LOS ANGELES – With backpack in tow, Patrick McCarthy glides toward bustling Wilshire Drive, hoping to dodge the darting traffic that engulfs the popular sprawling thoroughfare on a weekend afternoon.

McCarthy is no tourist, though. He has an appointment across the street at Starbucks, anxious to meet with visitors from North Carolina looking to get a taste of the West Coast lifestyle and a quick glimpse of one of Hollywood’s many stars.

A former swimming standout for the Seahawks and 2007 graduate of UNCW, McCarthy has covered the gamut from the Bay Area of San Francisco to the laid-back coastal life of Wilmington to the frantic pace of one of the nation’s busiest cities.

Today, he rubs elbows with many of the nation’s most sought-after celebrities as a Senior Press Manager for E! Entertainment. They have included Dolly Parton, Betty White, Sandra Bullock and Vice President Joe Biden. McCarthy’s office resides on the fourth floor of NBC Universal’s complex that also calls Esquire and Bravo home. E! is most well known as the home of the Kardashians, The Soup, #RichKids of Beverly Hills, Total Divas, E! News and many other hit reality shows.

“I came here without a job and just graduation money in my pocket,” McCarthy, now 29, recalled.  “I always wanted to work in entertainment and that was a major factor when applying to schools. When I applied to college, I applied to USC (University of Southern California) and UNCW. When Coach (Dave) Allen said that I could swim at UNCW, it was done.

“Coach reminded me so much of my Dad. I grew up in the Bay Area and when I moved to UNCW, I didn’t know anyone. I had no friends and when I got there, I really relied to him. He acted like my Dad. He’s the best.”

Allen recently retired after an ultra-successful 36-year run that featured 13 Colonial Athletic Association men’s championships and 15 CAA Coach-of-the-Year designations. McCarthy played a key role in that dynasty, earning four rings on championship teams from 2003-07.

McCarthy completed a double major in Film Studies and Communication Studies before heading back west to embark on his entertainment career.

“I applied for a ton of jobs after I graduated,” he said. “Eventually I was hired as an assistant to a publicist at a very small public relations firm that handles individual celebrities. I worked there for three months and my boss gave me some clients from reality TV, including a real estate agent from Million Dollar Listing on Bravo and Whitney Port from MTV’s The Hills.

“I was associated with Whitney and all of a sudden had all these media contacts. It was my ride to the next level. From there, I worked with big actors and actresses on Gossip Girl, Glee, True Blood, and Ugly Betty.

“I also worked with some clients that had reality shows on E! When a positioned opened up on their publicity team, they asked me if I’d be interested in interviewing. I landed the job and love it. It’s great working on a TV series because there’s a premiere date and a finale date with a lot to build up to, rather than just promoting an individual person 24/7. I book talent on talk shows like the Today Show, The View, and late night talk shows. I also work with magazines on photo spreads, and arrange radio and on-line interviews.”

McCarthy actually got his start as a student in Wilmington, where he worked with the crew of the popular television series One Tree Hill.

“I realized that I didn’t want to work on set (of a TV series) because the days can be so long and uneventful. But, it’s a great opportunity having the film studios in Wilmington because everyone comes to L.A. and competes for the same position. In Wilmington, there are more hands-on opportunities. It made me realize what I wanted to do.

“There was a lot of drama on the set and you would see some of that drama wind up in the tabloids. I wondered how did that press coverage get secured and eventually learned that is the job of a publicist. We spin and pitch stories and get media coverage.”

McCarthy is excited about his next endeavor, which will carry him across the pond to experience life in Great Britain.

“We’re filming a scripted show, The Royals, in London at the end of July. I’m flying to London and will be there for two weeks. I’ll be inviting press to the set and inviting them to meet the cast, which will be awesome. The series is going to be really fun, dramatic and sexy. It’s going to be major. ”

The engaging McCarthy has a soft spot in his heart for his alma mater, with memories to last a lifetime. “There are so many memories and I treasure them all. I recall my first day on campus was huge culture shock. It was really only my second time in Wilmington. Coach Allen was so excited for my arrival and all I could think about was how odd I found everyone’s accents.”

McCarthy remains extremely close with many of his teammates – several are planning a trip to Mexico in October for the wedding of Maggie McKaig – and three even followed him to the West Coast after brief visits. McKaig (Manhattan Beach), Sara Beth Schooley (Los Angeles) and Kelly Williams (Santa Monica) are close by.

UNCW Lecturer Jennifer Chin has enlisted McCarthy as a guest speaker via Skype for her classes in Leutze Hall. His contributions earned him the Communication Studies Department’s Distinguished Alumni Award this past spring.

McCarthy, who competed in the Backstroke and Individual Medley events for the Seahawks, rarely has time for swimming these days. He’s busy creating new memories of a dream job where dreams become reality.

“I have so many wild and fun memories; it’s hard to pick just one. I will just say that I am a pretty lucky guy.”