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Jordan Woy: NFL sports agent extraordinaire

Posted 6:59am on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012

Eavesdrop on Jordan Woy's flurry of phone conversations on any given day, or peek at his endless trail of texts, and you'd be hard-pressed to guess exactly what he does for a living.

That's him crunching numbers and talking contracts from his high-rise office overlooking Turtle Creek Boulevard.

Must be a lawyer, or a financial planner, right? Maybe a CEO?

That's him, too, zipping around Dallas in his black Maserati, Bluetoothing with a colleague about the long-term effects of concussions. Sure seems to know a lot about them.

Ah, a doctor? (Sweet ride, doc.)

But a text, asking him to arrange a meeting with a starlet, suggests he could be in showbiz. And a soothing exchange -- "How's Katie? How's everything? Let me know if I can help." -- spins you in a completely different direction. Marriage counselor? Therapist?

The answer, Woy might tell you, is all of the above.

He is the modern-day sports agent, not just the barracuda in form-fitting Armani that we all came to know and loathe in Jerry Maguire, but, rather, a methodical, law degree-wielding, sensitive and, yes, cocksure negotiator on behalf of his roster of NFL players.

See which players Jordan Woy represents.

The 51-year-old Woy, who if you squint resembles a less jowly, sandy-haired version of commentator and Super Bowl-winning quarterback Phil Simms, has spent his entire 25-year career as an NFL sports agent. In longevity terms, Woy can lay claim to the title of Texas' preeminent pro-football rep.

But let's go to the tape: The NFL Players Association says Woy has 25 players contracted to 20 NFL teams -- reportedly the most of any of the 78 certified sports agents in football-crazed Texas -- and Woy reps an additional 15 players without negotiating their current contracts. Over the course of his career, he has taken on 450 players, lined up contracts with every team and racked up close to $2 billion in NFL deals.

His clients include five current Dallas Cowboys -- Anthony Spencer, Jason Hatcher, Victor Butler, Dan Bailey and Jason Hatcher -- and several high-profile former Cowboys, including Flozell Adams and Roy Williams. He has established himself as a go-to guy among many of the area's top college football programs, including TCU, SMU, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Baylor and Texas A&M.

And it was Woy who, against all odds earlier this year, managed to land another shot at glory for controversial former Dallas Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens, who at age 38 had been cut by the Allen Wranglers of the Indoor Football League. (Owens signed a contract with the Seattle Seahawks, but was cut during training camp. Woy continues to represent him and has helped him land several TV gigs while still trolling for NFL opportunities.)

And yet, Jordan Woy has flown largely under the general public's radar in a sport where it seems even defensive coordinators are becoming household names.

Woy is low-profile because that's his game. After a quarter-century of surviving in a billion-dollar blood sport, he barely has to raise his gravelly baritone to get the attention of NFL owners and GMs.

"The thing about Jordan is that he creates a lot of trust and faith simply because he's a total straight-shooter," says Stephen Jones, Dallas Cowboys executive vice president. "He's unusual in that he consistently wants to do what is right for the player, and not get every last buck. Actually, Jordan is one of the guys in his business that I actually look forward to working with."

Sure, things occasionally get heated at the NFL negotiating table, Woy says, especially when millions in signing bonuses and long-term deals are at stake.

"Clearly, there are times when you have to be tough because every team will try to push you around," he says. "But what constantly affects my negotiating style is the fact that I will have to deal with that general manager or player personnel manager many, many times throughout the course of my career. So it's important that we develop a lot of mutual trust and respect.

"None of these owners or general managers mind if you drive a hard bargain. What they don't like is dishonest behavior. It would be extremely difficult to go back to Stephen and Jerry Jones of the Cowboys in a year or two if I've been a complete creep to them along the way," adds Woy. "They are not going anywhere, and I will have to deal with them again."

Moreover, Woy can employ a low-pulse-rate approach because, in his mind, he's playing with house money.

"I've made enough in this business that if I didn't represent another player starting tomorrow, it wouldn't change my life," he says. "But I still get a thrill out of sitting down with a new client and establishing a great working relationship where we are a team. I still love it because my clients know that I will work with them and that for all of their celebrity status, we treat each other with tremendous mutual respect."

And they know that beyond his role as coach and confidante, accountant and spiritual adviser, even father figure, Woy is a dealmaker, first and foremost.

