The Journey to Becoming a Top Sports Agent

derek simpson malcolm butler's agentDerek Simpson has been a certified NFL agent since 2012, earning his certification after passing the NFLPA agent exam, a test that less than 60% of applicants pass.

He’s had one client make it to the NFL as an undrafted free agent. A client who earned the rookie minimum $420,000 in his first-year contract. Simpson (pictured left, courtesy netted 3% of that deal, a pay day of $12,600. Not a bad day, but not exactly breathe easy money either.

But that is the life of an agent.

You don’t start out by signing Myles Garrett or Leonard Fournette - you scour the small schools, unearth the unheralded and champion the diamonds in the rough.

Parallel this to the career arc of a real estate agent – they invest in training, take a certification course and join a world that doesn’t pay by hourly performance, instead they only reap the rewards of closed transactions.  

Real estate agents don’t start out selling million dollar estates, they sell $100,000 condos and starter homes to their friends. They cash checks for 5k, not 50k.

These are not just add water careers, where positive results materialize like instant potatoes. Real estate agents spend years building networks, establishing their skill, negotiating deals and eventually, if they are skilled, turn perseverance into prosperity.

Same is true for sports agents.

Simpsons NFL client wasn’t invited to the combine and there was no pro day at his Div. II school. They had to hustle and claw their way to be allowed into the Alabama pro day, but even that wasn’t the victory they had hoped for, because the client, a defensive back, ran a pedestrian 4.6 40-yard dash.

This client didn't appear to be a million-dollar estate with a tennis court and indoor pool – he was just another a condo next to the train tracks.

No teams called after that pro day. The draft came and the draft went - still no phone calls. But Simpson didn’t give up, because great agents don’t give up on their players.

And then, defensive backs coach Josh Boyer of the New England Patriots called Simpson.

"Boyer asks, ‘is [your guy] still available?’" recalls Simpson. “We hadn’t had any calls in weeks, so I had to play a little poker, and I said, ‘right now he is,’ and Boyer said, ‘I think he’s faster than a 4.6, and I believe in him, and I think he can play at this level.

“All I can offer him is a tryout and he can sign a release and we’ll fly him out for the weekend, and if we decide to keep him, then we’ll offer him a undrafted free agent contract.’ And I called my client and I said, ‘this is all we have.’"

You may have guessed by now that this story is about Malcolm Butler, Super Bowl hero and defensive stalwart of the New England Patriots. You’ve probably heard his story in some form before, but take a look at this from the agent’s viewpoint.

Simpson had no promise of this storybook ending.

His original efforts netted himjust enough money to buy a used Toyota Camry.

His handful of other clients, scraping to make it in professional sports never even made it to that minimum level.

And yet now, doing something he loves and traversing the ups and downs, Simpson sits on a multi-million-dollar piece of real estate.

Becoming a sports agent isn’t a get rich quick scheme, but when you are taught the right way to do it, prepare to pass the certification exam, and begin finding clients you can help along on their journey, you could be in for big things!

Just ask Derek Simpson.

dr. Lynn LashbrookAbout the Author: Dr. Lynn Lashbrook is the President and Founder of Sports Management Worldwide, the first ever online sports management school with a mission to educate future sports business executives.

Dr. Lashbrook has been involved in the sports industry for over 40 years and is a respected voice in the industry, having contributed to ESPN, Comcast SportsNet, Forbes, SiriusXM, CNBC, Rugby World, The New York Times, the London Free Press, Yahoo Sports and many more. 

As a certified NFL agent, Dr. Lashbrook has represented over 100 NFL clients, including former 1st rounder Mark Fields, 9-time Pro Bowler Brian Dawkins and Miami Dolphins Quarterback Matt Moore. He is a passionate and enthusiastic teacher, known for helping students strategize ways to reach their career goals in the world of sports.