[Ed. Note: In our piece last week on the “Top Five Sports Agents who are Lawyers,” we mentioned Darren Heitner. Darren is the founder and managing editor of SportsAgentBlog.com, a popular, well-recognized blog. And while checking it out, we couldn't help but notice that he's a pretty busy guy.
In addition to running one the leading publications in its industry, at 25 years old, Darren is also an entrepreneur who started his own agency that represents a roster of young, up-and-coming clients. Additionally, he's also currently a 3L at the University of Florida-Gainsville. So, we wanted to find out how he juggles it all—and ask him for more insight into the intriguing world of representing athletes (and campus co-ed models).]
What’s your story? How did you get into the sports agent field?
I had an internship at a prestigious sports and talent agency in Atlanta, Georgia between my sophomore and junior year of college [at the University of Florida]. Upon completion of that internship, I decided to start what is now SportsAgentBlog.com. It was created on the last day of the calendar in 2005.
I graduated from the University of Florida with a Political Science degree, but after a few months on campus, I realized that Politics would not be in my immediate future. Still interested in learning law, I enrolled at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where I will graduate from in about a month.
I started my agency, Dynasty Athlete Representation, LLC, with one of my original contributors in April 2007, after he basically convinced me by saying something along the lines of, “Why not?”
What made you decide to start SportsAgentBlog.com? Who is your audience?
I started it because I wanted something that would keep me up-to-date on everything in the industry that I no longer was able to experience right in front of my face (no longer being an intern at the sports and talent agency in Atlanta).
I was fortunate enough to land some interviews with a few of the biggest names in the sports agent industry, and with the help of a few backlinks here and there from sites like Deadspin and ESPN, our following grew and grew. Today, if you ask a sports agent if they have ever heard of SportsAgentBlog.com and he/she says no, that person is lying to your face.
You’re in law school now—are you on law review?
While I was Valedictorian of my class in undergrad, I have nowhere close to the grades in law school that would put me onto Law Review. (I have good grades, though. I don’t want people to get the idea that I’m a slacker!) And truthfully, I would not have the time to appropriate to Law Review and do a good job at my duties in the organization. I never tried to write-on.
How is having a law degree going to change things for you?
I will be able to put Darren Heitner, Esquire on my business cards.
On a serious note, it will allow me to expand my offerings to my current clients and also explore other areas of the law that interest me. While in law school, I have had the benefit of taking some of the things I learned and applying them directly into my negotiations and contracts.
After hopefully passing the Bar, I will be able to offer legal advice while holding myself out as a lawyer, but I can also do things that I cannot do now, such as offer the service of doing my clients’ estate planning.
What’s a typical day for you?
There is nothing typical about any day, but I divulge some of the constants in each day. I am a firm believer that a big, healthy breakfast is the most important way to start every day. I will eat either a 12-eggwhite omelet or oatmeal mixed with whey protein powder. I also drink at least 80 ounces of water per day. You can call me a health freak, but in order for me to function at 100% day-in and day-out, I have to treat my body like a temple.
While eating breakfast, I will plug into my RSS feed reader and get caught up on as much sports and tech news (I am a tech nerd) as possible. I also check my Twitter lists throughout the day to see if there is any breaking news that I need to be aware of.
This semester, I only have classes Monday-Wednesday, but I take advantage of the down time in have in class to stay up to date with what’s going on in the world. I have even brokered deals for my clients while in class (don’t tell my profs!).
I make sure to get in at least an hour workout everyday, and it oftentimes lasts a full two hours. Besides working out, occasionally watching a TV show at night and going out some nights to have fun with friends, I am usually working on the business. But I really don’t consider it work. I’d probably do it for fun even if it didn’t bring in a steady income.
Be honest, how do you really balance a small company and law school plus a popular blog?
And still sleep 8 hours every night? And very rarely stress out? I tell people that my best skill is time management.
But the key part goes back to what I said earlier: I truly enjoy what I do. For me, doing work for my clients is like what playing the FIFA Soccer video game by EA Sports is for others. I can spend hours doing research, reading terms of contracts, talking to managers, etc. and not even realize time going by.
