Roc Nation Sports has launched into the sporting world and made quite the impact in only a short time.
This can’t be seen as too much of a surprise, as the sports agency founded by hip-hop legend Jay-Z already has multiple high-profile athletes, including Robinson Cano, Victor Cruz, Geno Smith and, most recently, Kevin Durant. They are also reportedly in pursuit of another superstar in his respective field, NFL Super Agent Rob London.
While the average Joe may not know who London is (yet), he is a one of the top player advisers in the business. At 39 years old, the president of Rob London Sports & Entertainment Management is a young, hot commodity that would be an ideal person for Jay-Z to team up with to lead Roc Nation Sports. Here are just a few highlights of his credentials:
- Was in final consideration for four NFL General Manager positions in 2011 and 2012.
- Has helped guide the careers of Jaguars’ Maurice Jones-Drew, Bears’ Matt Forte, Colts’ Antoine Bethea, 49ers’ Kendall Hunter, Super Bowl Champion Ravens’ Tyrod Taylor, Cowboys’ Justin Durant, and over an additional 30 players over the last decade.
- Top five percent searched profiles on LinkedIn in 2012. Barack Obama the most searched.
London has his ear to the ground regarding all things concerned with the NFL, but he also carries a lot of admiration in the business community. Being a former analyst for a Wall Street firm, he has garnered comparison to former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, who served during George W. Bush’s administration, because of his broad industry knowledge base and skilled delivery.
All comparisons aside, if a deal were to happen with Roc Nation, the ever humble London wouldn’t let being thrust front and center into a high profile position inflate his ego.
“In any situation, I command respect, but I don’t take it for granted,” London said in an exclusive interview. “I don’t take for granted that someone in the sports business knows who I am. I like people that take me for face value, treat me as if they just met me and to judge me on the current event, or the current dealings with me.”
London grew up in Elizabeth, N.J., less than a half-hour from New York City and less than two and half hours from where he would play college football at Delaware State University. While playing for the Hornets, London would establish many connections that would help him greatly with future endeavors.
While playing running back for Delaware State, he was coached by Nick Polk, the Atlanta Falcons director of football operations, and T.J. McCreight, the Indianapolis Colts director of college scouting. It was a teammate though that would arguably be the most important for launching his career as an advisor.
After graduating with a degree in Business Administration, London delved into the world of finance as an analyst on Wall Street. This is where London says he developed his love for “the deal.” Despite success on Wall Street, London felt like sports and entertainment was always his calling.
“I always wanted to be involved in football but never had the avenue,” London said. “I always wanted to play in the NFL, but knew I would never have a chance to do it. My heart always stayed in the game. I always wanted to be involved in the game somehow. That’s what I was searching for.”
That is when a former teammate gave him that opportunity.
“(My former teammate) knew I still wanted to be involved in the game and that I was involved at the time in high level finance,” said London on his former teammate whom he has known for nearly two decades. “He thought it would be an easy transition.”
London would work his way up to vice president at Dow Lohnes, but he admits that it took some time for them to take off.
“Before it was (Dow Lohnes) just investing in the idea of two young men who were excited about football,” London said. “That’s how it started but it became a fully fledged sports division once we saw success. I never had a doubt we would have success, it was just a matter of time.”
In their first season, they were able to sign seven clients.
“They were late-round, free agent type of guys,” London said. “Some of them were guys who were slow to catch on to the concepts and lessons that were being extended to them. I figured out fast that I needed to tweak my approach in dealing with certain players. I looked forward to identifying the players that have a good support system to start with.”
His style is something that London says he has been developing over the last decade and continuing to improve upon. It can be an exhausting business, as “one-year in the sports industry is like three years,” specifically when you wear your heart on your sleeve like London does.
In a business that’s easy to get side-tracked by the money, power, respect, and perks that come with it, London does his best to stay grounded and find others who are looking to do the same.
One important aid in helping him with how he evaluated potential clients was the three most important people in his life: his three daughters. London said he started thinking about his 17-year old Rechele, 12-year old Thailer (a talented singer who may sing the National Anthem at an NFL game this year), and 7-year old Reilly when making business decisions.
“I started being a dad when looking at these athletes,” he said. “Asking myself, ‘would I want this young man in the presence of my daughters?’ If the answer is yes, I go forward with recruiting them. I started being more selective with the guys I wanted to be associated with.”
Chicago Bears stud Matt Forte is a prime example of the type of individual London looks for. One of the most complete running backs in the game, Forte is a complete individual as well, according to London.
“Matt is so much more involved in his life than just being an elite NFL running back,” London said. “It’s being a great brother. He has always been close to his brother Brian, continuing to be a great son to his parents and what they actually raised. It’s hard for some people to be the exact person they were before they get a huge multi-million deal, but Forte pulls it off with grace.”
