FROM FIELD TO FREEDOM: NEW BRUNSWICK STAR’S ROAD TO COLLEGE

By Manya Goldstein

Credit: New Brunswick Public Schools

New Brunswick, N.J. – “When I was younger, I never had anything,” said New Brunswick High School senior German Pimentel. The 6-foot-5-inch football star spoke courteously, his deep voice radiating an authenticity that is hard to find these days. The Dominican Republic native arrived in New Brunswick when he was just 3 years old. Growing up in poverty, he knows what it’s like to make the hard choice between new clothing and a full stomach. Now, 15 years later, Pimentel is headed off to Monmouth University to play Division I football—the first member of his family to go to college. “That’s why I feel blessed,” he said.

On Feb. 1, Pimentel signed his national letter of intent to play for the Long Branch university on a full athletic scholarship. During his time at New Brunswick High School, Pimentel starred as both wide receiver and outside linebacker, helping his team reach the playoffs two years in a row. However, Pimentel’s real story begins off the football field.

Pimentel was born in the Dominican Republic, and most of his family (including his father) still lives on the island. He moved to the United States as a toddler and has lived with his aunt in the same New Brunswick apartment ever since.

“I stayed with my aunt because she could take better care of me,” said Pimentel. “She raised me well, she fed me, she gave me clothes, food—everything I have today.”

However, the family often faced difficult times. Pimentel said they constantly struggled to afford basic necessities.

“Most people don’t know I’ve grown up in poverty,” he said. “We used to starve a little just to save up to buy clothes for the next month or so.”

Pimentel knew he had to find a way to get to college, and so he devised a solution— athletics.

“The reason I played sports was because I wanted to find a way to get to college without having my family pay anything because I knew they couldn’t.”

And he succeeded. Monmouth was always at the top of Pimentel’s list because of its football program and, more importantly, its close proximity to home. The university’s recruitment simultaneously opened the door to a Division I football career and a higher-level education. But Pimentel felt humbled by the offer for another reason: it was his only one.

“I’m going to prove them right,” Pimentel said. “They gave me a chance, and I’m going to show them that they made the right choice.”

Apart from his determination, Pimentel described other ways his New Brunswick upbringing influenced his character.

“My story isn’t the best,” he said. “I’ve learned to be humble and not to think that I’m the best at anything.”

Teammates and coaches alike regularly observe these traits in the football star, who also played basketball, baseball and track during his time at New Brunswick High.

“He plays like he can be anybody,” said senior Wenzel Dunlap, a basketball teammate. “Even when we’re down, it doesn’t matter … I’ve never seen German give up.”

Dunlap said that Pimentel has become a leader for the rest of the team.

“Even I listen to him, and that’s my sport!” he remarked with a laugh.

Head football coach Donald Sofilkanich also attested to Pimentel’s work ethic.

“The young man is a very hard worker and very focused individual,” said Sofilkanich, who has worked with Pimentel for three years. “He knows how to accomplish his goals.”

Pimentel isn’t the first New Brunswick High football star to advance to the Division I level. Alumnus Maurice Ffrench—whom Pimentel considers a “big brother”—is currently a wide receiver for the University of Pittsburgh. Pimentel said playing with Ffrench has been the highlight of his football career thus far.

Pimentel eagerly awaits the end of the summer when he will embark to Monmouth University.

“I can’t wait to get down to campus and start going to work,” he said. “I’m definitely excited to work to get a spot on the field.”

Off the field, Pimentel intends to study criminal justice and admits he is very excited to earn his degree. As for his post-college plans? He couldn’t imagine living anywhere else but New Brunswick.

“It’s an amazing town honestly,” he said. “It’s small but diverse,”

Pimentel’s sights are naturally set on the NFL but, just in case that doesn’t pan out, he has other thoughts in mind.

“I’ll be a local detective or so living stably … always giving back to my community, always giving back to my family,” Pimentel said.

Most importantly, he wants to be a role model to show the world that if he can go to college, anyone can.

“I just want to be an example to my little cousins because I know no one in my family went to college,” Pimentel said. “I want to lead by example.”

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