Sports Agent Interview:
with Matthew Vuckovich
Angelo Wright is a 45-year-old sports agent and is the founder of SportsWest Football (www.sportswestfootball.com). Mr. Wright has been representing athletes full time for 16 years. His vision was to found a sports representation firm that did not just handle contracts but also a firm that strived to develop its clients on and off the field. SportsWest Football is now in its tenth year of operation and continues to provide their clients with exceptional personal attention. I was able to chat with Mr. Wright about his experiences and the sports agent industry.
Matthew: How did you get started in this industry?
Angelo Wright: I was friends with San Francisco 49er players Tim McKyer and Don Griffin. Both players had come into the league relatively unknown from two small colleges (UT-Arlington/McKyer) and (Albany St./Griffin). Both players had phenomenal individual seasons in 1989, and both were overshadowed by the aura of Ronnie Lott. So I came up with a nickname for the duo: The Cover Brothers. Regionally the nickname caught on and we made T-shirts that the players wore on the plane to the Super Bowl in Miami. The players garnered national attention and we sold a ton of shirts. Thereafter, several players on the World Champion 49ers (including: Charles Haley, Roger Craig, and Jerry Rice) told Tim and Don that they were impressed by the exposure that they had gained and wanted me to do some marketing work for them.
Matthew: Did you attend law school or grad school? If so, which law school or grad school?
Angelo Wright: I attended business school at Monterey Institute of International Studies (www.miis.edu).
Matthew: Who was your first client (year, sport), and how did you recruit him?
Angelo Wright: His name was Clyde Glover and he was a football player. I had met him on the street in 1991 and we just started talking and then we went from there.
Matthew: How did you handle your first contract negotiation?
Angelo Wright: I called NFL clubs that I felt needed defensive line help. I got two bites: Buffalo and Oakland. Technically, I violated an unwritten rule since I baited and switched on the clubs. I had an agreement with Oakland, but Buffalo offered me $10,000 extra to sign the player, so I reneged on the verbal and signed with Buffalo. George Karras of Oakland was hot, but we laugh about it now.
Matthew: What is the most important aspect of being a sports agent?
Angelo Wright: Passion; with having the ability to motivate your clients to see the big picture synergistically so that they have a realistic view on the business. Salary Caps, maximizing their ability, and managing their lives are huge aspects in this business.
Matthew: At what age do you feel an agent will hit his prime/glory years? Why?
Angelo Wright: It definitely varies. Your business model will dictate your shelf life as an attractive option for players. Your ability to communicate with young people is KEY. Further, managing the travel and phone recruiting will become your biggest challenges as you age.
Matthew: What is your opinion of larger agencies with less attention to their clients compared to smaller agencies who counsel more with their clients?
Angelo Wright: Large agencies (Octagon, CAA) aren’t really large agencies. They are adjunct boutiques that market a veil of largesse. Succinctly, these firms are boutiques that brand themselves as the large agency that finances them. Moreover, the revenues generated by the team sports divisions of the primary firm are miniscule in scope compared to the ROIs of the breadwinning divisions of the firm. IMG and SFX got out of football because they flat out weren’t making money. Too many marketing guarantees, and reduced fees (securing clients) creating an environment of diminishing rates of return. The same is occurring with the aforementioned now, as the primary agents at those firms cannibalizing each other due to the high revenue quotas imposed on them by the parent companies. Therefore, quality representation service cannot be maintained over the long haul since the large firm’s success is based on quarterly profitability. Smaller agencies if run correctly are more hands-on and reactive to client needs. Personal attention leads to the personal growth of your clients.
Matthew: Where do you see the athlete representation industry going in 10 years?
Angelo Wright: I see the business evolving into an oligopoly, since the costs of doing business have intensified with training fees, fee reduction, high client failure to pay fees rates, and overall thinner profit margins. There is a real threat that the late round draft pick and free-agent player may have a hard time finding quality representation as more and more quality agents back away from incurring the upfront costs required to represent the late round player. Eventually, rookies will be paid a flat rate with incentives for performance. That day is coming soon.
Matthew: Take our readers through a typical day in your life.
Angelo Wright: 7AM-11:00- Reading the dailies via the internet and print, internet reports on yesterday’s activities, For your eyes only and others while making east-coast phone calls. 11:00-3:00- Meetings, West-Coast phone calls, research, and recruiting. I also handle player issues both football and business. 4:00- Daily chats with marketing staff, recruiters, accountants, and attorneys. Any player issues, projects, marketing endeavors. 4:00-9:00-Recruiting via phone and also client calls.
Matthew: What advice do you have for people looking to break into the industry?
Angelo Wright: Become an expert at one particular sport. Next, build a team of qualified individuals who can get you answers if you don’t have them. Create your brand, from your attire, to your style of conducting business. Meet people in the sports industry and FIND A MENTOR!
Matthew: Does your agency provide internships for people looking to break
into the industry?
Angelo Wright: Yes. Typically I utilize 1 to 2 interns each year normally in the fall, but sometimes I also have interns in the summer.
Matthew: If you could do one thing to renovate the Sports Agent industry,
what would it be and how would you go about accomplishing that goal?
Angelo Wright: Eradicate the runners. Make agents accountable for the misinformation that they often foment to prospective clients.
Matthew: What drives you to represent professional football players?
Angelo Wright: Finding and developing new talent along with the satisfaction of helping individuals rise from nothing to successful lives.
Matthew: How are you able to get un-drafted NFL players into NFL camps?
Angelo Wright: Developing a penchant for finding unknown talent (BJ Sams, Pat Williams, Ferric Collons, Mike Jennings, Donnie Spragan, Jermaine Haley to name a few) helps you form a reputation for knowing how to find talent. Scouts then trust your opinion and evaluative abilities. Understanding what player a team seeks talent-wise to fit their system and style of play makes you a respected talent agent. You will gain credibility with understanding how to work a player out and how to improve players’ skills (feet, hips, and explosion). All of the football senses help you sell players to teams.
Matthew: I see that you have 2 active NFL clients who did not play a down of college football. What obstacles did you have to overcome in order to get these clients in the mix of the NFL?
Angelo Wright: Getting the players to understand how to project themselves physically and mentally to play at the next level. Having trainers who have a football background, and who can TEACH a player. As an agent knowing where you can place the player team-wise. Lastly, having teams recognize that you as an agent can find players who they have missed.
Matthew: What differs from representing veteran clients compared to rookie clients?
Angelo Wright: The maturity of the player. Rookies often take a longer time to believe what you’re telling them. Veterans rely on your experience.
Matthew: Your management concept is Create the Plan, Then Work the Plan. Can you explain this theory and tell our readers what you are trying to convey in your motto?
Angelo Wright: My message is that if you have the right information to assist your client in forming a plan to attract the attention of NFL clubs, then upon executing the plan your objectives will be reached. Next, you create a plan for both career and life success, then execute that plan.
Matthew: On behalf of SportsAgentBlog.com and all of our readers, I would like to thank Angelo Wright for sharing his knowledge and experiences with us today. You can check his website out at Sportswestfootball.com. Till next time, be safe and act ethically in the business that you love.