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Athletes First Promotes Three Agents, Looks To Expand Into Other Sports

Athletes First continues to make headlines as they have promoted three agents in the football agency. Following a record draft year that saw 20 clients drafted, compared to nine in 2018, Athletes First hopes to build upon its success.

David Mulugheta, who joined the agency in 2011, has been promoted to equity partner and has begun his new role as President of Team Sports.  Mulugheta represents Deshaun Watson, Jalen Ramsey, Landon Thomas, Derwin James, amongst many other elite players.

In Mulugheta’s new role, he plans to expand the sports division globally, but also oversees Athletes First’s certified agents.  “I’ll be taking a hands-on approach helping our individual agents become the best versions of themselves,” Mulugheta said.

Joe Panos has also been named an equity partner. Panos joined Athletes First in 2012 and has negotiated some of the largest offensive lineman contracts in NFL history. He represents Tyron Smith, Travis Fredrick, Chandler Jones amongst many others. 

“Joe will continue what he’s been doing, which is signing the best athletes football has to offer both on-and-off the field,” Mulugheta said. “He has a history of maximizing his client’s contracts and in his new role as partner, Joe will mold the future of the Athletes First representation business.”

Kyle McCarthy joined Athletes First in 2015 and will now coordinate the football department operations as Director of Athletes First Football. McCarthy has represented both NFL players and coaches. 

“Kyle has quickly made a name for himself in both the player and coaching agent space. His background as both a collegiate superstar and NFL player gives him insight that only few in this business have,” Mulugheta said. “In his new role as Director of Football, Kyle will work closely with me to make sure Athletes First Football continues to offer service that is unmatched in our industry.”

An article released this previous year tabbed Mulugheta as one of the biggest free agents in football. With his employment contract expiring, many competing agencies tried to get Mulugheta to leave Athletes First.   

“My heart has always been with Athletes First,” Mulugheta said. While he listened to other agencies’ offers, in the end, he felt it was in his clients’ best interests to stay with Athletes First. 

Since the announcement of Mulugheta as President of Team Sports, many agents from different sports have reached out to express interest in joining the Athletes First family.  “We will listen to any new opportunities,” Mulugheta said. “Our brand speaks for itself, so many people are taking note of it and want to be a part of it.”

Athletes First has been able to brand itself by offering unmatched services, as well as making sure its clients feel like family. They’ve placed a huge emphasis on family, not only between agents and clients, but between clients and clients. “One thing I’ve really tried to do is make sure our athletes have a relationship among each other,” Mulugheta said.

While many of Mulugheta’s clients compete on the field, off the field they have helped with each other’s charities as well as working together in other business endeavors.

“A lot of our younger players have leaned on our older players as mentors,” Mulugheta said. “With our #FamilyTies mindset, our older players have taken it upon themselves to pass along information to the younger guys.”

With a huge client list and busy offseason, Mulugheta continues to turn out deals for his clients. “One of our main focuses is not only getting our offensive guys the recognition they deserve, but also our defensive guys,” Mulugheta said. Chargers safety Derwin James recently starred in a global Adidas commercial and Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey will be appearing in a national commercial this upcoming season.

Next up, Mulugheta hopes to secure new player contracts for Jalen Ramsey, Kevin Byard, and Michael Thomas. Thomas is represented by both Mulugheta and Andrew Kessler.

Under Mulugheta’s leadership and with Panos’ and McCarthy’s expertise, Athletes First looks ready to continue to grow into the independent juggernaut agency it has become. 

By Josh Goldberg

Josh is a recent graduate of Florida International University's College of Law. He works at a law firm with the Franchise Law, Innovation & Technology, and Sports & Entertainment Law groups. He is the founder of Light Social Digital Media & Marketing - a content creation and branding agency for athletes.

Email: [email protected] | Twitter/Instagram: @IAmJoshGoldberg