Trey Smith is an NFLPA Certified Agent with Athletes First. He is from Perry, Georgia, which is a small town twenty minutes south of Macon, Georgia. In high school, he was a 2-sport standout athlete and student and was able to receive football and basketball scholarship offers. Smith decided to choose football and went on to play at Western Michigan University. After his sophomore year at Western Michigan, he transferred to Jacksonville State University where he played his final two years. After graduating from Jacksonville State, he decided to attend UGA Law where he earned his Juris Doctorate degree and also passed the Georgia Bar in 2017. Following law school, Smith took the NFLPA Agent Exam and went on to work at a mid-size firm in Atlanta for two years. In the summer of 2019, Smith was offered a full-time job at Athletes First as a certified agent and has been able to sign 5 guys along with his partner David Mulugheta in his first two years: Raekwon Davis, D’Andre Swift, Seth Roberts, Xavier Woods and Jaycee Horn.
Sports Agent Blog had the opportunity to interview Trey Smith and discuss his journey in drafting a Top 10 draft pick, how he became a sports agent and his future in the industry.
What would your younger self think about where you are today?
As a kid I never in a million years dreamed I would be in the position I am today. I always, like most kids, thought I was going to be playing football on Sundays or playing basketball in the NBA. I’m amazed because where I come from in Georgia, we don’t really have any mentors or role models to look up to. My friends and I are building our own history to show the kids now that you can do something other than play professional sports. I would say to my younger self ‘Wow Trey, you made something out of nothing’
What does a “normal” day look like for you during the season and the general off-season?
Most days, either in season or off-season are primarily focused on recruiting which is the lifeline of our business. If you don’t have guys to represent then you are not an agent technically. In season, I usually start my days around 9-10 AM, which is when the first call will happen. Between 9-2 PM, I am mostly dealing with the transactional part of the business. This can include contracts needing to be signed, marketing deals, speaking with NFL personnel, trying to make sure the NIL guys have gotten their packages, etc. From about 2-6, that’s when I’m primarily dealing with my personal life: running errands or spending time with my son. Once 6 o’clock happens, that’s when my clients and prospective clients are getting out of practice and I’m checking in with them. It could be a guy I am recruiting and he is getting out of practice or it could be me building relationships with moms and dads who are just getting off from work. Some guys I talk to late at night because I know they are night owls. All in all, I would say the evening is primarily focused on having calls with clients and prospective clients.
In the offseason, I am based out in California at our home office because the rookies are doing pre-draft training. I pick up and move out there with them in January and stay until they are done with their pro days. My veteran clients are not in season so they are obviously more free. Some veteran clients work out in the morning and some work out in the afternoon. So on any given day in the offseason, I could talk to a group of guys in the morning from 9-2 and then a different group of guys from 6-10. But throughout the whole day I am having conversations with clients because they are not in season, so my schedule is wrapped around their schedule. Also, there are times when guys are in town so we will grab dinner but no day is the same. The difference is in-season is a little more structured because guys have practice/games and the offseason is more scattered because guys are on different schedules and have different types of needs.
What is one thing about being an agent that someone outside of the industry might not know?
A lot of people think that money is abundant and comes quickly in this business. Agents don’t make a lot of money, immediately. The cost of training that you have to do for guys pre-draft falls directly on us. We may break even on the rookie deal so there is no money left for an agent to receive until the guy makes it to his next contract which is even more risky. The biggest misconception is people see the agent business and think these guys get 100 million dollar deals and you are the agent and get a percentage of it so you must be making a lot of money, but that doesn’t come immediately. That comes with work and a lot of luck. That comes with guys getting to that second contract. I have been in the business since 2017 and I still haven’t had my big break where I have that big check that I can hang on the wall and take care of my family. I am still building and I’m four years in.
Tell me about the process of landing a Top 10 Draft Pick in the 2021 Draft. How that must have felt from start to finish?
It started out like most guys I am recruiting: based on relationships. The person that connected me with Jaycee was his trainer, Oliver Davis. He is very close with him and that is the key when finding who you want to connect you with a prospective client. The prospective client has to trust that person. So it started with my partner David Mulugheta both having conversations with Jaycee letting him know who we were and how interested in him we were. Those first few months we started to build a relationship with him and I would see him in Atlanta when he was training. I was trying to see what kind of guy he was and whether we could connect on a personal level. Once we got into the season around August, we went into more of the formal side of the business having meetings with him and his dad. We wanted to let him know what we could do for him and how we could help him become a top pick. Obviously, it was going to come down to how he performed, but we wanted him to know how we could add value. Once the season started and he was playing well, the competitors started to come in as we expected, but we stayed true to our values. It was an up and down process. Some conversations I felt like we were in the lead and other times I thought other agencies were in the lead. This went on for a couple of months between August and November. We had one final meeting in November where we just laid it out for him and that was it. He ended up opting out and didn’t play the last few games, so he was able to sign with us in late November. I had many long conversations with him and his trainer so I knew he valued our relationship, but this business is different so you never know. I remember the night he called me and said he was going to go with us. It was one of the best days of my life
Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years?
In five to ten years, I see myself being a top agent in the business. I work with the top agent in the game right now, David Mulugheta, so I am trying to follow in his footsteps. He has been a great mentor to me and had a big role in guiding my professional career. I see myself with a lot of the top players and also see myself doing different things outside of football for my guys which includes philanthropy and helping them become businessmen. But more importantly, I see myself being the rock on their team and the person they can lean on for anything
What advice would you give to an aspiring agent?
I get this question a lot. I was recently at UGA with a couple of law students who are trying to get into the sports business and they asked me what should they do. The main thing I tell them is that it is not about the relationships you have with agents or what agents or agencies you know of. The real value is what top players do you have relationships with and can you turn those relationships into clients. What players do you have a relationship with that will listen to you and not turn the other way when you tell them what you are trying to do? That is what I would tell aspiring agents: Start out with family and friends and build relationships with kids who you think will be top players at high school and college levels. You can find agents anywhere: at the Senior Bowl, The Combine and even the Super Bowl. They are not mysterious people who you never see. So you when you do get to connect with these agents, you want to show them that you have strong ties with these top players. That is what you want. Don’t just try to network within the agent business, but network within the football community. Try to build on that recipe. You need to be able add immediate value to these agencies for them to see you as an asset