He’s been called a real life Jerry Maguire, and on Wednesday night, the “NFL’s most ethical agent” is bringing his personal mission statement to Winona State University.
The WSU College of Business will host Eugene Lee, president of MBK Sports Management Group, at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Science Laboratory Center room 120.
Lee, a NFLPA certified contract adviser and expert on NFL player contracts and athlete branding, will discuss and sign his new book: “My Brother’s Keeper: Above and Beyond ‘The Dotted Line’ with the NFL’s Most Ethical Agent.” The book is a unique glimpse into the life of NFL players at various stages of their careers from the eyes of a morally centered agent.
But Lee, who started representing players he met playing while playing pick-up basketball at the University of Notre Dame and has gone on to represent 40 NFL players over the past decade, believes the message in the book and his presentation will transcend football, sports and business.
“The NFL player representation industry is a vibrant microcosm of life,” Lee said in a phone interview Saturday. “There are ups and downs, trials and tribulations day in and day out. It’s about finding in the storm, the peace that comes with being true to yourself.”
Lee was featured in the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary “The Dotted Line,” and makes regular appearances on Fox News, CNN and CNBC.
The Daily News spoke with Lee about his book and his modus operandi as an agent. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Q: The title of your book is “My Brother’s Keeper.” What does that phrase mean to you?
A: “My Brother’s Keeper” is a mission. When I wrote the book, I spent quite a long time picking the title. I even had the title before I started writing. It really was going to summarize and illustrate everything that we do. I was thinking about it for weeks, had all kinds of a ideas, and all of a sudden it came to me.
That’s what we try to do. We try to be that for our clients. Someone who has more life experience — like an older brother — has time in the industry, has certain gifts. We have our own gifts, whether it’s negotiation, sales, legal support. We want to use our skill sets to help build their earning capacity for all the blessings they’ve been given on the field.
There’s a saying that you can never pay it back, but you can always pay it forward. That’s what we try to put out there with our clients and really make them aware that’s who we are. “My Brother’s Keeper” is a mindset.
Q: You work in a cutthroat industry that has to be full of skeptics. Do you think other agents roll their eyes at your beliefs?
A: It’s absolutely cutthroat. I’m sure there are other agents who will roll their eyes at me, or look upon their title with a skeptical eye. Those are the ones who are probably more jaded. But I pay no attention to that. You have to be focused on what you’re doing, focused on the task at hand, stay true to yourself, stay true to your integrity.
At the end of the day I don’t care (what other agents) think. I don’t care what kind of perception there is. I know what exists in my heart. If you can answer before God about who you really are, that’s all that matters.
Q: Do you ever wish you weren’t so ethical? Has it ever cost you financially?
A: I joke about this in the book, and it was a bit of a crossroads for me. When I started to branch out beyond Notre Dame players, I was approached with an opportunity to represent Deuce McAllister, a very good running back. There were two gentlemen from Greenville, Miss., and they allegedly had strong connections to him. But it all degenerated into a play for them to extort money. They just made up stories, basically, of what they were. They had no connection to the player, really.
I was at a stage in my career where I was just starting out and I could have cut a corner and taken the short road to a big pay day. Everyone thought he would be a top-5 pick. He ended up being a first-round pick. I did a lot of soul searching, some self evaluation. At the end, as you get older, you want to set a good example for your family. From that moment on, it was like a light was shined upon me and I was showed the way. It may take you longer, and in the end it probably did take me a little longer, but it was the right path for me.
Q: What do you hope people take away from your book or your presentation Wednesday night?
A: I want people to know that no matter what you do, there are times where you are going to go through trials. Life is not a box of chocolates. Sorry, Forrest Gump. Life can be a cutthroat business with ups and downs, peaks and valleys, staying alive through the deserts. It’s not easy.
Our role as human beings is not to understand why or to question why. Life happens. Our role is to understand everything happens for a reason.
I give a first-hand account of looking back in this career and this profession, on things I could not understand at the time, but those were the best things for me at the time. And that’s all due to the divine will that’s played out for me every single day. You need to trust and move forward and believe “This is for my benefit in the long run,” that you’re not going to give up, not going to trudge. I’m going to run this race to the best of my ability. That’s all I’m trying to do. And I hope I can help people to reach their best, no matter their profession or station in life.