All-American Max Wessell, ’16, and Cody Ferraro, ’15, met when they were freshmen at Lehigh.
Wessell was on the wrestling team, and Ferraro played lacrosse.
“During orientation, I saw Cody walking around,” Wessell said. “He was this big tough guy, wearing a tank top. He looked like he was about 40 years old.”
Ferraro also thought Wessell was a “tough guy” at first, so neither athlete wanted to befriend the other.
The pair didn’t become friends until after they realized they were both taking the same difficult course and would need to work together to pass.
As it turned out, Wessell and Ferraro also bonded over similar athletic histories.
Ferraro is from a wrestling family — his dad coached wrestling since he was young — and wrestled throughout his life.
Wessell played lacrosse in middle school and had always liked the sport.
“We had mutual respect for each other once we started talking,” Wessell said. “Despite what we thought were our differences at first, we found out we were actually pretty similar people.”
Not only did the two former Mountain Hawks have similar interests, but they also had a common goal.
By the time he graduated from Lehigh, Ferraro had gone through multiple surgeries for injuries he sustained and had been forced to reroute the path he’d been following. So, he started the job search.
“I kind of wanted a job that matched the skillset and the environment of athletics, not so much playing professionally as it would be a profession that really valued the soft skills that I, and all student athletes, have been training their whole entire lives for,” Ferraro said. “Competitiveness. I wanted a job that valued time-management, the leadership skills that were accrued and all the other things, such as teamwork, goal orientation, ability to overcome adversity.”
After doing a Google search on jobs for student athletes, Ferraro said many jobs came up, but the results were scattered across the internet.
Wessell and Ferraro, who at this point were living together, began to realize that although employers seek student athletes as employees and student athletes are in need of jobs upon graduation, there was no central location for both parties to connect directly.
If something is available, Ferraro said, but there’s no easy way to see it, then it isn’t really available. He said talking to employers in the marketplace only strengthened the need to create this kind of service.
“Meeting with some people, they said that if they had a student athlete with a 3.0 (GPA) or a regular student with a 3.6, that they definitely would lean toward the student athlete with a 3.0 just because of the other stuff that they were responsible for and the other commitments that they had,” Ferraro said. “So, we found out that, OK, there is a need for this.”
Thus, the idea for InXAthlete was born.
The pair said the name was inspired by the fact that many athletes are motivated both intrinsically and extrinsically.
InXAthlete is similar to LinkedIn in that it allows employers and job seekers to connect, but different in the sense that it isn’t a social platform.
The philosophy behind the service was to connect employers who value student athletes’ skillsets and experiences with student athletes who are looking for employment but have limited time to dedicate to the job search because of their busy schedules.
The plan was to create better opportunities in a more efficient, time-sensitive manner to benefit both parties.
“We did make it as simple as possible and as effective as possible to create those connections as quick as possible,” Ferraro said.
Once student athletes complete the quick sign-up process, create a profile — which includes the option to add an intro video to set users apart — and upload their resume, they are able to navigate the site free of charge to find internships or jobs.
Wessell and Ferraro said it was important to them to create a service that facilitates the journey from college to the workforce.
“Freshman year until you’re 80 years old — whenever you exit the workforce — you’re a part of the InXAthlete community,” Wessell said.
Wessell and Ferraro officially launched their website at the end of last year. They said the company’s growth has been impressive, and they’re excited to learn more during the upcoming hiring cycle this spring.
Their goal is to help all NCAA athletes, especially those at their alma mater, find or gain exposure to jobs and internships.
Wrestling associate head coach John Hughes said the pair’s will to succeed by helping others aligns perfectly with their personalities.
Hughes said Wessell has always been a business-minded, goal-oriented individual who is dedicated to the pursuit.
“Everything (Wessell) does, he does with passion, competes well and is driven by excellence,” Hughes said. “That’s why I have no doubt InXAthlete will be very successful.”
Hughes said he’s proud of Wessell, whose tenacity paved the path for his success and the lasting legacy he helped create for Lehigh.
While Hughes didn’t know Ferraro as well as Wessell, everyone he spoke to about Ferraro praised his character, work ethic and commitment.
InXAthlete revolves around the common theme of helping others and giving back to the athletic world that has given so much to both former Lehigh athletes.
“Max (Wessell) and I both wanted to create something that’s going to help people, so that is kind of the core value of InXAthlete,” Ferraro said. “We know that this is bigger than ourselves.”