By William Jenkins
Leigh Steinberg Makes a Difference in the Lives of Players and Their Communities
The National Football League is the premier professional sports league in the USA. The NFL TV ratings are still the highest among pro sports leagues, which mean the TV contracts are incredible and the player contracts are impressive.
Each year 200+ players are drafted into the NFL, and thousands of agents compete to sign them and represent them to other teams. Those in the first round are the most sought after, and you might imagine agents would do anything to sign them.
Not Leigh Steinberg. As one of the premier sports agents, Steinberg seeks to weed out players as much as they seek to weed him out among available agents. He asks each one this question: “If you had one chance to make a difference in the world, how would you give back?”
Some players are confused by the question. Their response clearly indicates they care more about the money, what Leigh can do for them, rather than giving back to others. Steinberg says he refuses to represent a player like that. The Steinberg philosophy prepares players for the future, including focusing on a cause they care about, giving back to their community, and starting a foundation that will outlive their own career and make an impact for generations.
Steinberg cares deeply about giving back. You can see it in how his agency prepares player hopefuls for the draft and life in the NFL. And you can see it in those NFL retirees who have continued to give long past their playing careers.
In 2015, Steinberg began his own humanitarian awards for the NFL owner, front office executive, head coach, player, and retiree who best give back to others. The Steinberg DeNicola Humanitarian Awards are presented annually at the Leigh Steinberg Super Bowl Party and Maxwell Football Gala. The award recognizes outstanding individuals in the NFL community that devote and dedicate their time to address community issues and the welfare of humanity. 2018 will mark the fourth annual Steinberg DeNicola Humanitarian Award.
Steinberg points out that many players also purposefully try to address issues that impact the next generation of players, starting with high school athletes. 2017 Steinberg signee Patrick Mahomes went back home to Tyler, Texas and sponsored a football camp for youth there. 2016 signee Paxton Lynch took clothing from his Nike contract back to his hometown. And these are just a few.
As Steinberg seeks to expand his business into representing players in baseball and basketball, Leigh emphasized that giving back transcends sports and impacts our culture. Steinberg points to boxer Lennox Lewis, who Steinberg represents. Lewis sponsored a campaign emphasizing that real men don’t hit women. Lewis emphasized that the goal was to change the way adolescents think for the better.
Steinberg also sponsors an Agent Academy (15 so far) that teaches up and coming agents about recruiting, negotiating, branding, marketing, and setting up a charitable foundation for players – Steinberg’s goal is to raise a new generation of sports pros with ethics and values and skills.
We are featuring four of Steinberg’s former clients who have all now retired from the NFL and moved on to successful second careers but who have continued to impact through giving.
Troy Aikman Gives Back to Student-Athletes
Troy Aikman is a Hall of Fame quarterback who played for the Dallas Cowboys, leading them to 3 Super Bowl titles in his career 1989-2000 and currently a sportscaster. Troy is the chairman of the Troy Aikman Foundation, a charity to benefit children that has recently become part of the United Way of Dallas. Recently Troy Aikman gave back to his alma mater, UCLA, in a big way. Aikman donated $1 million to the program’s Wasserman Football Center. Aikman said, “By making this contribution to UCLA Football, it’s clear that I am, and always will be, a UCLA Bruin as well. My time at UCLA helped mold me into the person I am today, and I want the Bruin student-athletes that come after me to have the same opportunity I had to achieve their boyhood dreams.” Visit aikman.com.
Warrick Dunn Provides Homes for the Holidays
Warrick Dunn is a star running back who played for both the Tampa Bay Bucs and Atlanta Falcons 1997-2008. Warrick established the Homes for the Holidays (HFTH) program in 1997 and started Warrick Dunn Charities (WDC) in 2002. The HFTH program rewards single-parent families for reaching first-time homeownership. HFTH recipient families are chosen through a partnership with Habitat for Humanity affiliates and WDC with complete home furnishings and down-payment assistance. HFTH has assisted over 150 single parents and over 300 dependents in Atlanta, Baton Rouge, Tampa, and Tallahassee. In 2006, one of those homes happened to go to Deshaun Watson’s family, who was quarterback of the 2017 Clemson Tigers National Championship football team and NFL quarterback in his rookie season. Visit wdc.org.
Steve Young Impacts Health and Education Across the Globe
Steve Young is a Hall of Fame NFL Quarterback, 1985-1999, perhaps most remembered for his spectacular 1994 season as NFL and Super Bowl MVP. Young founded the Forever Young Foundation in 1993 as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization focused on passing on hope and resources for the development, strength, and education of children. The Foundation serves children facing significant physical, emotional, and financial challenges by providing them with academic, athletic, and therapeutic opportunities currently unavailable to them. Development projects include Forever Young Zones and 8 to 80 Zones, which provide technology and multimedia labs for those living in underserved communities and state-of-the-art interactive play areas and music therapy facilities in children’s hospitals. International initiatives include the building and expansion of schools in Ghana, Africa, as well as enhancing health, educational, and athletic opportunities for Ghanaian youth. Visit Foreveryoung.org.
Rolf Benirschke Helps Endangered Species Research
Rolf Benirschke is a star kicker who played for the San Diego Chargers 1977- 1986. In 1980, Benirschke kicked off a wildly successful campaign to raise funds to support conservation projects at the San Diego Zoo’s Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species (CRES). He called it Kicks for Critters, pledging $50 for every field goal he kicked during a game, and he challenged San Diegans to pledge at least $1 for every field goal he made. By the end of his career, Rolf and thousands of football fans had raised more than $1 million to help endangered species. Since his retirement, he has continued his work with the San Diego Zoo and volunteers with the San Diego United Way, Boys & Girls Clubs of East County. For 36 years, Rolf has been providing inspiration and encouragement to patients around the world who live with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, colorectal and bladder cancer or other circumstances that can lead to ostomy surgery. He is the national spokesman for The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA), and The Rolf Benirschke Award was created in 2015 to honor community members who have made a significant impact locally for philanthropy, giving back, and leaving a lasting legacy. Visit rolfbenirschke.com.
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Leigh Steinberg is CEO of Steinberg Sports and Entertainment, the premier boutique agency for any individual, organization, or entity seeking to add exceptional value to their endeavors. Leigh has represented many of the most successful athletes and coaches in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, boxing, golf, etc., including the number one overall pick in the NFL draft for an unprecedented 8 times in conjunction with 62 total first round picks. Leigh is easily distinguished from others within his profession by his passion for giving to those less fortunate and his endless campaign to make our world a better place. Leigh is often credited as the inspiration for the Oscar-winning film Jerry Maguire. Leigh wrote a best-selling book, Winning with Integrity, providing insight on how to improve life through non-confrontational negotiation. Furthermore, Leigh’s most recent book, The Agent: My 40-Year Career of Making Deals and Changing the Game, details his decades of dominance in the sports industry and sheds light on overcoming his personal struggles to launch his comeback. Leigh has been rated the #6 Most Powerful Person in the NFL according to “Football Digest” and the #16 Most Powerful Person in Sports according to “Sporting News.” He resides in Newport Beach and has three children. Visit www.steinbergsports.com.