12 honorable mention honors in his past, it’s not inconceivable that Figueroa could find a spot on an NFL roster next season. But the redshirt senior will also have opportunities in other fields.
Figueroa spoke about the possibilities after USC’s Cotton Bowl practice Thursday.
Q: It feels like you’re one of those guys where your next steps could go a number of different directions. Have you thought about whether your future belongs in football or another career path?
Figueroa: “I just kinda feel like it’s at a point where I’ve worked hard to have these opportunities, so there’s really not a wrong decision. I just have to take time to weigh out what do I want my life to look like at this point, really. It’s gonna be some deep conversations with the loved ones to figure that out. I think once the game’s over and take some time, I already booked a little trip afterwards to go to the mountains a couple days, get away from everything and then I’ll just figure it out.”
Q: Are the mountains where you do your best thinking?
Figueroa: “No, it’s been chaos, you know? Controlled chaos but we’ve been in the fight for like a year, kinda nonstop. So I think it would be good to separate myself and maybe go snowboarding for the first time since I started playing. But, be careful.
Q: What are the potential callings outside of football for you?
Figueroa: “I got some stuff lined up in the finance route, high finance, investment banking stuff. That’s kinda what that’s looking like. I’ll probably be evaluating what that would look like starting in like June or training and going and trying to make a team. Either way, I’m blessed to be in this position.”
Q: So have you been applying for jobs in season?
Figueroa: “I got it all taken care of before the season. No, yeah, that would be impossible. But actually at the bank, there are a few guys that used to play here. So they’ve been trying to build a pipeline for ‘SC guys that have moved on. I think it’s dope. If that’s the route I end up going with, I’m excited to continue that, too. That’s one of my favorite parts about being at a school like USC. You can really have it all.”
Q: How does job recruiting compare to high school recruiting?
Figueroa: “It’s like complete opposites. High school, you’re like, ‘Man, I’m not taking this call.’ Now it’s like, ‘Please, man, just five minutes of your time, please.’ It’s definitely a humbling experience.”
Q: What was it like balancing internships and summer workouts during your career?
Figueroa: “I usually went with the most flexible option. I was pretty locked in football. My first year here coming from [Riverside Community College], I didn’t really have the background of what does a white-collar job look like, what does the recruiting look like. I credit a lot to my girlfriend, she showed me the ropes. But my first year [at USC], I didn’t play much. I was like, ‘OK, I don’t know how much football is going to be in my future.’ So I started doing a bit of that. Now it’s led me to this position of a fork in the road. But glad I did it, too, on the front end.”