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Darren Wilson’s Path From Player to Agent

Sports Agent Blog recently interviewed a former football player and aspiring agent, Darren Wilson. In the sports world, not every agent understands the perspective of the athlete. Wilson knows firsthand the dedication and sacrifice required of a collegiate and professional football player. He was a standout football player in college, being awarded the Thomas Caldwell Award, given to the best defensive player on the team. He was also named to the USA College Football 2nd Team D2 All American, the Academic All-American Team, and was named the Defensive Lineman of the Week twice.

Wilson has taken the road less traveled and is not taking the traditional route to becoming an agent. Typically, we hear about an agent who completed college, went on to law school, and then became an agent. Wilson’s path to certification is unique but equally as important within the industry. He is currently pursuing his Master’s in Sports Management at Western Carolina University and plans to take the certification exam with the NFLPA in January of 2022. He is motivated and has a player’s perspective, a wonderful combination. Wilson is committed to helping clients both professionally and personally, appreciating them as unique individuals with their own path. Below is the transcript of our interview with Darren Wilson.

SAB: Tell me about your own playing career, and why you transitioned out of playing into wanting to be an agent.

DW: With my playing career, I was like a journeyman. A bunch of junior colleges, wasn’t doing the right thing in my freshman and sophomore days. As I got older, I realized the academics were as important as playing. I wasn’t reaching my full potential. When I bought into doing well with my schoolwork, I played better. Everything correlates with each other. Each week of my season, I would set goals. Scheduling the times of the day I would work out, eat, study. I would plan a whole month out in advance. I mapped out my entire plans during the school year, and in the offseason. A lot of athletes don’t appreciate the planning. Vision boards, pictures, I don’t even know where I learned this stuff, I just did it and it ended up working.

There were a couple things that contributed to the end of my playing career. I was in a car accident and herniated three discs in my lower back, but I realized I wasn’t in love with the process anymore. You have to love the process of doing the same things every day. If you don’t love it, why play? But at that same time, I realized I wanted to be the bridge between athletes and their goals. I want to help everyone. I feel like the football industry is top-heavy. If you aren’t on the active roster, you are like anyone else. I have known guys who weren’t on the active roster, but now have more fulfilling careers than guys who were on the active roster, but simply made it to their second contract. My whole goal is to fulfill whatever my client’s dream is.

SAB: Can you tell me about how the process of becoming an agent started?

DW: I made the decision to further my professional career as an agent, based on the passion felt by others achieving their dreams and goals. Wanting to provide a sense of help towards someone’s success is my ultimate goal. The mentors I’ve accumulated over the years begin with Ralph Dass, Marcus Hilliard, Steve Rankin, Waverly Tillar, Shareef Jones, Doug Young, and Dominic Militello. With their advice, I ended up developing character and integrity, and an appreciation for the game of football. A key factor in my journey was the friendship I developed with Doug Young. His advice to me was to pursue a career aiding athletes, which transformed into my passion. He was amazed how determined I was with networking and connecting with people. As my playing career came to an end, I started helping out a few of my teammates at practice to gain experience. Soon after, my former teammate and now client Randall Harris, was fortunate enough to be drafted in the 5th round of the first XFL draft. I was able to assist Randall with finding certified representation with Tier1 Sports Management.

The following year, my brother Nadir Pineda ended up signing with Kent State University; after finishing his sophomore year playing junior college football at Monroe College. One of Nadir’s teammates at Kent State, Theo Majette, was struggling with finding his way with his next steps. Unfortunately, Kent State University canceled their pro day, due to COVID-19. Theo’s chances of being signed were not looking promising as the NFL draft came to an end. We knew his chances of being drafted into the NFL were slim, so I shifted my focus over to the CFL. There had already been some interest prior to the NFL draft. One of the teams interested was The Calgary Stampeders. The front office loved Theo’s skillset and that was a major part of him sealing the deal.

SAB: The XFL has had a rocky history. Do you see tangible growth and opportunity in the XFL and CFL in both money and endorsements for players?

DW: I do believe the XFL has had a rocky history, but it has given players a platform to continue to live out their dreams of playing professional football. Same with the CFL. Since the XFL ownership changed, Dany Garcia and Dwayne Johnson have the opportunity to make the league better than it has been previously. Having former players as owners is beneficial. Sadly, in sports industry the people in position usually do not have an athletic background; which causes conflict between the administration and the players. Administration and owners usually cannot relate to players like Dwayne Johnson, who is now one of the new owners of the XFL. I do not see any problems in the future for the XFL, but as for the CFL they seem to be back on track to kick things off in 2021. As for money and endorsements, the contracts for players on the active XFL rosters is a reasonable amount with incentives. Endorsements deals are limited because bigger companies are going to latch on to the NFL guys, but there should be room for XFL players to capitalize on some opportunities.

SAB: Tell me about your path to NFLPA certification.

DW: I graduated from an HBCU, Elizabeth City State University, in December 2020. I have been accepted and enrolled in Western Carolina University where I will be obtaining a Master’s Degree in Sports Management. I am on track to be certified January of 2022. I am currently working Brett Senior, my former agent, as the southeast regional director of scouting. He helped me smoothly transition. I have learned a ton from Brett. He is not the type of person that sits down to teach you a bunch of things, he leads by example. He doesn’t get too high on good days, and not too low on the bad days. He stays the course and tirelessly grinds and puts in the work to satisfy our clients goals on and off the field. Doug Young and Dom Militello both serve as life coaches and mentors. Their teachings are more finesse and planning, which was different than what I was accustomed to in football. They were the guidance that helped me translate that to the business side of the game.

SAB: Do you have advice for people wanting to pursue becoming an agent in football, but haven’t gone to law school?

DW: My advice for aspiring agents is to research the requirements for the NFLPA and CFLPA. Find out what is required in order to become a certified agent. Google agencies in your area. You can also use LinkedIn to find an agency in your area. The NFLPA website will help cross reference the agents or agencies legitimacy. Start looking for players in your area. Go to the local gyms that currently or previously trained NFL talent. Once you are in an environment where NFL players have trained, you will know. Networking with trainers is important. They know the players best. You will also find college athletes who take their careers seriously. They will be training where pros train. This saves you a bunch of time looking up rosters, emailing and calling people. This helps set a foundation and gives you experience with networking. That’s one method that can help you start a good foundation to begin your journey.

SAB: What has surprised you most about being an agent and the business side of football?

DW: Not surprised about anything on the business side of football. Don’t wait for anybody to circle back. Be proactive.

SAB: What do you want prospective clients to know about you?

DW: My loyalties lie with the players best interests. Their careers and livelihoods. Assisting athletes is my passion, using our network to escort athletes through their careers while playing, and then helping them transition into their careers and journeys after football.

Athletes can be close minded, and at times insensitive and ignorant to certain things in life. Their focus has been their sport. I want to help my players learn from realizations and mistakes I have made, lessons I have learned. The most important concept I use every day is perseverance. I want to win the day, and find a way to win every day.

Darren is currently the Southeast Regional Director of Football Scouting at Tier1 Sports Management.