Trading jump shots for headshots, former Lipscomb men’s basketball player Brett Staal turned in his jersey to become a full-time model in New York City.
In the spring, Staal, a walk-on who played three years with the Bisons, signed with New York agency Major Model and was given a summer internship opportunity in the “Big Apple."
“I was given the chance to go out there in the summer and actually start working with them—meeting photographers, meeting clients and everything just to kind of get some exposure and get a feel for it to see what kind of reaction they had toward me,” Staal said. “People started to really like me, and they wanted to start shooting with me.”
Staal’s rave reviews landed him a full-time contract, which he said didn’t give him much time to decide whether or not to take it.
“When I was out there the first time in the summer, they told me that people were really liking me and that I’d probably be coming back, but it wasn’t for sure yet,” Staal said. “I told them I was going to go back to school then, and if anything changed—like if it was a guarantee to go out there—I’d be ready.
“I came back and was practicing with the team, and I didn’t really find out that they wanted me to come back modeling full time until about three days before we were going on our trip to the Dominican Republic.”
With such short notice, Staal had to quickly decide to leave school in order to move to New York and pursue modeling.
“I talked to my parents, my brothers, my family, and, I don’t know, it was just one of those things where you can always go back to school if you have to, like if this modeling thing doesn’t work out,” Staal said. “But modeling is a short window. You’ve got to be young when you do it, so I figured I’d give it a chance.
“I didn’t want to mess up this chance. I didn’t want to regret the decision to go to school. So, I just figured I’d take the shot and give it a try.”
But Staal said the decision to quit basketball was the most difficult.
“It was hard because I love basketball,” Staal said. “I haven’t really gotten to play much since I left. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve made because I love basketball, and I wanted to keep playing especially with it being my senior year. But, I just felt like after college basketball is going to be done for me anyways, and I figured this could be a chance for me to make something of myself.”
While Staal only played in 18 games for the Bisons over his three-year career, head coach Scott Sanderson said he was an important member of the team.
“He’s one of the better walk-ons we’ve ever had, just totally a team guy, totally whatever he needs to do,” Sanderson said. “He was a great practice player. He was just a lot of fun to be around.
“He was one of the best teammates on our team. Our players voted him one of the best teammates on the team. He’s very good academically. He was just a very solid walk-on for our basketball team.”
When Staal informed his coaches and teammates of his decision to move to New York, Sanderson said he was upset to lose Staal but supported his decision.
“I was hurt because I just liked him,” Sanderson said. “I knew we were small—we didn’t have as many guys on scholarship this year, and I thought there was a chance he might get to play a little bit. So, I was hurt, but I understood. I knew that was something that he’d been wanting to do and something his parents had been talking to him about for a long time.
“I don’t know enough about it to give him advice on something like that, but I’ve been told there is only a certain window that you can do those types of things. So, when he said I really need to do that, he, obviously, had my blessings to do that. Even though I hated to see him go, if it will benefit him for his future, then I’m all for it.”
Sanderson said he hopes what Staal has learned from basketball will help him with his modeling career.
“If I’m just here to be their basketball coach, then I’m cheating them,” Sanderson said. “We try to help them as much as we can on the floor, off the floor, academically, athletically, religiously, socially—the whole nine yards. I think there’s a lot of discipline stuff that he’s learned from basketball that he will also carry over into his modeling career, and I think he’ll do very well.”
Although Staal’s basketball days are over, he still uses those aspirations to motivate him as he embarks on modeling career.
“I think it’s the future goal, the dream of what you can become with it,” Staal said. “Playing basketball, I always wanted to go to the NBA. I loved it. I loved playing, and I always wanted to be on TV playing…famous…that was like my childhood dream. I knew that wasn’t going to happen, so modeling and acting was like the next best choice.
“I always wanted to be an actor, but I just never thought it would happen. I wanted to be in magazines, but I never thought that was going to happen either. Now that I’ve got the chance, that’s what keeps me going. I can make that dream come true now. Maybe it’s not my first dream of being in the NBA, but it’s a close second.”