An athletic Ivy League grad, Kip Pardue — who scored as a hunky high-school quarterback in last year's Remember the Titans — now hits the racing circuit in Sylvester Stallone's Driven (opening Friday). While his sports prowess served him well on the film, the actor never realized what an iron gut it takes to be a racecar driver.

"Playing football my whole life," he says, "[I know] what it's like to step out on the field with 30,000 people there... what it's like to hit someone as hard as you can. [But] I have no idea what it's like to go to work every day and have the risk of dying — these guys could die like that!"

Though he's totally at home on movie sets these days, Pardue — who majored in economics at Yale — initially planned for a career on Wall Street. Of course, everything changed once he caught the acting bug. "I don't know if there is a word big enough to acknowledge [what's happened]," he chuckles. "It doesn't seem real. It doesn't seem like anyone could have the story that I've had, so I just kind of try not to think about it too much and hope it doesn't go away."

Though Pardue jokingly credits his publicist with keeping him grounded, his friends take care of that task pretty well. He says a buddy just recently called to let him know he'd finally gotten around to seeing Titans. And when Pardue invited his two best friends to the Disney football flick's Hollywood premiere? "Neither of them came," he laughs.