Jim Dunn has a knack for hiring stars-to-be as interns at the outsourced chief investment officer firm he leads, Verger Capital Management.
On Sunday, former intern John Wolford played his first National Football League start as quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams — in a game that clinched the team’s spot in the playoffs, no less — after teammate Jared Goff had to undergo thumb surgery in late December. The Rams beat the Arizona Cardinals.
But Wolford isn’t the only ex-Verger intern to make a debut this week. On Monday, Matt James will appear as the first-ever Black Bachelor on the ABC series “The Bachelor.”
The two are among the Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based firm’s 98 former interns, 25 percent of whom — including both James and Wolford — were college athletes, said Dunn, Verger’s chief executive officer and chief investment officer, in a phone interview Monday.
Dunn, who played soccer for Villanova University, said it’s difficult for student athletes to fit internships in with classes and workouts. He structured Verger’s program to work around their schedules.
“They’re all gifted in their sport, but they’ve also got great teamwork skills,” Dunn said. “They’re used to working hard and having failures, and they’re great leaders. That was good for our team.”
Wolford, who played football for Wake Forest University, was a part of Verger’s summer 2017 intern class, his LinkedIn profile shows. According to Dunn, Wolford interned for the firm at the same time as Cam Serigne, who also played football for Wake Forest, based in Winston-Salem.
Serigne was recruited by the Carolina Panthers but was cut from the final roster, the NFL website shows. Dunn said Serigne was injured. He added that Wolford wasn’t expected to end up in the NFL.
Although Dunn roots for the Philadelphia Eagles, the Verger CEO said he has a soft spot for the Rams, especially because he spent five years living in Santa Monica, California, as CIO for the money management arm of Wilshire Associates. He plans to follow both teams this year.
James, who also played college football at Wake Forest, was doubting his ability to go pro when he joined Verger’s internship program, according to Dunn. James was a part of Verger’s fall 2014 intern class, and most recently worked as an associate at CBRE Group, a real estate services and investment firm, his LinkedIn profile shows.
“We saw Matt when he was trying to figure it out,” Dunn said of James’ time as an intern. “We got to see him grow more confident.”
Dunn admitted that he has never watched “The Bachelor,” but said that his nieces now think he’s “the coolest uncle ever” after he showed them a photo of himself and James.
“What you’ll see from Matt is that he’s pretty humble,” Dunn said of his expectations for James’s Bachelor season. “I don’t think you’ll see a lot of arrogance. He’s definitely going to wear his heart on his sleeve.”
Verger tries to have four interns per semester: one athlete, one minority student, one non-business student, and one business student, Dunn said. Of the 98 interns, 40 percent have been women, and 40 percent were people of color.
He noted that it is expensive to intern in New York and that having a more local opportunity has been helpful for students.
“I was a first-generation college student,” Dunn said. “I didn’t have anybody who could help me with an internship in New York City.”
Neither ABC Entertainment nor the LA Rams responded to emails seeking comment.