"I often think of that famous business line from The Godfather: Part II, where everyone is speculating why Hyman Roth is still around doing deals," Woy muses about one of his favorite movies. "And the immortal answer is: because Hyman Roth always makes money for his partners.

"Anytime I represent my client," he says, "my No. 1 goal is that the deal makes money for both sides."

Second-generation dealer

If there is one person who understands the rewarding yet grueling life of a sports agent, it's the man who inspired Woy's career choice: his dad, Bucky.

A would-be professional golfer when Jordan was growing up in Akron, Ohio, Bucky soon discovered he was better suited to helping shape the careers of others, like would-be legends Lee Trevino and Julius Boros.

Bucky Woy started a sports marketing firm that first collaborated with a then-upstart agency called International Management Group, which, from its base in Cleveland, would grow into one of the sports world's premier agencies, repping, among others, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.

"Through my dad's firm, we always had great athletes just around our house all the time," recalls Woy. "Everyone from golfers like Lee Trevino, Orville Moody, David Graham to Jack Lambert, the great linebacker of the '70s-era Pittsburgh Steelers."

In 1975, Bucky Woy moved his family to Dallas so he could run the relatively fledgling World Championship of Tennis tour (featuring such stars as Rod Laver, Jimmy Connors and Ilie Nastase) for its owner, Texas billionaire Lamar Hunt.

Jordan attended MacArthur High School in Irving and was on the golf team, carrying a 6-handicap. At that time, Bucky Woy began representing Bob Horner, a third baseman who was the first player taken in the Major League Baseball draft by the Atlanta Braves. "It was at that point, traveling with my dad on road games, watching him work with Horner," Jordan Woy says, "that I decided that sports management would be something I'd want to pursue."

After graduating from Texas Tech in 1984, he went to law school at St. Mary's University in San Antonio. That same year, he attended the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., where his father would recruit and eventually sign college's hottest player, Oklahoma State slugger Pete Incaviglia.

"I remember my Dad was a ruthless negotiator," says Woy. "He engaged in some knock-down screaming matches because he would often represent a player as if he was his son."

Fresh out of law school in 1987, Jordan Woy met a Dallas-based attorney and football agent named Steve Weinberg, who took a shine to him. Together, along with Woy's father, they formed the fledgling firm of Woy, Weinberg & Woy.

"I was 26 years old, running around with one of the first of those clunky cellphones," says Jordan Woy. "It was a time when I didn't know enough to know that I really wasn't that qualified to do what I was doing. But I kept one thing in mind: The Wright brothers didn't have a pilot's license, either."

Getting personal with Jordan Woy.

In late 1987 and early 1988, amid all the hundreds of cold calls for clients, Woy would sign four players. One of them would end up making history.

In 1992, Woy positioned Brian Habib, an offensive lineman out of the University of Washington, as the first player ever to sign a free-agency deal in football, sending Habib from the Minnesota Vikings to the Denver Broncos and simultaneously making him the NFL's highest paid offensive lineman. Woy's fee was 5 percent of the final contract. (With today's much bigger monetary deals, Woy's fee is 3 percent.)

"It kicked off the brand new world of free agency," says Woy, "a new era of big money."

'Everybody is watching'

And if there is one area where Woy's clients seem to pay him rapt attention, it is when he starts doling out advice about money -- more precisely, how to get it and how to manage it.

"These young guys are making so much money now, and so soon, that they are getting bombarded by financial planners offering to help them," says Woy. "These days, a Drew Brees or a Peyton Manning is making more in one year than a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, Troy Aikman, probably made in his entire career. So what is paramount for my agency to do today is to advise our clients about how to protect these millions ... because these guys are long past the day where they can just stick their $10 million signing bonus in their bank."

So Woy schools his new clients in setting up family limited partnerships, where their money is accessible to them but shielded from lawsuit-happy creditors. He also brokers meetings between his clients and financial planners who are certified and approved by the NFL Players Association.

Beyond helping young players protect their money, Woy must also be a fierce guardian of their images. That isn't always easy, he admits, in the 24-7 mediatized world of sports blogs, Twitter, Facebook and the gossip-driven scrutiny of every fan armed with a camera phone.

"Today, everybody is watching," says Woy. Years ago, if one of his clients was dealing with a messy divorce or a DWI, only he and the team really knew about it. And they kept it under wraps. "In today's sports world, there is simply no room for error, as everything will come to light. Whether you are Tony Romo or a backup tight end, someone is following you and probably tweeting about it."

