NFL Agent Leigh Steinberg Visits USD

By Brody Burns, Editor-in-Chief

In one of the seminal scenes of the movie Jerry Maguire, bombastic NFL wide receiver Rod Tidwell implores his agent, Jerry Maguire, played by Tom Cruise, to “Show me the money!” Tidwell is seeking that one big career changing contract and Maguire desperately needs to deliver for his client. The scene is so famous that the American Film Institute (AFI) ranked “show me the money” as their number 25 quote on their 100 Years…100 Movie Quotes list. The movie, which romanticized the notion of the NFL agent, was largely based upon the career of sports agent Leigh Steinberg.

Steinberg, one of the most well-known agents in the history of professional sports, has navigated his way through a 40-year career working in the professional sports industry and recently has been speaking about his life in promotion of a new book.

On October 27, Steinberg spoke at a USD School of Law event to a group of students during a lunch panel, hosted by the Sports and Entertainment Law Society (SELS) and the Business Law Society. Brandon Rebboah, President of SELS, reflected on the event,

“I hope that students enjoyed listening to Mr. Steinberg. His ability to build a career based on his passion for sports and his legal education is remarkable.  I am very thankful that he was able to impart some of that wisdom on the USD Law Community,” Rebboah said.

The event was held in a packed Grace Courtroom during the lunchtime break of classes. Students listened to Steinberg speak about topics ranging from his college and law school life at the University of California, Berkeley, to pressing social issues involving professional athletes, to the current concussion epidemic in the NFL, to coming home from the set of Any Given Sunday after helping Cameron Diaz get into character.

One of the first things Steinberg told students was the values instilled by his parents. Steinberg was raised with two values,

“First, to treasure the relationships you have, especially your family. And, second, to make a difference in the world,” Steinberg said.

For Steinberg, the opportunity to work with athletes allowed him to leverage both these values. The industry is heavily dependent upon relationships and professional athletes have a unique capacity to affect countless lives.

In reference to making a difference in the world, Steinberg spoke at great length about challenging his clients to leave a legacy and working with corporate sponsorships and athletes to endeavor charity programs.

Steinberg gave the specific example of one of his client’s, heavyweight boxer Lennox Lewis, taking part in a PSA campaign titled “Real Men Don’t Hit Women.”  This campaign aimed to achieve awareness and change attitudes towards domestic violence and showcased the power of a professional athlete leading a cause.

Steinberg also spoke of the concussion epidemic in the NFL, and how he felt that he had a “fiduciary duty” to the safety of his clients.

“You have to be aware of the ultimate impact of what your legal career is facilitating,” Steinberg said.

The event offered a chance for students to listen and interact with the agent who has represented many NFL stars such as Troy Aikman, Steve Young, Warren Moon, Drew Bledsoe and Ben Roethlisberger.  In his 40 year career, Steinberg boasts to have secured over $3 billion in contracts for his more than 300 professional athlete clients.

First-year law student Chandra Roam attended the event, and spoke about the impact of Steinberg taking care of his clients.

“I thought it was refreshing to hear the firsthand story of someone with the integrity to be willing to risk his individual success to put forward a cause that was for the good of many,” Roam said.

Steinberg was on hand to promote his recent book, The Agent: My 40-year Career Making Deals and Changing the Game, and the he offered to sign copies of his books for students after he finished speaking.

The Agent is a New York Times bestseller which chronicles “the rise, fall and redemption” of one of the most famous sports agents in the history of professional sports.

The book features a foreword written by NFL Hall of Famer Moon, whom Steinberg represented. In that foreword Moon writes that “Leigh emphasized empowering his clients in order that they not be manipulated nor taken advantage of, thereby transcending and supplanting the ‘agent’ stigma of the time.”

Steinberg closed his discussion with advice to students concerning the emergence of new opportunities in the sports world. Steinberg discussed the wide variety of new opportunities available to students, and urged students to be creative and open to these limitless opportunities. SELS President Rebboah spoke about this impact.

“What I particularly enjoyed was his ability to show the progression of the sports industry and the new opportunities that are being created for people with legal educations. I hope that students walked away feeling empowered that they can follow their passions and use their legal education to open new career opportunities.”

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