Today, we catch up with 1992 American Family Insurance ALL-USA offensive lineman Chris Kurpeikis of Central Catholic (Pittsburgh), who is the vice president of sales for ITsavvy in Addison, Ill. For more than 30 years, USA TODAY has recognized the nation's top high school athletes. We are digging into the archives and checking in with ALL-USA honorees from the past three decades.
Chris Kurpeikis is 6-6 and 295 pounds, so he gets asked nearly every day if he played football or basketball.
"I don't tell them much, just that I played a long time ago," says Kurpeikis, 38.
Kurpeikis was an All-USA offensive lineman at Central Catholic (Pittsburgh) in 1992. He signed with Notre Dame, but transferred to Michigan after his freshman redshirt season with the Irish. Because of transfer rules, he had to sit out his sophomore year with the Wolverines, and when he was finally eligible to play, he found out he would never be able to play a down of college football because he had bone degeneration in his lower back that made it difficult to bend or come out of his stance.
"I was playing on the practice squad that spring when the doctors pulled me aside and told me I had the spine of a 70-year-old who had worked the assembly line at an auto plant his whole life," Kurpeikis said.
Fortunately for Kurpeikis, the Wolverines honored his scholarship and he graduated from Michigan, ready for a career in sales.
"There's no doubt having a Michigan degree played a role in my success," he said. "After I was hurt, Coach (Lloyd Carr) kept me involved on the team. By the time I graduated, I wasn't prepared for the NFL. I was prepared for life. I went through career planning, did mock interviews and then started doing real interviews. I knew I wanted to do sales and ended up with CDW, an IT company, which now does about 10 billion in sales. It was a great place to get your feet wet."
His first year out of school, Kurpeikis was 22 and enjoying living in Chicago, maybe a little too much. It wasn't until he decided to marry his high school sweetheart, Jeanine, that he began getting serious in business.
"Once I bought the engagement ring, it was time to put the pedal to the metal," he says.
In 2004, Kurpeikis, left CDW after 2 1/2 years and co-founded B2B Computer Products, along with Mike Theriault. The company, now called ITsavvy, is located in Addison, Ill., and bills itself as an integrated IT products and solutions provider. The company is thriving, having been named one of the fastest-growing companies of its type by Inc. Magazine. Kurpeikis is the company's Vice President of Sales and oversees about 50 salesmen.
"Once we started our own company, I expected success," he said. "The thought of not making it or struggling, was not in my mind. I listened to coach Carr, who always said to expect success. Prepare and take care of the little things that count and success will come.
The old adage of hard work is true. Our industry has more than 100,000 competitors. Nobody has a better widget. You need some street smarts, some book smarts, but it's mostly how much you put into it."
Though he never got to play pro football like his younger brother Justin, who was a defensive end at Penn State and for four teams in the NFL, Kurpeikis is philosophical about the injuries that shortened his playing career.
"I think it was a combination of genetics and football, or just luck of the draw," he said. "My brother played in the NFL for six years and never had surgery. When it comes to sales, it's the closest thing to competition for me. Since we've started the company, I've had my hands in everything. While I'm happy I know the ins and outs of the company, it's definitely the sales part, the hunting and the killing, so to speak, that sort of fills that gap."
Kurpeikis and his wife have three young daughters.
"They're 10, seven and four, so their sports have just started," he said. "They started doing parks and recreation sports last year and now we're starting down that path with school sports, so I'm becoming a sports taxi driver. They have even tried cheerleading, much to my chagrin, though my wife, who played and coached volleyball, always reminds me she was a also a cheerleader. If she gives me a son, I'll be the first to volunteer as a football coach."