Interview With The Agent: Jeffrey Whitney
Jeffery Whitney is an Oglethorpe University graduate where he received his Bachelors of Science degree in Mathematics, and he earned his Juris Doctor from the University of Wisconsin Law School where he served as the articles editor for the Wisconsin Law Review. Mr. Whitney is currently a partner at Kelley Drye & Warren, L.L.P., in the firm’s Washington, D.C. office. He is the Vice Chair of The Sports Entertainment Group where he counsels professional athletes with respect to the negotiation of player and marketing contracts, in addition to various other aspects of their athletic and post-athletic careers.
Prior to joining Kelley Drye, Whitney counseled clients on a variety of business matters, including real estate, commercial transactions, and labor and employment matters. He has bar admissions in both Alabama and the District of Columbia, is a NFL Certified Player Agent and National Bar Association member as well as a member of the President’s Advisory Council at Oglethorpe University.
D’Bria Bradshaw: When did you realize that you wanted to pursue a career as a sports agent?
Jeffery Whitney: Growing up I played both basketball and baseball, and I played baseball in college. So sports have always been an important part of my life. When I got out of law school I became a litigator, but I always kept a hand in sports-related activities. For example, I represented nonprofit organizations that focused on bringing kids from Africa to the U.S. to play high school sports, and I also coached AAU basketball. A few years back, my friend from law school, and my current law partner, Adisa Bakari, asked me if I would consider joining his sports practice. At that point, I had spent over ten years doing litigation work, and I was burned out and looking for a new challenge. So I accepted his offer, and the rest as they say is history.
D’Bria Bradshaw: What is the NFL Draft Process like for Kelley Drye clients? What do you all do as an agency?
Jeffery Whitney: As you can imagine, this can be an extremely stressful time for our clients. So we work hard to minimize their stress and to make their transition from college to the NFL as seamless as possible. While an agent cannot technically get a player drafted, I think a good agent can influence a player’s NFL draft status. For instance, we utilize a pre-draft, NFL-focused player marketing campaign designed to influence how our clients are perceived by NFL management. We also send our players to train at some of the top training facilities in the country during this time period. We try and take care of our clients’ needs so that they can focus entirely on preparing for the draft.
D’Bria Bradshaw: What is the most important aspect of being an agent?
Jeffery Whitney: This business is a labor of love. So the most important aspect in my opinion is being passionate about helping young people become successful on and off the field and helping them mature into savvy business professionals. You can’t be in this business for the glitz and glamour because it is a grind – early flights, long hours, and lots of stress. Trust me, after a while the glitz and glamour will wear off as it does with anything.
D’Bria Bradshaw: Where do you see yourself and the industry heading over the next 3-5 years?
Jeffery Whitney: I see myself right here at Kelley Drye helping to grow our practice and continuing to help young people achieve their goals. Kelley Drye is the second oldest law firm in the country and has more than 30 Practice Areas which allows us to provide our NFL clients with the comprehensive business protection they truly need to be successful. As for the industry as a whole, this is an exciting time to be involved in the business of sports – especially the NFL, which is a multi-billion dollar industry that continues to expand. I see continued growth and opportunity for the foreseeable future.
D’Bria Bradshaw: What does Kelley Drye Sports Entertainment Group look for when hiring a new employee?
Jeffery Whitney: We look for individuals who are intelligent, driven and focused, creative and passionate.
D’Bria Bradshaw: What advice do you have for those looking to enter the athlete representation field?
Jeffery Whitney: Don’t get me wrong, this job is a lot of fun and very exciting at times. But you should find another line of work if your goal is to hang out with famous people or to be seen on TV at the ESPYs.
D’Bria Bradshaw: On behalf of SportsAgentBlog.com and all of our readers, I would like to thank Mr. Jeffery Whitney for taking the time out of his schedule today to provide us with insight on the industry.