Leigh Steinberg is an extremely successful man who has managed to walk the tightrope between the lucrative business of being a sports agent and paying it forward along the way. Not only has he looked for organic ways to get athletes to prepare for their futures during retirement, he has helped to guide them towards giving back to their communities that have given them so much.
On this episode of Finding Your Summit Podcast, we talk with Leigh Steinberg, CEO and Chairman of the Board at Steinberg Sports and Entertainment in Orange County, California. Leigh Steinberg has had many highly impressive achievements along the way in his career. He has had the most amount of overall #1 NFL draft picks with a total of eight, and 60 first-rounders. Leigh has been the agent for basketball, baseball, boxing, and Olympic sports players, over 300 athletes all together. But he also has managed to score big in his win against alcoholism.
What You Will Learn:
What was it like for Leigh Steinberg to start off with Warren Moon? “At the time Warren (Moon) was the MVP of the Rose Bowl and a really talented quarterback from the University of Washington. He aspired to be a quarterback. But at that time in the NFL the so-called thinking positions, which were centers, quarterbacks, safety were thought by many in the NFL fraternity to be not a great launching pad for African American athletes.” Warren spent 6 years in Edmonton as a part of the Canadian league and proved himself to the NFL. Just how well did Warren Moon do? He ended up being the first pure free agent and wasn’t even the starter and was still the MVP. “At the end he signed the biggest contract yet for an NFL player with the then, Houston Oilers. He ended up playing 23 years, six in the CFL and 17 in the NFL.” Leigh Steinberg also went on to become best friends with Warren Moon.
Leigh Steinberg was voted most likely to succeed in his high school class. He was also essentially played by Tom Cruise in the movie Jerry Maguire, the hit movie that Leigh also served as technical advisor on. “I took Cuba Gooding Jr. down to the Super Bowl and made him pretend he was a wide receiver because he had gone to NYU and there was no football there.” Leigh also wrote a New York Times bestselling book called Winning With Integrity.
Even though both of Leigh Steinberg’s parents attended UCLA for college, Leigh ended up choosing to go to Berkley for college during the counterculture times of the 1960s. “I had been raised by parents that emphasized two values, one was to treasure relationships, especially family. Are you a good son? Are you a good father? Are you good to your friends? There at critical times when they really need you? And the second was to make a difference in the world. So I was always judged by, did I help people that couldn’t help themselves?”
Who was the first professional athlete client that Leigh Steinberg added up representing? “Steve Bartkowski was drafted in January. They had the draft in January then of 1975 and he had had another agent but he wasn’t happy and he asked me to represent him. So there I was, brimming with legal experience. So, I wasn’t sure when I did the Bartkowski negotiation that this was going to be a career. But, I had an epiphany.”
Leigh has had the foresight and understanding to see that athletes have the transferal skills to become successful in business. “To be a successful athlete you have to have self-discipline, you have to have an understanding that you may be suffering now and putting work in that is not the most pleasant for future success. You turn down present gratification for future success. You have to take a complex set of information and use it in real time. You have to exhibit courage and ultimate performance under high pressure and teamwork is also a key.”
Show Me the Money
Leigh realises that it is more important to use the Internet to create new forms of income instead of the friction stemming from the fight between labor and management in professional sports. ”Every time we have a collective bargaining agreement that pits billionaires against millionaires, how much empathy do you think that somebody who has a median income of $60,000 is going to have for either party? So, what we need to do is build the brand.”
Winning with Sobriety
During this episode of Finding Your Summit Podcast, Leigh Steinberg also opens up about his past struggle with alcoholism, how it impacted his life negativity, and how he turned it all around and fought back to become sober for the last 10 years. “I shut down everything. Gave my practice to the younger agents. Shut down my house, my condo, my business, and went into sober living. And I said, if nothing else in this world, I will be a sober person and I will be a good parent.”