On Seeing, A Journal #481
NFL Behind The Scenes: Agents, Managers and Players
Each agent/manager who has been to my studio generously shared a wealth of information about “how it works,” i.e. how they serve, guide, advise, support and help professional football players to earn a living and prepare them for a comfortable future in the very short time that they play—the average career length is about 3.3 years for players across the NFL.
The business of representing professional athletes is highly competitive and formidably challenging. The successful agents and managers are impressive, hard-working and intelligent individuals.
A few weeks ago, a remarkable, affable and adept manager, Tzvi Grossman, came to the studio. He had already sent two of his best NFL players here about whom I’ve written. These two are really special people.
I learned a great deal from Tzvi. He has specialized insight and broad knowledge about the NFL and how it works. I share his interview here:
Note: The interview is quite long, though informative and interesting.
TG: I was raised in New York. Growing up I was obsessed with Sports and fascinated with business. I anticipated being in business ever since I can remember. I went to Rutgers University in New Jersey and majored in Sports Management.
I interned for the Sports Marketing department at Rutgers, as a freshman, and then moved over to being a Student Manager of the Football program as a sophomore. I read books by all the successful sports agents of the time, mapped out my plan to graduate in 3 years and did a multitude of other internships along the way.
Going into my junior year, I secured an internship with Andy Miller, a top five NBA agent at the time. I remember my first day as an intern: I went in, wearing a suit and tie and got to the office an hour before anyone else came in. They had to force me to leave at the end of the day. Within a week, they gave me the key. In the first week on the job, I remember filing contracts outside the boss’ office and I was able to overhear his phone conversations. He was talking about making player trade requests. A few weeks later, the details of the trades were in the media. I was hooked. Once I got a chance to see how the agent business worked, I knew it was my calling.
The next semester I was elevated to be the boss’ personal assistant, and eventually I was running client servicing for over 50 NBA Players. I learned a ton, but it was a very reactionary position. Anytime any player needed or wanted anything they would reach out to me. I wanted to have a more proactive approach, and with that in mind in 2013, I left and started my own company.
I named the company Royalty Management Group, because I treat my clients like Kings. One of the things that separates me, is understanding that representing professional athletes is very unique. Kids dream to grow up and be a professional athlete, the same can’t really be said about an accountant. Kids dream about having a sneaker contract with a particular brand. My approach is to never lose sight of my clients’ dreams, and work to partner them with their favorite brands. I aim to help my clients develop on the court/field and with a brand portfolio that they will be proud of.
My philosophy from very early on has been to bet on the person, not the talent. I never cared much about how good a player is; if he’s an asshole, I won’t work with him. I only work with standup guys. I remember hearing Tim Connelly (Minnesota Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations) once say his team was full of “Fantastic guys who thankfully are pretty great players”. In such a results oriented business, I feel like my competitors are often much more focused on rankings and mock drafts, than actually representing someone that they truly believe in and enjoy working with.
I set up shop in Miami in 2018 and it has been amazing. My clients love to train and visit Miami, and our community here is much smaller than NY or LA.
HS: What are the disappointments in your business?
TG: Disappointments are a part of life. I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and that everything happens for the best. And I’m probably better at understanding that now, then maybe I was ten years ago. But whenever anything happens, that’s the first thing that’s on my mind.
The biggest disappointment is injuries. To see how hard my clients train and how hard they work to accomplish their goals, dealing with injuries is tough. I’ve built very strong relationships with a number of the top Doctors in the Country, and often rely on them for second opinions. Helping my clients deal with the emotional and mental aspects of recovering from an injury is challenging; and I think its my most important role. My guys know I’ll never let them play hurt, and I grill them to tell me the truth on how they’re really feeling when we are coming back from injury.
HS: What do you do about competition?
TG: That’s a great question. I’m very focused on running my own race and letting the chips fall where they may. In a lot of ways I feel like I operate in a vacuum, like my competitors don’t exist. I’ll never underestimate any opponent, and I study every trend and happening.
When I was just starting out I was friendly with people at other firms. My boss told me, you shouldn’t have any friends in the industry. I looked at him stone faced. He said, “You think they wouldn’t take your client if they had the opportunity? So save yourself the time, you aren’t here to make friends.” I have definitely learned from that, perhaps the hard way at times.
I recently heard Philadelphia Eagles GM Howie Roseman say “Anytime you think you’ve arrived in this business, you get your ass kicked”. Coming from a Super Bowl Champion GM, that’s really saying something. I take that to heart.
HS: What is your life like in Miami? It seems that you are living Royalty Management countless hours a week.
TG: Ha. Yes. I really don’t view what I do as a job, its my lifestyle. I spend my time around the people that I am closest with, working towards accomplishing our goals. My clients are great friends, often with each other as well. We truly operate like a family; my clients are my little brothers. They train together, push each other to be great, take trips together, you name it. I understand that there are a lot more rainy days than sunny days over the course of a career and I am very even-keeled; I put in the work. I’m on a practice field or a gym watching my guys perfect their craft, I’m at a game supporting them, at a shoot with them for a brand partner, an autograph signing for fans, or celebrating our success of the Draft, Free Agency, a new marketing deal, or back in February our first Super Bowl.
It’s a fast, crazy lifestyle. When my eyes are open, my phone is on me. And wherever and whenever I’m needed, I’m ready and I’m there. That’s who I am.