This week's WAG Crush is a Behind the Brand feature with the impressive Agent Nicole Lynn of Young Money Sports APAA. This beauty is also a beast (with contract negotiations). Nicole's story is a reminder that it's not about how you start in life, but what you ultimately become and give back to the world. Read her inspiring interview below, and if your guy (or any athlete you know) is in need of an agent, be sure to include Nicole in the conversation.
Name: Nicole Lynn
Sports Agency: Young Money Sports APAA (Young Money acquired PlayersRep in recent merger). Yes, Lil' Wayne is now her boss!
Hometown: Tulsa, OK
Current Residence: Houston, TX
Education/Occupation: Bachelors in Business Management & Doctor of Law (J.D.) - University of Oklahoma/Civil Litigation Attorney and Sports Agent
Hobbies: Sports, dancing, and lots of Grey's Anatomy
· Twitter: @agentnicolelynn
· Instagram: @agentnicolelynn
· Website: www.agentnicolelynn.com
Tell us about yourself.
I have been a sports agent and attorney for about three years. People are always amazed when they find out what I do, but I’m just getting started! What many people don’t know about me is how rough of a childhood I had. To say I grew up in humble beginnings is an understatement. I wasn’t just the poor kid in school . . . I was the poorest. To give you a sneak peek: many days I wore the same clothes to school, I didn’t always know what I would eat when I got home, and lived in homes with no water, gas, and electric. I had to grow up REALLY fast, so I essentially raised myself with very little parental guidance. I started working at the age of 14 years old and have had a job (or two or three) ever since. Because of my traumatic childhood (and to be honest, I haven’t even scratched the surface of what that childhood looked like), my drive and determination was and has always been off the charts. I never had anyone to fall back on, so it was either be successful or be nothing. My childhood made it difficult because everything I had, I had to work for. Never once was I given a hand out (and sometimes you truly need these). However, it was helpful in the sense that I am able to relate to a LOT of NFL players on a personal level. Many players grew up in similar situations like I did. They, too, have demanding families that they have to support and families that pull at them from all sides. I know exactly what this is like so I am able to relate to players on a level that many other agents will never be able to. I can also provide guidance to them on how to navigate their family and can be a voice of reason on how to never go back to that life by retaining their wealth long term.
Once I realized what I wanted to do long-term, I applied to law school. After finishing law school, I spent time working at the NFLPA in Washington D.C. While there, I sat for the NFLPA agent exam and became certified. Currently, I am a full-time civil litigation attorney at an international law firm and a full-time sports agent.
Have you always known you wanted to be a sports agent?
I didn’t always know I wanted to be a sports agent specifically, but I did know I wanted to help athletes be successful even after they retire or leave the league. I saw firsthand that a lot of my athlete friends would enter the league and go from rags to riches, and then back to rags. In the beginning of my journey I thought I wanted to be a financial advisor so I pursued finance and moved to New York to work on Wall Street. When I got there, I realized that what I actually wanted to do was have the day-to-day interaction with my clients rather than just managing their financial portfolio. So I left my job and went to law school to take my first steps to becoming a sports agent.
You are the only female agent in your agency. That’s impressive! How did you get involved with PlayersRep (now Young Money Sports APAA)?
There are very few women in my industry as a whole, so I wasn’t surprised when I joined an agency that had no women. Prior to joining my agency, I spent a short stint working at the NFL Players Association. While there, I made sure to become an expert in all things “NFL Benefits.” I wanted to have an expertise that other agents did not have. I wanted to know every single opportunity/benefit provided to NFL players during their time playing as well as after they finished. I think this knowledge base set me apart from other applicants attempting to join the agency. I was extremely nervous when applying to [PlayersRep]- it’s a huge agency ! Fun fact: it’s the 9th biggest sports agency out of 357! I knew that if God called me to be a sports agent that he would make a way for me to work at a top 10 sports agency. I reached out to the agency and luckily they saw something in me and the rest is history!
Who are some of your clients?
My agency represents some of the biggest names in football including: Devin McCourty of the New England Patriots and Lane Johnson of the Philadelphia Eagles. I personally represent a diversified list of clients, including NFL players, professional softball players, college football coaches, and an American Ballet dancer. Below are a few of the clients I represent and work with on a day-to-day basis.
· Corey Nelson – Denver Broncos
· Seth Roberts – Oakland Raiders
· Jordan Evans – Cincinnati Bengals
· Todd Davis – Denver Broncos
· Kendal Thompson – Washington Redskins
· Erica Lall – American Ballet Theatre
· Jennifer Gilbert – Akron Acers and Canadian Olympian
· Lauren Chamberlain – USSSA Pride
· Coach Jamarkus McFarland (coach) – University of Oklahoma
How is it working with female and male athletes?
I really enjoy working with both male and female athletes. Working with each side gives me a huge sense of fulfillment in different ways. The guys confirm that I am fulfilling my dream of working with athletes and helping them obtain and sustain wealth. The women, on the other hand, confirm that I am fulfilling dreams that I never even knew I had. My female athletes are major girl bosses and that helps me realize how much of a girl boss I actually am as well. I never sought out to be 1 of only 42 NFLPA certified female agents. I never sought out to be the first and only woman to work with my major sports agency. But I am extremely proud of how far I’ve come and my clients, both male and female, keep me motivated to continue striving for success.