Do I read news articles while in class? Do I sometimes write a blog post while someone else is being pinned by the Socratic method? Sure. But my buddies next to me are busy starting at their Facebook News Feeds.
Why start your own shingle right away instead of picking up some experience first by working for bigger players in the game?
That’s a great question. It has absolutely nothing to do with ego. Instead, I really did not want to wait at least three years of law school before I would get my feet wet and then make close to nothing working for a big agency. I also would much rather work for myself.
Has it been a challenge? Was it extremely hard to convince my first clients to sign with me? Is it still harder for me to sign clients than an agency that represents Peyton Manning and Derek Jeter? Sure, but I love the challenge, and I welcome going head-to-head with anyone in the industry.
You’re story sort of sounds like a guy named Drew Rosenhaus. Young, tenacious, going out on his own… Is he an idol or a role model?
Drew Rosenhaus is someone that I respect, but I do not think that our stories have much similarity at all beyond the fact that we both started our businesses at a young age. Drew’s focus is football. My current focus is baseball and basketball, but truthfully, that could change at any time if a smart business opportunity comes my way.
I also would like to do something with my law degree and plan to sit for the Florida Bar. Drew never felt the need to pass a state Bar. I will say that I admire Drew’s drive and his willingness to do practically anything for his clients. There is a reason why so many football players sign with his agency. He is a very hard worker, and it has paid off according to his bank account.
What’s been your best moment so far?
We were advising Steve Bralver going into last year’s MLB Draft. He had a tremendous career at Emory University, but unfortunately was looked over by every team in each round of a 50 round draft. Bryan Swalley (Steve’s primary agent at Dynasty) and I never stopped trying to find Steve a job.
We set up tryouts for Steve all across the country, but no team would take a chance on him. Eventually, a team did sign him, and Steve led the team to the league’s Championship game. His team won the title, and Steve was named MVP in the game.
Who’s the hottest agent right now to keep an eye on? What current athlete do you think has tons of potential and is really going to be a breakout star?
Everyone knows who Scott Boras and Drew Rosenhaus are. Most people have also heard of Tom Condon and Arn Tellem. A name that a lot of people will hear in the next few months is Gary Wichard. He is representing the following players who have a good shot at being selected in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft: Jimmy Clausen, Arrelious Benn, Taylor Mays, C.J. Spiller and Everson Griffen.
I’ll plug one of my own clients who should be making headlines in Major League Baseball in the near future. Pete Parise is a relief pitcher in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. Last season, he was named Relief Pitcher of the Year for the Cardinals Triple A organization and just finished a remarkable effort for Puerto Rico in the Winter Caribbean Series. As of responding to these questions, Parise is tied for the lead in saves in Major League Baseball Spring Training.
You’re a talent agent too. Right now, your client roster looks like a good number of bowlers [HERE] and handful of sexy college co-eds [HERE]. How is working in both departments possible? Ever booked a blond model on a bowling tour?
So now you see why I don’t really enjoy the title of “sports agent.” I started doing some work for a few University of Florida models as a favor to some friends. At the time, I was a lead representative in Florida for Playboy Enterprises, and I made quite a few connections to very attractive ladies at UF. It has been a joy to find the girls additional work, negotiate the terms of some of their contracts, and provide advice to them as they continue to grow as models.
Danielle Wolfe is currently in Miami taking acting classes, as she has a strong desire to become a very talented actress.
We thoroughly enjoy working with the bowlers, as well. Fortunately for us, there was little to no competition in that space, and we saw bowling as a sport that gets solid ratings on ESPN and has a lot of room to grow with better marketing tactics.
We have never booked a blond model on the PBA Tour, although maybe that’s something we should pitch to the PBA execs.
Where do you expect to be in 10 years? In 20?
Either Miami, Florida or in the White House. Perhaps in 20-years the possibility of a Jewish President will exist. Who am I kidding? I probably have too many skeletons in my closet for that.
What’s your advice for any lawyer out there who thinks they want to become a sports agent?
Never forget that you are a lawyer and are bound by the rules of professional conduct. I believe that a larger percentage of athletes will choose attorney agents as time goes on. Make sure that you do everything in your power to bring success to your clients, but never forget your ethical duties to the profession of law.