It is rare that someone can make such an astounding effect on an industry that a movie is modeled after his or her life. It is even more rare for that person to battle personal demons, loss, and betrayal, only to return with a vengeance. Leigh Steinberg did just that.
Sitting in a quaint office overlooking the water in cushy, Newport Beach, Los Angeles-born sports agent Leigh Steinberg spoke candidly on a few topics near and dear to him while providing insight into his many layers. He is a man that reached the pinnacle of success in his field. Furthermore, unlike various others in his cutthroat profession, Leigh cares a great deal about his players and their well-being. He donates to various charities, believing that giving back is non-negotiable. He is a man that introduced the conversation about concussions when others turned a blind eye. He has spoken at eulogies and Hall-of-Fame inductions, experiencing great highs and lows. Lastly, he is a man that has made mistakes. Haven’t we all? He is human after all. He dealt with adversity and did the only thing he knew how to do, battle back and succeed.
Following the career of Steinberg, from his iconic clients, lavish Hollywood parties, charitable donations and a little movie called ‘Jerry Maguire’ it is hard to believe that at one point he lost it all. However, there have been many that have written about his struggles with addiction, I much prefer to focus on his second chance, a comeback that naysayers didn’t see coming.
In Leigh’s office is a framed New York Times article highlighting the eight-year, $50 million dollar deal Troy Aikman signed with the Cowboys in 1993. Elsewhere, framed family pictures garnish his desk while photos of Leigh with various celebrities hang on the wall.
He is warm and engaging, a stark contrast from many “Hollywood types”. We spoke about many topics, starting with the beginning of his career, moreover, his relationship two of his most famous clients Steve Young and dear friend Warren Moon.
On Steve Young; “Money was not his motivation, playing was.”
Leigh defended Steve publicly during his days with the 49ers, frustrated by the backlash given to Young because of the fans obsession with Joe Montana. Leigh said of the fans; “Honestly, would rather see the team lose with Montana than win with Young.” Young’s strong family base, as well as his intellect and character, set him apart from countless before and after him.
A crucial subject covered in Leigh’s book ‘The Agent’ is the significance of client maintenance. Those who criticize the most seem to forget the simple fact that athletes are human. Leigh prides himself on doing his best to understand, listen, empathize, be not only an agent to his clients but a friend.
On Client Maintenance (2nd career-what skill sets they have other than athletic), “Look forward to the future and make sure there is a smooth transition.”
Nothing grips at my heart strings more than the subject of concussions. Written a few blogs on the subject myself, I was intrigued to learn that Leigh Steinberg has been advocating strongly about the danger of concussions since 1994. He asked legions of questions that others would not. How many are too many? What is the magic number? Years after his first inquiry, Leigh learned that 3 or more could lead to Alzheimer’s, Pre Senility, ALS, CTE and Depression. He called it a ticking time bomb, an undiagnosed health epidemic.
On Concussions: “We know that football players will break down gradually, the joints in the body so that a few players retired at 40 might lean down to pick up his child and have aches and pains, it’s another thing not to recognize your own child.”
The interview took a lighter turn when he and I spoke of the Rams moving back to LA, the city they once occupied for 48 years. A lifelong Rams fan, Leigh lit up when speaking of his favorite team. Although Leigh is sympathetic to the plight of St. Louis fans, he is delighted to have the Rams back in the city of Angels.
On the Rams moving back to LA; “They will be magnificently supported, we have $18 million people here, they will sell out….Los Angeles is not immune to football.”
He and I spoke of Paxton Lynch, Leigh’s stud QB that is projected to be the first QB selected. Excited about Lynch’s future, Leigh explained in detail why Paxton is the “new mode of QB, stronger, but athletic.” Hearing him speak of Paxton only makes the anticipation grow to witness what he will do on the field. Steinberg has never been one to be wrong about talent, at least not from what I’ve seen.
“It’s a quarterback-centric league right now.” Leigh reiterated further.
As I shook hands and thanked Mr. Steinberg for the interview I couldn’t help but smile to myself wondering how many more future Hall-Of-Famers will sit across from Leigh where I sat this muggy March afternoon. Guess we will have to wait and see. However, one thing we can be sure of, Leigh Steinberg is back in business.
Click below to watch the full interview!