Steinberg is on the money with talk to GCU sports business students
Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Darryl Webb
GCU News Bureau
The first thing that strikes you about Leigh Steinberg is his genuine curiosity about every facet of the sports world. The second thing is that he’s genuine, period.
So when Colangelo School of Sports Business students at Grand Canyon University got to hear the legendary “Jerry Maguire” sports agent Friday as he shared stories, rattled off numbers and waxed philosophic about his 40-plus years in the business, it was a firsthand glimpse into what they need to start acquiring.
Show me the money? Show me the knowledge.
“The thing we say to students a lot is, no matter what you do, know what’s going on,” said Dr. Brian Smith, director of the School of Sports Business. “He really, really knows what’s going on, and he has an eye toward the future that’s really remarkable.”
Smith saw that right away Friday when he picked up Steinberg to bring him to campus. The agent was on fire about a story about college football coaches’ salaries that had appeared in USA Today. Upon his arrival, it didn’t take long before that enthusiasm had the overflow audience, which included University administrators, in rapt attention.
“There was kind of an energy that I think the students could feel,” Smith said. “The comment I heard over and over is that he seems real down to earth. You think of a sports agent as a fast-talking guy with slicked-back hair, but he doesn’t fit that mold.”
Steinberg, as is his wont, touched on a wide variety of subjects, first and foremost his passion for relationships and making a difference in the world — values he said his father taught him. He was out front on the domestic-violence issue long before it became fashionable (boxer Lennox Lewis, a Steinberg client, did a “Real men don’t hit women” spot years ago), and from Steinberg’s first deal he demanded that his clients use part of their salary to give back to the community.
He also shared his insights into the effect television has had on sports, the fantasy sports explosion, and the future of sports venues, throwing out numbers off the top of his head.
But the best part of a Steinberg talk is the stories.
About all the sports movies that have used him as a consultant — including, of course, “Jerry Maguire,” for which he was the model. (He said he still hears the famous “Show me the money!” line everywhere he goes.)
About hanging with Cuba Gooding and Tom Cruise and Kevin Costner.
About things that have happened to his athletes, like the time quarterback Troy Aikman was hospitalized after a playoff game and kept asking, “Why am I here?”
Therein lies Steinberg’s current crusade: to make football safer in the wake of studies that show the deadly effects of repeated concussions.
“I want you to think about what you do when you get into a career and you feel that what you’re doing isn’t good for society,” he said.
What Steinberg is doing isn’t going to win him any popularity contests in the National Football League offices, but he is determined to do what he can to try to decrease the brain damage his football-playing clients suffer. Studies have shown that getting three or more concussions during a career can result in exposure to a multitude of diseases, and Steinberg is excited about new helmets that, he said, can dissipate 46 percent of the impact from a collision.
His excitement about helping people certainly applies to students, as demonstrated by the Agent Academy he has begun. He told Smith he wants to keep the numbers reasonable to give him a chance for more one-on-one instruction.
He even had some advice about resumés. “It’s about the ability to distinguish yourself,” he said, noting examples of resumés that caught his attention.
After he was done, Steinberg stayed for nearly an hour as a long line of students asked questions.
“The world’s waiting,” he said. “We need people to come along who have ideas and values.”
And genuine passion. It’s showtime.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected]