Isaac Conner is an Executive Vice President and General Counsel for Allegiant Athletic Agency in Knoxville, Tenn. He is also both an NFLPA and NBAPA Certified Contract Advisor. A graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Law, Isaac is primarily responsible for the recruitment and representation of both football and basketball clients as well as all legal affairs for both a3 and its clients. He has extensive experience in contract law and is a member of the Tennessee Bar Association, Nashville Bar Association, the American Bar Association, and the National Bar Association. Below is a Q&A with Isaac.
1) Why did you ultimately decide to work in the sports industry, and more specifically, athlete representation?
I was a college basketball player and was lucky enough to watch Terrell Owens and Johnny Taylor go through the process of picking their agents. I really got to see the importance that an agent plays in the lives of professional athletes, and it really seemed to match my interest in helping athletes maximize their earning potential and professional careers. Although most people do not see the toll being a professional athlete takes on the minds and bodies of players, being a NFL or NBA player is very difficult. I understand that world and feel like from a business and personal standpoint, I can help them maneuver a very unforgiving world.
2) You received an undergraduate degree along with a law degree from the University of Tennessee. What are a few skills that you learned/refined in law school that have helped you in representing athletes?
Learning how to get deals done. Being an agent is about negotiating. We must be willing to always negotiate. My law training and experience as a practicing lawyer helped and continues to help me understand when and how to close deals.
3) Especially around now, with the college All-Star games wrapping up, the NFL Combine around the corner, and the Draft in just a few a months, what type of work are you doing for your clients around this time?
My time is spent making sure all of our players are thoroughly prepared for combine and their pro days. From a physical, intellectual and mental standpoint, there is a lot of money riding on players putting their best foot forward. I want to make sure that each player has all the requisite information and also knows how to execute our agreed plan on how to get them drafted as high as possible.
4) What is the most challenging aspect of working in the agency business?
Signing good players and being away from my family.
5) You’re both an agent and the General Counsel at a3. How do you divide up your time between the two areas of work?
Although two different jobs, both are equally important to making sure our agency runs smoothly and efficiently. As an agent, I have to work on making sure our NFL and NBA players are taking care of their careers. Things like injuries, roster changes, rules changes and personal things that can and do impact players must be addressed head on. I am also recruiting and prospecting new clients and helping young players that are signed go through the five-month interview we call the pre draft process. As our General Counsel, I pay close attention to the normal legal aspects of running any business. For our business that includes premises liability and malpractice issues that could create liability for our firm; HR issues with employees; any civil or criminal proceedings a player could find himself in; and providing advice and guidance to our executive team on all issues that directly affect our agency. I spend more time working on agent-related issues, but I do keep my eyes closely on our business as well.
6) In 100 words or less, what advice would you give aspiring sports business professionals who want to work at an agency like a3?
Be sure about it. You need to have a passion for this business if you want to succeed in it. This is a very hard business to break into and once in, very demanding. Meet as many people in sports as you can. Good relationships are very important, so maintain your relationships and give as much as you get in return.