There are for sure challenges in this business when you are a female and working with men. Specifically, I am one of the youngest female sports agents (or agents generally), so many of my clients are my peers. There is always that awkward moment when the wife or mom of a player walks in and sees me sitting in the interview chair. Fortunately, the WAGS of my players have been amazing to work with and we have built real friendships. My WAGS are just as much my client as my player. I do think initially it takes some getting used to having a woman working with your son or husband on a daily basis, but once trust is built there is no problems.
As far as challenges, I am reminded every single day that I am a woman and that it is not the norm. Whether that be the shocked look on a college player’s face when he walks into the room to interview me, or the change of tone of voice of a NFL team’s general manager over the phone when he hears he is negotiating with a woman. That 30 seconds of them being shocked never ever changes. I have learned to deal with it. I sit there, I give them their moment of being shocked, then I get to business!
There are other issues I face that my male counterparts will never understand. For example, I have to be extremely cautious on the outfits I choose. I have to find the fine line between being presentable and pretty but never too pretty. You never want to be prettier than any other wife or mom in the room. The last thing you want to do is make a wife feel uncomfortable. So because of this I have to be strategic in whether I choose to wear lipstick that day and ensure it isn’t “too much.” I battle with whether wearing a 5 inch heel is appropriate, so usually settle for a 2-3 inch heel out of an abundance of caution. And to make matters worse, being a black woman who likes to change her hair frequently, I have to think of how potential clients will take it. Can I be the girl with Beyonce weave? Will they be okay with my 3C natural hair with a twist out? It can be extremely difficult.
Wow! You are a total boss for managing those challenges on the daily. I'm sure it can be difficult. You’re also a beautiful woman working with male athletes. You touched on this earlier but, is it as big of a deal as one would assume? Any crazy stories?
Thank you! I would be lying if I didn’t say things can get a little crazy. But I try to make sure that my work ethic and professionalism set the tone for interaction with both male and female sports professionals. I mean, I’m not this uptight person that is all business all the time. But I definitely make a conscious effort to never blur the lines. You can’t control everything, but some things have to be addressed and taken care of before it even gets the chance to get out of hand.
I have had my share of crazy stories, from being asked to leave an area of the NFL Combine because they thought I was a player’s girlfriend trying to sneak in, to NFL coaches attempting to hit on me. Although I expected these things, I am still shocked every time they happen.
What’s one thing you’d like WAGS to know about you?
I would like the WAGS of my clients specifically to know that I am open to their questions, concerns and suggestions as well. Once I sign a client, we all become a team and I want to do what is best for the team. That includes making sure their families see the bigger picture and feel secure. My goal is to make sure each client is not just focused on his or her most current contract or endorsement, but that the team is keeping the bigger picture in mind and focusing on how our steps now will affect the future.
Have any advice for our WAGS?
The best advice I can give to WAGS is to determine what your “why” is. Why did God put you in a position to be a WAG? I assure you it wasn’t just to be “his wife.” You have a greater purpose, so you have to figure out what that is. Once you figure that out, use your platform. You have the ability to reach so many more people than the average woman. You have the ability to change the world. So now you’re asking, how do I do that?
· First: Find a mentor!! Or at a minimum, find someone who is doing what you want to do and shadow them or follow their journey. People are afraid of imitating other people, but I say, if she did it first and it works, follow her steps!!
· Second: Get extremely knowledgeable about your area. If you are wanting to start a non-profit you should know every single thing there is to know about a 501©(3). You should be reading every single book you can get your hands on that will teach you how it works, how taxes work, how to fill out the paper work, etc. (Be sure to check out the WAGS Redefined master’s classes and see if one is offered on your topic). Before I became a sports agent I became obsessed with the collective bargaining agreement with the NFL. I knew every single thing about that document. You should be the same way – your free time should be dedicated to learning your area. Remember, obsessed is a word that weak people use to define the dedicated!! BE OBSESSED!
· Third: READ!!!! The most successful people in the world are always reading. You should always be reading something. I highly recommend the book "Lean In" by Sheryl Sanberg for all my corporate-working WAGS. Buy the audio version and thank me later!
· Fourth: Make a short-term goal list and a long-term goal list. If you want to be a blogger your short-term goal may be to spend 30 minutes a day working on coming up with blog topics. Your long-term goal may be to up your IG followers by 10k. Put your goals on your mirror and mark them off as you go!
The last piece of advice is to not let the lifestyle of being a WAG affect your personal relationship with your guy. Being a WAG can be a blessing and curse … focus on the blessing part, fight for your marriage/relationship, and don’t let this crazy world of sports get to you. Lean on other WAGS who can relate to some of the struggles you are dealing with. You guys are in this together!
Where do you see yourself in five years?
In five years I hope to be doing exactly what I am doing now but on a bigger platform. Meaning reaching more players and more sports. I also hope to be in a world where me being a female sports agent isn’t such a big deal. A world where women are invited to “sit at the table” and aren’t looked upon as inferior based on their gender. In five years I hope to have helped several athletes transition out of their sport and am able to see that, that transition was seamless. I hope to have negotiated some of the biggest NFL contracts in NFL history. Additionally, in five years I see myself as a guest ESPN commentator, an author, and hopefully a mom.