Chris grew up in Columbia, MD with his mother and sister. His mom, a single mother, would work two or three jobs to provide the best for Chris and his sister. Chris had to overcome asthma and the hurdle of his father being absent. Despite those challenges Chris told me, “I used to play outside all the time and loved football. I was a very hyper kid. Teachers tried to tell me I couldn’t learn and lacked focus.” His mother remarried when he was a freshmen in high school, giving him a strong role model in his step father. Chris’ childhood was not perfect, but seems to have given him the endurance and energy it requires to pursue a dream.
I met up with Chris at his office in DC. As we entered the office we were greeted by PLAY IT COYChairman, Andy Goodman. Andy is the Financial Adviser at Play it Coy. I told them both more about the website and then Chris and I advanced to the office. What Chris and I have in common is that we both earned the elusive internship with NFL agency, Corporate Athletic Management years ago. We were there at different times and exchanged lessons from our experiences. Fascinating to speak to those who understand the intricate details of your best experiences. Chris has three active clients in the NFL and has leveraged his experience to make some major moves in the industry. He goes into more detail in this week’s #ShineHard Conversation.
Chris, what is your Passion and when did you know?
Chris: Football and people. I used to play but I went to high school 4’11, 93 pounds. Needless to say I was undersized. I like helping people and it’s an added bonus that they play a sport that I love, but wasn’t talented enough to play. What I find is when I think about my greatest times of actually playing football, I had the most fun in the locker room. The every day fun of the game. With me, I KNOW I want to be a sports agent. I knew I wanted to do this since I was fourteen.
How did Play it Coy come about?
Chris: That guy right there (referring to Andy). I was working at PNC Bank as a financial specialist and he was one of the guys that used to come in.Every client I would meet I would small talk about my goals of becoming a sports agent. Andy and I spoke, I told him I went to Georgetown and he called his cousin which happened to be my favorite professor at Georgetown. I ended up going to lunch with Andy and explained my whole business model. I guess he was inspired because he introduced me to a few other executives. People that not only wanted to help me, but they wanted to be a part of the vision too! So we kinda built it that way. It’s honestly been a true blessing.
So who do you look to for guidance in this business? Do you have a mentor?
Chris: My mentor is Tony Paige. He represents Cam Newton and he’s based here in DC. African American that played in the NFL. He’s been in the business about 20 years. While I was at Hampton, I was cool with a few of the football guys there. Tony signed one of them, Chris Baker of the Redskins. Chris introduced us about three years ago and we just built a relationship from there.
In the process of recruiting and signing, how do you build buy in and trust with athletes?
Chris: Our business model is a lot different from most companies. Our focus is Life after Sports (video). Every presentation is a tailored, but that focus normally resonates with everyone in the household and even the kid. Although I take the role as an educator, I can still relate to these guys on the same level. We can go kick it and be normal. They don’t have to act different like they’re dealing with a father figure. I can say the same things in “our language” and it resonates with them. Plus to me, time is more valuable than money. The people that I’ve decided to sign, I made promises to them and their parents that I won’t just disregard them. No matter how big I get I still wanna have a good relationship. This is a relationships business. Maintaining a positive reputation means a lot to me as a young agent.
What in today’s culture frustrate you the most?
Chris: The get rich quick schemes. Anything that says get rich without working. Agents giving out money to clients. The key is to get rich slow because you appreciate it more. You know what to do with it. It’s a process. Even if you build a fortune 500 company and it goes bankrupt. You know how to build a million dollar business. You can do it again. Everyone should work in something that they’re inspired by, the money will come.
What qualities must you possess to be a Sports Agent?
Chris: Persistence, patience, and likability. People have to like you. Families have to feel comfortable with you. Are you able to talk to parents and relate to young men? You must be able to explain that the NFL is a launching pad for greater success. Its a head start in life. It is not a “We made it forever” type of situation. That also touches the ability to talk three languages: Player, Parents, and Personnel. In my opinion, you have got to be able to speak to all of them in a unique way. Every single one of those factors needs to be on one accord. That’s the key.
What inspires you to succeed?
Chris: I’m inspired by the Doubters. The fact that when I was growing up I used to tell people all the time that I wanted to be a sports agent. People have always told me, “Noo no you cant do it..” Some of my professors doubted me, and even my mother kinda doubted me. She said, “Your moral compass doesn’t fit well with what this business has done. Either this business is going to change you or you’re going to change it.” I’m not letting it change me. Also, Alvin Keels inspired me. To see all the “under 30″ accomplishments on his office wall, I try to check things off my list and get to that point. He initiated a competition with myself that has kept me motivated.
What is the worst part about being a sports agent?
Chris: I mean everybody wants to be an agent. It’s the the “most glamorous” career in sports! *sarcasm* This business can be ruthless. It will make grown men cry. The NFL is a business and the players are products. Once those products become defective they throw them away. As a result, agents have done the same thing. That is where I don’t particularly care for it. I want to still have that relationship and see my clients grow into great young men. There’s the facade of sports agents being so money driven and cut throat, and I think I can change that. As far as ME being a sports agent, that is most inspiring. I feel challenged to change the image of today’s sports agent.
What is the most memorable moment of your career thus far?
Chris: I would say signing Zach Kerr because I’ve seen it come full circle. Where as me and Zach were at the same level two years ago. We were friends out of school trying to find our way. I had talked about being a sport agent, but there was no structure. At the very end of it I told him I said listen, “I think I can be your agent and I know I can represent you very well. I want you to meet with me and Tony, and I also want you to see what else is out there.” At one point in time, I was unsure if he was going to sign with me or not. Once I got the phone call that he was definitely rolling with us that was my most memorable moment. He was the first guy we signed. Most recently, the first day of this years draft I got all my clients together at one time. It was great fun to me, having all five guys that chose me to represent them together at one time. It was like being back in the locker room.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Chris: Lack of patience. I want it and I want it now. I know that’s kind of an oxymoron to get rich slow, but for me it’s not even about the money. I just want to get to a point where I’m completely comfortable and right now I’m not. This is that part of the process that you look back on and smile because you knew it turned out well. I’m still grinding man, Shoot, these student loans are ridiculous!
What is the #1 Factor behind your success?
Chris: The key to my success is persistence. The fact that I’m never satisfied. I haven’t made it to where I want to be yet. No matter what I will always strive to get better and make a difference. I feel like I’m just different in a lot of ways. I don’t base what I’m gonna be off what everybody else isn’t. Even with recruiting, persistence. Sometimes I even flirted with “annoyance” but hey you gotta stay on these guys. *laughs*
Plus I can’t fail to mention the type of support I’ve had. All the things Andy and my team have invested into our business. The opportunities that have become available. To have someone see hard work and help you along the way. I am extremely blessed man.
What advice do you have for aspiring Sports Agents out there?
Chris: Well definitely do an internship to learn and find out more about this business. Aim to know the game and the business. Oh! And learn people’s stories. Look at the successful guys in this business, the Eugene Parker’s, Tom Condon’s, Tony Paige’s and the Alvin Keels’. Be willing to sacrifice stability for the greater good of what you think your business can do.
Johnny: Yeah man! Success leaves tracks. If you want to be successful find out what was done before you. Study who you see a “Success” and apply what you’ve learned. Chris, glad to have you in the @ShineHardFamily!
Interested in learning more or connecting with Chris?