But there are some benefits to the intense interest and coverage, says Woy, who always has insider sites, blogs and Twitter feeds at his fingertips on his iPad.

"Here's where it helps me," Woy says. "I represent Terrell Owens, who is a very well-known, if older player. Terrell, after being released from the Seahawks, is currently not on a team. Now when I get a tweet from some sportswriter reporting that some wide receiver with some team was just ruled out for the season, I can immediately be on the phone with that team's personnel director or general manager to find out if Terrell could fill that spot."

Woy's clients are plugged into the social-media jet stream, too.

"Some of my players will call me with something that they just saw on Twitter, that another player at their position just signed a new contract and did I know what his deal numbers were?" says Woy. "If I'm not in the loop on that, I start to look more than a little foolish."

A straightforward approach

Tuesday during the NFL's regular season is typically a day of rest for players, but for Woy, it's go time. He'll try to contact all of his players by phone or by text.

"You got a win this week, which was good," says Woy to one of his clients, an NFL lineman, a few days after an October game. "I had you down for 25 snaps this last game. Your snap count has been consistent every game.... If you finish out the year like the way you started, there will definitely be a market for you. Just as long as you stay healthy."

And then, on a dime, Woy pivots: "How are the kids? Everybody's good?"

That could mean advice on buying a house, or a last-minute plane or hotel reservation. Or it could mean finding a top-drawer attorney to help with a tricky divorce or a paternity suit. Woy even gets requests to play matchmaker occasionally.

But mostly, Woy gives pro athletes his gut-honest feedback on their play and how it will translate into dollars come contract time.

Daryl Washington, a budding star for the Arizona Cardinals and a TCU grad, says he appreciates Woy's candor.

"I don't want somebody to tell me I played well when I didn't," says the 6-foot-2, 238-pound linebacker. "But he'll also check up on just how I'm doing in general, how I'm feeling mentally."

Josh LeRibeus, a 23-year-old rookie backup offensive lineman drafted by the Washington Redskins out of SMU, says it took him awhile to get used to Woy's direct approach.

"I will never forget that during our first meeting, Jordan said that he wouldn't lie to me," recalls LeRibeus. "He said I'd be drafted in the seventh round or, if not, as a free agent. I remember saying to myself: 'Geez, couldn't he have sugarcoated that a bit more?' But in all of our talks, he never lets me get a big head, and that just makes me work that much harder."

In a few keystrokes on his iPad, Woy can tell you how many snaps his clients were involved in during the last season. If it's a wide receiver, he'll chart every pass and how many yards after the catch that player racks up. Then, he'll compare those numbers with other top receivers in the league.

"You have to have done that kind of specific research, especially when it comes to comparables -- very much like when you're buying a house," says Woy.

For Daryl Washington, that strategy helped him ink a four-year extension at a whopping $8 million a year, making Washington the seventh-highest-paid inside linebacker in the NFL. Woy also made sure his client got bigger bucks up front ($5 million), and that half of the entire $32 million deal is guaranteed.

"It's important," he says, "that any player, young or old, make the most of his money early in his contract. It's really the focus of the kind of protection for our players we seek in our negotiations: to get the most money up front."

Jason Hatcher, a defensive lineman who has spent his entire career with the Cowboys, signed with Woy six months ago. He was impressed with Woy's 360-degree approach.

"What ultimately drew me to Jordan, as opposed to my previous agent, is that he really pays attention to his clients," says Hatcher. "A lot of agents just come and go and pick up their money.

"Jordan actually watched a bunch of film on me," he continues. "Essentially, if my [previous] agent would have known that much about me and the other players out there, I'm sure I would have been making much more money than I am today. Jordan ... is a very sharp business guy who won't screw you around. I trust him to do what he does, so all I need to do is focus on football."


Of course, a lot of players today aren't satisfied with success on the field. They are tuned in to the intersection of sports and entertainment, and they're looking for an agency that can build their brand beyond the gridiron.

Woy started Willis & Woy Media Group specifically to help strike deals with everyone from Coca-Cola to Bud Light and Red Bull, but he admits it is an uphill battle, because he's not just competing with other sports agents like the infamous Drew Rosenhaus. He also must contend with Goliath agencies like IMG, which counts Peyton Manning, Tiger Woods and Roger Federer among its stable of athletes, but also lays claim to Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake and Tyra Banks, just to name a few.

"None of this need for this kind of media work was nearly so prevalent 10 years ago," says Woy. "But today, with so much more media, television and corporate endorsement dollars out there, today's player has much more of a chance to become more high-profile much faster."

