Leigh Steinberg is one of the most revered names in the sports agency business. His ability to build relationships with players like Steve Young, Troy Aikman and others has made him a legend in the world of sports. Throughout his 41-year career Leigh has fought through many tough times and has continued to persevere with honesty, integrity and trust. I had the privilege to catch Leigh for a few minutes and hear the inside story on his experience representing some of the world’s greatest athletes. Here’s how it went:
Jay: As a legendary NFL agent, you’ve been guiding hundreds of NFL players, helping them make tough decisions and giving them direction to maximize their opportunities. What are some of the key points you focus on?
Leigh: One of the most important things we establish is a high set of values. We encourage them to retrace their roots and focus on family values, community and many programs that will help them succeed for the long term. You have to understand Jay, many of these players will be completely out of sports by their late 20’s and so it’s our job to help them carve out a path that will extend well past their playing days.
Jay: What are some of the initiatives that you encourage players to make?
Leigh: We try and help players focus and develop many of their non-athletic skills which will help them find success outside of sports. One example is creating opportunities to get involved in charities, which has so many positive and long term effects for players. Our approach has been to look in their pro city and begin to network and find causes they can support, which align well with the causes that are near and dear to them. Players have tremendous power during their careers to develop their network and if they stay focused on it from the beginning it’ll prove to be extremely useful to them in the future. We’ve had the good fortune to work with players like Troy Aikman, Brent Jones, Steve Young and others who have capitalized on developing skills outside of sports which has helped them succeed in many other areas post their careers.
Jay: What are some of the other skills players develop by playing professional sports that they can use to their advantage in other areas past their careers?
Leigh: There’s no question about the number of intangibles that players acquire by playing at such a high level. The amount of self discipline, courage under pressure, team work that requires them to trust others and resiliency just to name a few, are character traits that go a long way. The truth is, there’s no reason for players to wait until they retire to start utilizing these traits in other areas. In fact, we encourage our players to test their skills during the off season in areas they feel they can excel in. When I worked with Troy Aikman I encouraged him to do the broadcast for NFL Europe while he was playing. Because of that experience his transition to Fox NFL went extremely well.
Jay: With social media putting players in the spot light practically every second of the day, what’s your take on players getting involved with social media?
Leigh: The biggest advantage players have with social media is the ability to brand themselves. It requires great care because their communications aren’t private anymore, but if they handle it with intelligence and the right sense of discipline they’ll give themselves an opportunity that will pay dividends for the rest of their lives. We see players being asked all the time to use their social media channels to help promote certain products. If the brand aligns well with the player and the players are rewarded because of their involvement, we’re all for it. With the obsession fans have with sports and football in particular, players can leverage their reach on social media to act as role models and build their brand for the future.
Leigh was born and raised in Los Angeles by his parents, a teacher and librarian. He obtained both his undergraduate and law degree from Cal where he was student body president during each tenure. Leigh has represented many of the most successful athletes and coaches in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, boxing, golf, etc., including the number one overall pick in the NFL draft for an unprecedented eight times in conjunction with over 60 first round picks. Furthermore, Leigh has represented other notable athletes such as Oscar De La Hoya and Lennox Lewis, as well as multiple Olympians and professional teams. With an unrivaled history of record-setting contracts, Leigh has secured over $3 billion for his 300+ pro athlete clients, and directed more than $750 million to various charities around the world.