Prince-Wright finds new career after soccer


By Mark Powell / Staff Writer

Joe Prince-Wright is one of Pitt’s most well-known soccer alumni. Earning 31 caps in head coach Joe Luxbacher’s midfield, he graduated in 2011 in four years with a degree in English writing and communications. While at Pitt, he also earned experience in his field, interning at Root Sports, ESPN Radio Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

After graduation, Prince-Wright refused to give up on either of his careers. He spent several years doing freelance work for the MLS, The Guardian and NBC Sports while also playing professional soccer in the United Kingdom.

Shortly after his professional contract expired for Arbroath F.C. in Scotland, Prince-Wright began looking at other career options in journalism. Eventually, he accepted his current job as lead editor and writer for NBC Sports Pro Soccer Talk.

Last week, Prince-Wright spoke to The Pitt News over the phone regarding his college life at Pitt, life as a professional soccer player and his experience covering one of the largest growing markets in professional sports.

The Pitt News: Let’s start at the beginning. Tell me about your recruitment to Pitt. How did that happen?

Joe Prince-Wright: We had a tryout game. It was really cold, in December. There were some scouts from Pitt there. I played pretty well and set up an official visit [to Pitt]. I went to the Pete for basketball, had a great look around, my teammates were great. I loved it. In seven or eight months, I went from not knowing anything about Pittsburgh to playing soccer. Honestly, I’m not just saying this because you work for The Pitt News, but those were four wonderful years of my life.

TPN: Were there any specific role models or programs at Pitt that helped you reach the level you’re at in your career now?

JPW: From an athletic standpoint, Coach Luxbacher was a huge advocate of working as hard as you can … and making sure you are a good athlete and a good person, too. From an academic standpoint, when I came over, it took a while to get used to the American schooling system, so the people up at the Pete that tutor the athletes were a big help. I did internships whenever I could. It’d be pretty rough because I’d practice 6-10 in the morning, go to class, and then I’d do the internship in the evening. It was demanding, but I knew that being in Pittsburgh, it’s a great sports writing town, and it would benefit me in the long run.

TPN: After you graduated, you ended up playing at Arbroath F.C. in Scotland. How did they find you here at Pitt? And what was your experience like as a professional soccer player?

JPW: After I graduated, I had a year’s working visa, so I actually came back to the U.S. and worked in Manhattan for Major League Soccer for a year in their editorial department. I played for two different teams a week … just keeping myself fit, keeping myself ready. After 10 months I got in touch with the Arbroath manager through mutual friends and they offered me a contract. I left Manhattan to live and play in Edinburgh, and that was a great experience. I got to play against teams like Celtic … away at Celtic Park in a 60,000-person stadium. It was a wonderful experience and something I’ve always wanted to do since I was young. I’m positive playing at Pitt helped me achieve that goal of getting a professional contract.

TPN: So why’d you make the jump from your playing career to NBC Sports Pro Soccer Talk?

JPW: When I was playing in Scotland, I was still writing on the side. I did a whole bunch of freelance work. This opportunity came up … and I was offered the job. At that time, my playing career was kind of limbo [because my contract expired]. I actually got an offer for a new contract the second day after I was offered this job at NBC. In the long term, this seemed like the best decision. I believed in my career and talents as a player, but I didn’t really think I was going to get much further in the soccer world. Crazy things can happen, you can get spotted … but I think I was at my peak. It’s been a year and a bit in my job now, and I’ve loved every single second of it.

TPN: As a journalist, players will tell you all the time that you see the game differently when you’re playing on the pitch. Have you noticed that difference since you made the switch?

JPW: I think when you’re playing, you try and block out a lot of the media stuff. I think the big thing that I’ve seen is the tactical acumen and the tactical knowledge [of journalists] is second to none. Just working out how teams and players play and the stats that go along with it … I think a lot of players would be surprised. I like to think that my opinion of the game hasn’t changed too much [since becoming a journalist]. Hopefully I can explain things to people better and continue to give them a good insight on what happens on the pitch.

TPN: How do you see the game growing in the U.S. and how does the soccer culture compare to that of the U.K.?

JPW: It’s incredible. In 2007, when I came to Pitt, David Beckham had just started playing for the LA Galaxy … and now there are 21, 22, 23 teams. The U.S. National Team, I’ve never seen a country get so excited about a World Cup campaign. I think we’re really on the cusp of something here. It’s growing even faster than any soccer analyst or fan in the U.S. could have ever hoped. It’s a pleasure to be involved in, and I hope we’ll see it continue to grow for many years to come.