Krebs the latest former football player to give back to Tech Athletics

By Jimmy Robertson

BLACKSBURG — Even after starting four different companies, losing everything twice and once being relegated to sleeping in abandoned houses, Chris Krebs refuses to let anything tame his entrepreneurial spirit.

“My aversion to risk is very high,” the former Virginia Tech football player said.

Each time he was knocked to the proverbial mat, Krebs got up, wagered on a new idea and bet heavily on himself again. Fortunately, his latest venture is paying off handsomely – both for him and subsequently for Virginia Tech Athletics.

Krebs’ success in the business world recently led to him making a major gift pledge commitment to the athletics department. The financial resources will be used specifically to benefit the football program, and in recognition of that support, the safeties/rovers position meeting room will be named in his honor. In addition, an etched glass rendering of his face will be a part of the Merryman Center’s “Pride and Joy Wall” of former players who give back to the program.

“I put a lot into my studies and in my athletic career while I was at Tech, and I know that the coaches, the fans on the athletic side and the professors on the academic side put a lot into me,” Krebs said. “I had this ingrained sense of self and also a sense that, as Kevin Spacey once said, to send the elevator back down. Now that financially I’m able to give back more, it seems like it should be a mandatory event in my life that I give back and let kids have the same opportunity that I had to go to this type of amazing university.”

Krebs became the latest in a list of former Virginia Tech football players to give back recently to the athletics department – a group that includes Steve Johnson, Jeff King, Andre Davis and others. Also, current defensive coordinator Bud Foster gave back through his foundation this past October.

Krebs, a native of Burke, Virginia who played his high school ball for James W. Robinson High, served as a backup rover and played on certain special teams for the Hokies during his career. He lettered all four seasons from 1998-2001, and he played in 39 games.

Krebs graduated from Virginia Tech with two degrees, earning undergraduate degrees in management science and information technology and also finance. He plans on contributing to the Pamplin College of Business as well.

“I’ve been almost best friends with Tom Tillar [former vice president of alumni relations] this whole time,” Krebs said. “From my senior year, we started a friendship that turned into a mentorship. Now he’s back with the Pamplin College of Business [as the special assistant to the dean], so now I’m going to start giving to them, too. He’s followed me throughout my career from day 1. Not only to respect the university and the degrees that I have, but the fact that he re-engaged back in the Pamplin College of Business, I’m going to re-engage.”

Krebs’ professional career has been a rather interesting one. An internship on Wall Street with Robertson Stephens, an investment bank based in San Francisco, started him in a career in investment services. Once he graduated from Virginia Tech, he worked for John Hancock – albeit briefly.

The entrepreneur in him got the best of him, and he started his own company called Premier Imaging, with cutting-edge graphics technology. Then he lost everything at the age of 24. He started again, getting into importing gourmet Italian espresso out of Stuart, Florida – and lost everything again.

Not sure when or how to make his next move, he happened to touch base with former Tech linebacker and good friend Alex Markogiannakis, who was working for a company called Plan-It Granite and Marble, a Northern Virginia-based company that offered different types of granite stone for kitchens and bathrooms to various builders, designers and remodeling customers. He told Krebs that the company needed sales reps, so Krebs jumped at the opportunity. Within a year, he became the company’s No. 1 sales rep.

A private equity group in Charlotte wound up buying the company, which ultimately became heavily leveraged, but in the summer of 2008, the real estate market plunged, and the group decided to close the doors of Plan-It Granite and Marble.

Krebs decided to bet on himself. He formed an LLC and took his clients with him, servicing them in the way he knew how and keeping overhead costs low to manage the process and receivables – and make money while doing it. In 2010, a group, seeing value in that company, bought him out.

He quickly jumped back into the fray, starting NOVUS Building Services in March of 2011. The company, based in Sterling, Virginia, sells and installs countertops, tile flooring and backsplashes for both new buildings and remodeling projects. The company, with 60 employees, is doing quite well, with projects up and down the East Coast.

“You become an expert in what you do if it’s going to become your base of operations, or you have to make logical decisions based on historical data and then you invest in people and not necessarily just in the product,” Krebs said. “I had to learn some really tough lessons. I’ve been in the checkered line with Vanna White, Wayne Newton, and Pamela Anderson, and then I’ve slept in abandoned houses, too. I’ve done it all, and pretty much everything in between. So it’s given me a base of logic that I use not only in my personal life, but in my business.”

Krebs credits his success to what he learned at Virginia Tech, both in the classroom and from his experiences on the Tech football team. He still remembers things that head coach Frank Beamer, defensive coordinator Bud Foster and position coach Jim Cavanaugh told him and other players. He particularly focuses on the little things with his employees because he knows, as Beamer often said, everything else falls into place if one takes care of the little things.

In essence, that is why he gives back, as a way of thanking not just the athletics department and football staff, but the entire university for everything he learned during his time at Virginia Tech. He felt that calling to pay it forward.

“I think it’s imperative, and it’s a privilege,” Krebs said of former players giving back. “The net effect was that I have people that will corner me for hours and talk about the 1999 season and what it was like. I have people that will break off a conversation … these are guys that are powerful, and I don’t mean just money. I mean, power people that say, ‘I can remember what I was doing when you guys did this.’ Or ‘What was Vick like? What was DeAngelo Hall like? What was Beamer like? What did you learn from him?’ These were executives, powerhouses. We’re talking billionaires here. That’s the net effect that I get to participate in even as a non-starter [on the football team].

“I got to participate in that, and the lessons learned at that level … it’s like getting a doctorate in metaphysical and process and procedure. You learn how to work … You learn how to work through pain. You learn how to work through adversity. You learn how to logically step through solving a problem. You can apply the same lessons to business or to a poor personal marriage or to your children’s growth. It all equates, and in order to ensure that the future athletes, male or female, get that opportunity, I feel like I’m expected and I’m willing, and I feel like it’s a privilege to help contribute to that growth.”

Krebs plans to return to Blacksburg in October to see the Hokies take on Notre Dame – back to the place that got him to where he resides today. Back to the place that he and so many others call “home.”

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