While attending Oklahoma University as a law student in 1997, the now 34-year old Kelli Masters (left) entered the Miss Oklahoma pageant and won, allowing her to advance to the Miss America competition. A former baton-twirling champion (she was a member of the 1990 and 1993 U.S. Twirling Teams) while an undergraduate along with her twin sister Kim, Kelli was used to leading the university’s marching band onto the field on Saturday game days, but she wasn’t used to being the only one in the spotlight. She didn’t win Miss America, but the $70,000 she did earn in scholarship money helped her with tuition. And the experience of composing herself through all the hoopla and pageantry was even more valuable. “I used to be a quiet law student who could barely speak in front of people. Give me a baton and I was fine. (Before I competed in pageants) I couldn’t get in front of a jury, or a negotiation room, and articulate myself the way I needed to articulate myself.”
Masters graduated with honors from OU Law School in 1999, was admitted to the Oklahoma bar in 2000, and is now in her 10th year as a member of the law firm of Fellers, Snider, Blankenship, Bailey & Tippens in downtown Oklahoma City, where she works primarily as an NFLPA certified agent. She stays close to the football field, not with a baton, but rather with a Blackberry and the same relentless attitude that got her this far in the first place. Having worked the last three NFL combines, she was absent from this year’s April draft, though her client listed this year included defensive back Martel Van Zant and fullback Julius Crosslin of Oklahoma State, linebacker/fullback Ian Pleasant of Oklahoma, offensive tackle Walter Boyd of Tulsa, punter Chris MacDonald of Texas State, safety Brandon Logan of Grambling and wide receiver Jeremy Trimble of Army. The prevailing feeling was that these players would likely go undrafted, and would then have to rely on those negotiating skills of Masters’ and subsequent free-agent deals that she would orchestrate with various GM’s.
That suits Masters just fine, who credits her success thus far in the traditionally male-dominated industry to networking and unassuming, Oklahoma charm. Listening to various league scouts, it seems these relaxed methods make dealing with Masters to be an inviting change of pace from the typical ‘shark’ like agents. “[Kelli’s] very good at finding out if her client fits a team’s personnel,” according to Tennessee Titans scouting coordinator Blake Beddingfield. “She’s really easy to talk to. She’s not overbearing. If you give Kelli a call, you might get a voice mail, but you’re going to get a call back in five minutes. That’s rare in this business.”
Masters has come a long way, but is the first to admit that she has even further to go. A rolodex that started out with just two names now has hundreds. And she has already experienced a taste of the glamorous perks that the industry has to offer: a Maxim party at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Resort during last year’s Super Bowl in Glendale, AZ, and being the guest of Kevin Plank, CEO of Under Armour, during this year’s ESPY’s. But Masters has her eye on bigger things. She lost out on the Adrian Peterson ‘sweepstakes’ two years ago, and states matter of factly that she is already in year three of the five years she gave herself to ‘make it in the business.’ Beddingfield, for one, has confidence in her. “She’s doing it the hard way because she’s dealing with clients on the fringe, but I’m confident she’s going to get a big-name client.”