PROVO — No, Adam Pulsipher wasn't a star linebacker at BYU and he won’t be playing in the National Football League. But there’s no doubt that he made the most of the opportunities that football afforded him.
The fact that Pulsipher recently graduated from BYU with an undergraduate degree in finance and a master’s degree in public administration only begins to tell the story of his accomplishments off the field.
“My parents and coaches growing up gave me a great framework for priorities,” Pulsipher said, “but what I learned here at BYU has changed my life.”
When Pulsipher was being recruited by BYU years ago in his hometown of Temecula, California, members of the program’s coaching staff at that time, including head coach Bronco Mendenhall and linebackers coach Paul Tidwell, gave him a copy of a book, “Surround Yourself with Greatness,” written by former Cougar star tight end Chad Lewis, who is an associate athletic director at BYU.
“I read that book,” Pulsipher recalled. “Looking back at the past five years at the school, I’ve been surrounded by greatness. Hopefully, a little bit has rubbed off on me as I leave BYU and go forward.”
After serving a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Rancagua, Chile, Pulsipher enrolled at BYU. During his time in Provo, he provided tutoring at the Boys & Girls Club; volunteered in Tonga as a dental assistant, helping deliver medical supplies for the government hospital; served an internship for a venture capital firm; organized hospital visits for the football team; and was the co-chair of BYU’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
On top of that, Pulsipher was honored as a member of the 2019 NFF Hampshire Honor Society, which consists of college football players who maintain a cumulative 3.2 GPA. He was also a semifinalist for the 2018 William V. Campbell Trophy, awarded annually to the top football scholar-athlete in the nation for excellence in the classroom, in the community and on the field.
At the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl last December, Pulsipher was presented the Humanitarian Award for his community service.
Along the way, Pulsipher married Makenzi Morrison, a former BYU women’s basketball player who graduated a couple of years ago. The couple has an infant daughter named Faith.
Soon, Pulsipher will be going pro — just not in football. In August, he’ll begin work at McKinsey & Company, a management consulting firm in California.
“The Marriott School of Business does a good job of getting you experience and exposure and helping you land a job that’s interesting to you,” Pulsipher said.
Pulsipher is quick to point out that he couldn’t have succeeded without the help and support of his parents, his wife, classmates, teammates, coaches and professors.
“I learned from all of them," he said. "Their background rubbed off on me. You take bits and pieces and apply them to different things. For example, coach Mendenhall was incredible at building culture.”
When he arrived at BYU, Pulsipher didn’t know what he was going to study. “There were a lot of questions about my future,” he said.
While studying finance, Pulsipher became fascinated with venture capital companies, which guided him to an internship that offered a vision of the possibilities.
“That helped me and some classmates build a private equity and venture capital club at BYU, which helps students with roles in investing,” he said. “That’s what took me from zero to 100, not knowing what I wanted to be to seeing all those attributes on the football field with my teammates and seeing it in the classmates and transferring that into a passion outside of football as well."
In December 2015, BYU hired Kalani Sitake as the head coach, which played a role in Pulsipher's development.
“I’ve never met a coach more inspiring to individuals in building confidence and empowering individuals to succeed like Kalani,” Pulsipher said. “That led to some modest success on the field, starting some games and playing roles in big wins for us. A dream come true for me. Those were moments I’ll cherish forever.”
BYU linebackers coach Ed Lamb described Pulsipher as a key contributor on the defense. Pulsipher started two games last season, including the upset at Wisconsin. Lamb enjoys the relationship he’s built with Pulsipher.
“With Adam, it always felt like he was a co-worker,” he said. “He had a lot of things going on with trips and interviews and opportunities. I’m very happy for him and his wife. It was great to see him succeed here and I’m looking forward to what he’ll do in the future.”
Pulsipher became part of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, working with the athletic department administration, which included Lewis and Tidwell, who is currently the BYU Student-Athlete Welfare Coordinator.
“It’s come full circle,” Pulsipher said. “The coaches recruited me and gave me this book Chad wrote and it all happened at BYU. BYU’s built me into who I am today. To get to work with them at the end has been a blast.”
While at BYU, Pulsipher worked extensively with Silicon Slopes, which includes a group of information technology, software development and research companies along the Wasatch Front.
“I studied that as a master’s program, the intersection of public and private sector and community-building and building an entrepreneur eco system,” he said. “For the last year and a half, I was in Silicon Slopes and that turned into my capstone project for my master’s program."
Prior to his senior season, Pulsipher had his sights on an NFL career. He set individual goals for himself, deciding that if he reached those, he would participate in Pro Day.
“I loved playing. Football’s been my dream. I’ve loved every second of it, even the struggles and the hard times,” Pulsipher said. “This year didn’t go quite as well for me individually.”
So Pulsipher opted not to go to Pro Day or pursue a pro football career. “It was a difficult decision,” he said.14 comments on this story
But there was a big consolation prize — a job offer from McKinsey & Company.
“They help some of the largest organizations — big companies, government agencies and nonprofits — solve problems,” Pulsipher said. “We’re excited about this opportunity.”
His football career is over but a new chapter is beginning. And he will carry with him the lessons and experiences he picked up along the way.
“For me, greatness was what my parents taught me, which was faith, service and education,” Pulsipher said. “I found that at BYU.”