During his three years as a varsity football player at Columbia University, Justin Nuñez didn't win any titles. His crowning achievement, in fact, was being part of a team that went 5-5, the program's best record since 1995.
On the very same field where he played his college football, Nuñez, who now works in business development and investor relations for a hedge fund, won a different kind of award last year. By outperforming his colleagues in a 10-event athletic competition, Nuñez, 28, was named Wall Street's Best Athlete.
The decathlon, scheduled for July 29 this year, will raise funds for the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Men in financial services from firms across Wall Street are invited to compete in 10 events, including bench press, dips, vertical jump, two track events and a football throw. The competitor who scores the most points in the course of the day takes home the title.
As one might imagine, the type-A personalities on Wall Street don't take this kind of competition lightly.
"I think the world of finance is a competitive world," Nuñez said. "You tend to see a lot of former athletes who were successful on teams or individually tend to thrive in the financial world."
Dave Maloney, the event's executive producer, has employed a system of "charity betting" to tap into that competitive spirit. On the event's website, donors can bet on the performance of any participant in a specific event, either per rep or on a sliding over-under scale.
For example, if a competitor sets a goal of 70 yards in the football throw, the donor's initial contribution increases if the competitor exceeds that goal and decreases if the competitor fails to reach it.
" 'I'm running the marathon; can you give me a hundred bucks?' We think that's boring," Maloney said. "So we said let's flip it . . . My performance actually matters then, and you can either cheer me on or [give me a hard time]. It's up to you."
The betting that Nuñez is most interested in is the head-to-head matchups, which pit competitors against their donors in a specific event. Whichever competitor wins gets credit for the combined donation of the winning and losing contributors. The final head-to-head bet is "Justin Nuñez vs. The Field.''
"That is definite motivation to repeat," Nuñez said. "If there's any way for me to generate more money for the charity, then I'm obviously going to do that, and that just adds fuel to motivate me."
Nuñez said he takes a great deal of pride in being known as the best athlete in his industry, but he is driven more by a personal connection to the cause: His grandmother died from ovarian cancer in 2006.
"Competing in this does hit close to home,'' Nuñez said. "[Winning] is second to raising money and awareness about the cause."
Still, a glance at Nuñez's Twitter page shows just how proud he is of his accomplishment last year. His Twitter handle is @WallStAthlete, his profile picture shows him holding the 70-pound trophy he was awarded and his brief bio reads "Yes -- Wall St.'s best athlete.''
"It's been great being named the best athlete on Wall Street, winning that title," Nuñez said. "It's definitely something I'd like to keep, and I'm working hard to keep it that way."