Leigh Steinberg On His Start As An Agent, Player Safety And His Future

Nationally syndicated radio show host Brian Berger recently had Leigh Steinberg on his Sports Business Radio program.  They discussed Steinberg’s re-launch of his agency, player safety issues in the NFL and Steinberg’s well documented battle against bankruptcy and alcoholism.

Berger was able to get Steinberg to spend the time to speak in a wide ranging, in depth interview.  Steinberg began the interview explaining how he broke into the business of representing professional athletes.  The story has been told many times, where Steinberg was a dorm counselor who was asked to be the agent of one of the students in his dorm.  That player, Steve Bartkowski, ended up being the first overall pick.  Bartkowski’s contract covered 4 playing seasons for a total of $600,000.  The signing bonus was $250,000.  The first year salary was $40,000.  At the time, people were going wild about the contract because it was more than what anybody was receiving.  Steinberg was 25 years old; Bartkowski was 21.

Steinberg shifted to player health and safety, and called the undiagnosed health epidemic in the NFL a ticking time bomb.  In the 1990s, when Steinberg was representing half the league’s quarterbacks, he would go to doctors with his players and he was frustrated that there were no answers as to how many concussions were too many.  He noted that the problems are exacerbated at the high school level.  He is now working on the formulation of a new sports drink that will be a healing substance for these types of issues.  Steinberg acknowledges that athletes are taught to ignore pain and not to lose their place in line since Pop Warner days.  “The older players were not only not informed, they were misinformed.”

What should we expect from Steinberg in the future?  He says that he is about to get funded for a new firm that will provide representation for athletes in a number of sports and will use that to power a strong marketing arm.  He also wants to help with consulting and help procure funding for a variety of companies including those involved with creating apps, movies, reality TV, etc.

Want to listen to the interview?  Check it out here.

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  • Jeff Yocom

    Good interview by Brian. To Leigh’s point, I find it interesting that there’s been a surge of publicity around concussions in the NFL, however I haven’t noticed anyone talking about the realities of the pressure the players face. For example, look at Alex Smith’s plight with the 49ers. His situation is the best answer a player can give about why they would not be forthcoming about concussion symptoms. Fear of “losing their place in line.”