Image via Leigh Steinberg
If you're into sports and business, the name Leigh Steinberg probably rings a bell. After all, in this, the week of the Super Bowl, there may not have been a more powerful man in the NFL at one point than he. Hell, his real-life story was the motivation behind Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire, so, yeah, he's a pretty big deal. And while the current commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell, currently holds all the aces in his pocket in terms of the future of the league, the sports power agent, Leigh Steinberg, was the one who helped some of the biggest stars of the '90s grow their brands, giving power to players on the biggest stage — and he's not done yet.
After getting an invite but, unfortunately, unable to attend Steinberg's annual Super Bowl Party this weekend — which includes a who's who of guests, including NFL owners, current and former players and celebrities, among others — I still had to pick his brain about some of the stories from previous parties. Not only that, after representing a total of eight No. 1 overall NFL draft picks, which is a record, I wanted to know what his secret to such success really is.
Still representing both current and former talent, the man who current New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft once said was "the pioneer of athletic representation in the modern world of professional sports," sat down to talk about who he's got in Super Bowl 52, a hilarious story about a drunken Rob Schneider and other tips about the art of the deal. Take notes, guys, because this is like talking to the Michael Jordan of sports agents.
FHM: It's Super Bowl Week, Which Means Your Annual Super Bowl Party, What Makes It So Unique And Exclusive
Leigh Steinberg: "It’s a party attended by NFL owners, executives, coaches, players, former players, corporate CEOs, U.S. Senators and celebrities from film, television and music. It has a philanthropic theme, raising money for a variety of causes. We present the Steinberg-DiNicola Humanitarian Awards for off-the-field contributions to charitable initiatives. This year we will have a live hook-up with troops in the field in Afghanistan, so our guests can speak directly with our heroic troops deployed in combat zones. It’s a daytime event, so it’s ideal for conversation and networking."
FHM: The Party Has Been Going On For 31 Years Now, Any Memorable Stories You Could Share?
Leigh Steinberg: "One year, Rob Schneider came dressed as exercise guru Richard Simmons — only he was the “bad” Richard Simmons. He smoked and drank and passed out under the table. They showed the tape when he was a guest on Jay Leno. Jay had come to another one of our parties and asked me sports trivia questions. My answers ended up being too accurate and not stupid enough to use on his show. Warren Moon, Steve Young and Troy Aikman each came directly from the Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremony and we celebrated their enshrinement. One year, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, came to a “green” themed party and she and I released an endangered hawk into the wild. We raised money and sent a water purification machine straight from Miami to Haiti following the earthquake, which enabled 140,000 people to drink safe water."
FHM: What's Your All-Time Favorite Super Bowl Moment?
Leigh Steinberg: "It had to be the year Steve Young threw six touchdowns for the San Francisco 49ers and was named MVP. He had been in the shadow of Joe Montana for so long. I remember he hugged me and shouted, 'The monkey’s off my back!'"
FHM: OK, Who's Your Pick For Super Bowl 52 Between The Eagles And Patriots?
Leigh Steinberg: "Everyone knows New England will win — so I’m taking Philly in an upset."
FHM: You've Long Been One Of The Top Sports Agents, Representing Eight No. 1 Overall Picks In The NFL Draft, What's The Secret To Your Success?
Leigh Steinberg: "I’d say it's the ability to profile role-model types of young men, along with the ability to listen and really understand the hearts and minds of our clients."
FHM: And, Some May Know, But You Were The Basis Of Jerry Maguire, How Cool Is That To Have On Your Legacy?
Leigh Steinberg: "It’s fun. It has been years since I walked through a public space without someone running up and yelling, 'Show me the money!'"
FHM: We Won't Ask You To "Show Me The Money," But We Do Want To Know What It's Like Negotiating Millions For A Future NFL Player.
Leigh Steinberg: "Win-win negotiating necessitates seeing the world the way a team executive does, and plugging into their priorities. The money is surrealistic."
FHM: You've Got A Few Guys Entering The NFL Draft This Year, What Makes Them So Unique?
Leigh Steinberg: "Ronald Jones from Southern Cal is an explosive running back and a big-time talent. Our four quarterbacks — Chase Litton, Riley Ferguson, Nic Shimonek and Logan Woodside — are all known for their ability to elevate their game in critical situations to take a team to victory."
FHM: What's It Like Being There On NFL Draft Day, Seeing A 20-Something Kid's Dream Come True For Him And His Family?
Leigh Steinberg: "Euphoric joy. A night that marks the fulfillment of a lifetime of work, hopes and dreams."
FHM: Lastly, What's Next For You? Going To Stick Around The Agent Game Longer, Or Have Any Other Ventures You Want To Tackle?
Leigh Steinberg: "I enjoy helping mentor young people, and I have a great, young partner in Chris Cabott. We truly believe that we can help our clients make a positive impact on others. I plan to write more books and columns. There are currently negotiations underway regarding the rights to my book, The Agent. We're also doing the Leigh Steinberg Agent Academy and Sports Career Conference. At this point in my life, I have two priorities — being a good father and friend, and making a positive difference in the world."
Lead image provided by Leigh Steinberg.