When trying to bring in a new client, an NFL agent has to do more than just speak to the client. It’s a process that the entire family of the athlete partakes in. The high majority of these athletes’ parents don’t have an adviser’s business experience in this environment. But Andrea Jones-Drew, mother of Jacksonville Jaguars star Maurice Jones-Drew, had that type of experience.
Andrea was a former director of operations at AT&T when she met London in October of 2005 when he reached out to say he was interested in Maurice as a client. At the time, Andrea didn’t even know what it meant to declare early for the NFL Draft, which Maurice ended up doing.
“Very professional,” the mother of the Pro Bowl running back said of London. “Rob had done so much research I thought he knew more about his football career than I did. I could tell he was really interested in my son.”
She said she met with upwards of ten agents and that the “difference between Rob and the other advisors was the other advisors told me how they could make Maurice a first round pick. Rob said ‘We can’t guarantee you anything, but this is the value we can add to your son’s life.’”
Andrea called London a very good mentor to her son, stating how they would always talk about how practices were going, what the coaches were saying and just to check-in. She said if she had to do it all over again, she wouldn’t change a thing.
“Honest and informative, has been that way the whole seven years,” Andrea said. “That’s what parents need more so than guaranteeing their son a first round pick. They need someone who will be honest and keep them inform of what’s going on through the process.”
London said he enjoys that mentor role. He enjoys helping them become better individuals, not just football players. London believes he has to maintain his role as a mentor, rather than a parent, which he admits can be difficult at times.
“There is a fine line between trying to tell a client to do something, and suggesting something they will seriously consider,” London said. “These young guys aren’t stupid, they can see agendas. The dynamic of these relationships should be that they respect you as a businessman and know that you have their best interest at heart so that everything you say, even if it sounds similar to what their mom or dad says, but hearing it from you from a football perspective, may drive the point home.”
“What you see is what you’re going to get with me,” London continued. “Guys will appreciate I’m not strategic with what I have to say. Convey my message and that’s going to be it. And then we can talk about some lighter things.”
Those lighter things include sitting down for rounds of Call of Duty and Madden with his clients.
“Maurice (Jones-Drew) got me intoCall of Duty,” says London. “I remember before he was a rookie when he was in training, and he was playing this game Call of Duty. Ididn’t know what it was. But I saw that was one of his passions.”
London saw that video game were an outlet for Maurice to get away from things in his life and to relax. That’s when London decided to start playing the game himself.
Jones-Drew and London were a part of what’s known as a “clan” in the gaming world, also playing with Forte, Bears tight end Kellen Davis, and Jaguars fullback Greg Jones. They used the clan tag ‘HYS’ which stood for ‘Humble Yourself,” a phrase Maurice adopted.
“I’m going to learn how to play Call of Duty to continue interact with my client in something he likes to do,” London said. “It makes your relationship stronger.
If anything, London’s introduction to video games proves his competitive spirit, but also his dedication to learning the rules of the game.
“If I’m going to do something, I’m going to learn how to do something fast and get good at it,” said London. “It’s another way to interact with a client that’s not work related.”
London has generally been regarded as having a good eye for talent. It’s one of the main reasons he has been considered for multiple general manager positions.
London attends college football games as a fan, meets with a player’s families and assesses the ability of the player and how he could fit with an NFL team. He also watches how they come out of the tunnel and interact with teammates to see what type of individuals they are.
If a player has the Rob London stamp of approval, you can believe that guy is a not only a quality player, but a quality person as well.
The Buffalo Bills are hoping they found a piece like that in undrafted free agent Nickell Robey. Robey went undrafted out of USC after declaring early for the draft. After issues with his previous agent, London has been a big help to Robey.
“Rob has a great name in this league as far as politicking and knowing people with connection,” Robey said. “He also got to know me a lot better as opposed to my last agent.”
Robey says they maintain a close relationship, as they continuously talk throughout offseason workouts, letting London know how he is doing. That is the underlying objective London wants to do with each of his clients: maintain more than just a work relationship with them and help them to become better people.
“Football is not just what he was put on this planet to do,” London said. “He has a lot more skills than just playing a game on Sunday. There are a lot of other aspects to life that matter and mean more than football. Football is a means to an end to take care of your family.”
Clients and NFL insiders alike may think of London as an NFL superhero. But, he insists that he is all about helping others and that it’s how you go out that defines you.
“I’m not special,” London states with emotion. “Never claimed to be and never wanted to be. I just always wanted to be successful. My work ethic dictates how successful will be in the future and dictates how successful I’ve been in the past. I don’t care where you start your career. It’s 0-0 at the start of the game. It’s not where you start that matters. It’s where you are at the end of the game or the career that will define you. It’s where you finish where you can earn some respect. That’s your legacy.”