Interview With A New Agent: Jerry Briffa of Star Pass Sports
The following interview was conducted by Matthew Hochberg. The subject of the interview was Jerry Briffa of Star Pass Sports. Briffa is a new entrant in the world of representing athletes and was kind enough to share his experiences to date.
Jerry Briffa: It’s a long time dream of mine. I thought about being a sports agent when I started law school in 1983. As someone who played a lot of competitive sports, sports are a great passion of mine. However, my career took a different path and I practiced personal injury law for over 15 years mostly in New York City.
Matthew Hochberg: What impact did attending Fordham University have on you to become a sports agent?
Jerry Briffa: Fordham has a great sports tradition from back in the day. The Seven Blocks of Granite, Vince Lombardi and the Lombardi Center. It’s a lot of great sports tradition. You can’t help but feel it when you attend.
Matthew Hochberg: Who was your first client, and how did you recruit him/her?
Jerry Briffa: We’ve only just begun our firm and I’m proud to say we have our first deal. It is kind of unorthodox though. Our client’s name is Tom Patire, and he is the leading protection/security expert in our country. He is also a Grandmaster in martial arts. We just negotiated in principle for him to be the national spokesperson for geneMe LLC., a Lexington, KY company that is on the cutting edge of nutrition. geneMe makes genetically customized vitamins/supplements. Genetics is where nutrition and medicine is heading and they are ahead of the curve and the leader in this field. The same team that brought Tempurpedic to prominence is behind this company. We’re really excited about being in on the ground floor not only for the deal but because it permits me to bring Tom, a longtime dear friend of mine and fitness expert together with a first class product and first class people.
Matthew Hochberg: How did you handle your first contract negotiation?
Jerry Briffa: When I was approached by geneMe they were seeking to enter the fitness market and to market to professional athletes. After learning about their product I knew Tom Patire would be a perfect fit. We are very happy with the arrangement and with our partners in this deal. It was such a pleasure dealing with this company because there was so much good faith, their product is awesome and they are top notch individuals. It’s a win-win.
Matthew Hochberg: What is the most important aspect in being a sports agent?
Jerry Briffa: Protecting and providing for our clients. Not only at the time of contract but forever. We want to make sure that the money they earn is managed properly so it carries them for the rest of their lives. We are not only concerned about getting the contract they deserve, but in providing the advice and expertise and services that will secure them and their families for the rest of their lives. In that regard we have assembled a Hall of Fame team. Dermontti Dawson, former Steeler great and a member of this year’s Hall of Fame Class, Steve Ortmayer, longtime right hand man to the great Al Davis in Oakland, General Manger of the Chargers as well as Special teams coach in the NFL and at the University of Kentucky, Keith Madison, former University of Kentucky Baseball Coach and a member of 2 Halls of Fame and Dan Burch, former Professional Tennis Player and University of Kentucky standout. In addition, we have aligned our company with a first rate financial team. Hurricane Financial here in Lexington and Rick Moglia, CPA in NY are second to none. Hurricane’s products are unique and innovative and keep our clients out of the turbulent markets and Rick is the most creative and trustworthy accountant I’ve ever come across. I encourage all of your readers to check out our website at starpasssports.com or feel free to call me at 859-229-6769 and I’ll be happy to chat.
Matthew Hochberg: Out of all your professions, whether you are acting as a trial attorney, a public speaker, a real estate investor or a body guard, how does being a sports agent stand out? How have those other professions helped you prosper in the sports agent business?
Jerry Briffa: I’ve been interested in sports my whole life. Sports have been my passion ever since I was a little kid in New York. Being a body guard, I met many martial artists, Navy Seals, Green Berets and athletes including Tom Patire. It is a thrilling profession filled with exciting and interesting people. Being an attorney provides me with the tools to understand the law so I can better help young athletes protect and secure their futures. As a public speaker, I spoke mostly to inner city at risk kids. I tried to help them get a foot up in life and let them know the proper way to conduct themselves when seeking employment. I guess I was a Life Coach before that term became popular. I’m proud to say I worked with the Congress of Racial Equality in NY. CORE has a program called Project Independence to help mostly young mom’s get back on their feet and enter the job market. It is led by an incredible lady, Diane Addison who has become a dear friend. So to me this is about life coaching as well as being an agent. Lastly, my business skills as a real estate investor and as an attorney (I built one of the largest and most successful sole practices in NY) give me the experience to know what it takes to succeed in life and compete in the market. We are going to be a multi-dimensional agency. Our goal is not only to secure our clients the most lucrative deals possible but make sure they know how to conduct themselves on and off the field and take care of themselves and their families for a lifetime.
Matthew Hochberg: What are your future goals in life?
Jerry Briffa: To make this agency a success, to raise my daughter to be a strong, happy independent woman and have a happy marriage (not necessarily in that order!). On the agency front, right now we are evaluating players who will be eligible for next year’s NFL draft. Dermontti Dawson and Steve Ortmayer have great strength in evaluating young talent. As I mentioned, Dermontti was just voted into the NFL Hall of Fame and Steve negotiated about 1000 contracts as an NFL team executive and GM. Incredible talent. This week we are sitting for the exam to become certified NFL Contract advisors (agents). Hopefully if we pass we should be certified in the next month or so. Given that Dermontti and Steve are NFL guys, we will focus on primarily on the NFL. However, we also have Keith Madison, former Head Coach of the University of Kentucky Baseball Program and inductee into the American Baseball Association Hall of Fame as well as the University of Kentucky Hall of Fame on our team. Keith is our MLB advisor and the nicest man I’ve ever known so we will be active in MLB as well. We are also looking at the NHL and NBA. We couldn’t possibly rule out the NBA, being located here in Kentucky, the most successful college program in history. We want to have a good core of clients, people we enjoy working with and give personal attention to everyone. When I had my law practice in New York, I made it a point to keep in touch with all 2000 of my clients all the time. Not only is it the right thing to do but it sets us apart..
Matthew Hochberg: What does it mean to you to be part of the Martial Arts Hall of Fame?
Jerry Briffa: I was inducted as Attorney of the Year in 2001 by The Eastern USA International Martial Arts Association Inc. I was presented by my friend and now client, Tom Patire, and it’s a great honor. I’m humbled every time I look at the award which hangs in my office.
Matthew Hochberg: What has been your most embarrassing moment as a sports agent?
Jerry Briffa: We’re just getting started right now, so I haven’t really had any embarrassing moments yet. Talk to me in a year, I’m sure I will have plenty to share with you!
Matthew Hochberg: What advice do you have for people looking to break into the industry?
Jerry Briffa: Perseverance. Be persistent. When I was a law student in 1983 I was a NY Giants fan (still am) and I was watching them play the Eagles. Phil Simms broke his thumb passing a ball by hitting his thumb on an Eagle player’s helmet. I heard he was at a hospital in New Jersey so I called the hospital and asked for Phil Simms’ room. They put me through. I was astonished. He answered the phone by saying Mario’s Pizzera. I said no, I’m calling for Phil Simms. He said he was just messing with me and told me that he was Phil Simms but that his doctor was in the room and asked me to call back in ten minutes. I called him in ten minutes and he said I’m really not putting you off but my wife and kids are here now and asked me to call back in a half an hour. My father told me he was just being nice and didn’t want to speak with me, but I felt I had nothing to lose so I called back anyway. To my amazement and delight we ended up speaking for around a half an hour. He asked what he could do for me. He was the nicest and most courteous gentleman one could have the pleasure of speaking with. He gave me his agent’s name and number and sent me an autographed picture. Unfortunately his agent didn’t have any work for me or anything like that, but I still remember his kindness. I also think he’s the most underrated QB in the history of football. I guess you can also say that it could have been my most embarrassing moment if Phil hadn’t been the gentleman he turned out to be.
Matthew Hochberg: Does your company, Star Pass Sports offer internships for those looking to break into the industry?
Jerry Briffa: Absolutely. As a matter of fact, we hired a University of Kentucky law student – Tucker Willis. He has an interest in being a sports lawyer. He is an exceptional, very bright young man. He has been a great asset. I believe whole-heartedly in giving people a helping hand when they are starting out.
Matthew Hochberg: On behalf of SportsAgentBlog.com, I would like to thank Mr. Briffa for taking the time to share his knowledge and personal experiences with us. You can check out his company’s website at starpasssports.com.