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver, one of Woy's clients, is a perfect example. He is a former Pro Bowl- and Super Bowl-winning wideout, but Driver had almost zero national recognition until he landed a slot on the 14th season of Dancing With the Stars. And won.

"After that," says Woy, "people started mobbing Donald when he came back to Texas [he lives in Flower Mound]. And then my office was contacted by numerous companies looking to scoop Donald up for radio, television, even Christmas party appearances."

In our instant-celebrity culture, athletes know they're just one paparazzi shot away from the cover of People, a la Reggie Bush, who famously dated celebutante Kim Kardashian. Or Tony Romo, who became TONY ROMO after he was spotted on red carpets and at clubs with Carrie Underwood and Jessica Simpson.

"Oh, yeah, I've had several of my players call me wondering if I might introduce them to this singer, or actress, or celebrity," says Woy. "It's sometimes for personal reasons, as they thought she was attractive. But sometimes, they point to Kobe Bryant's so-called date with [singer] Brandy, and all the exposure from that, or Kris Humphries' elevated profile after he married a Kardashian.

"It all does come down to converting these players into a brand," says Woy. "Using their name and likeness in the same way top chefs put their names on utensils, or Jessica Simpson puts hers on perfume."

There for the whole journey

When Woy is not consumed by his clients' contracts and promotional opportunities, he can be found obsessing about their life after football. The average NFL career is around four years, with the lucky ones stretching it to 10. That means many are forced to hang up their cleats in their early 30s.

"After they retire, these guys get bored," says Woy. "They've always had their competitive juices flowing and now, after football, they want to stay relevant. Many look at Troy Aikman as someone who not only had a great career, made some quite good money, and now, as one of the top analysts with Fox, can probably do that for the next 10 to 15 years if he wants to."

As such, Woy has developed the Life Beyond Football program, three to four off-season trips to such places as Vegas, Miami, Cancun and the Bahamas. Players, along with their wives, meet professionals ranging from financial planners and lawyers specializing in estate planning to executives from the oil and gas industry, like Chad Willis, Woy's primary partner in Willis & Woy. He is a successful oil and gas entrepreneur who helps drive home some of the post-football possibilities.

"[I want to] help a player get to the top of Mount Everest, but my primary goal is to bring him back to the bottom safely," says Woy. "The sad truth is that most players are fine reaching the top of that mountain, but any climber will tell you that most die on the way down -- which, in the NFL, means bad investments, costly divorces and just overspending. By the time they are done, they are right back to where they started. Our job is to prevent that from happening."

He often points to the shining example of Ray Crockett, who played cornerback in the NFL for 14 years and was on two Super Bowl-winning teams in Denver. Crockett, who attended Baylor, was a "born salesman," recalls Woy. "Always had this big smile on his face, talking a million miles an hour." So he steered Crockett toward real estate.

"Like a sponge, Ray just picked up everything," Woy says. "He started out with small investments, developing and selling off small parcels, and eventually, since he retired in 2003, Ray is seen as one of the most successful local real estate investors around. He now drives a Bentley convertible and lives in a 14,000-square-foot house in Southlake."

Learning the ABCs

If all that fatherly advice and planning for the future makes Woy seem like a kinder, gentler version of the prototypical sports agent, he's fine with that. After 25 years, he knows who he is, and knows how to survive in the shark-infested waters of the NFL.

"I must get hundreds of e-mails a week asking me how to become an agent," Woy says. "I tell them any number of things, including how much of a cutthroat business it has become and how much hustling and jumping through hoops is involved. That you can make quite decent money at it but it will require many late nights, early mornings and weekends. And that every year, you as an agent are starting over, from ground zero, no matter how good you were the year before."

Certainly, there are clashes of egos and confrontations. Agents never know when a client will decide to fire them, or sign with someone else. In fact, just this season Woy signed Cowboys outside linebacker Anthony Spencer, who was a No. 1 draft pick in 2007, because Spencer wasn't satisfied with his current contract, which includes an $8.856 million franchise tag for the 2012 season. Woy is seeking a five-year deal from Jerry Jones and the Cowboys, whom he has worked with successfully on 50 players since Jones bought the team in 1989.

Providing a window into the negotiating room with the owners of the NFL's most valuable franchise, Woy says: "In my dealings with Jerry and Stephen, they've always been open and honest. They are also pretty clear-cut. If they want your guy, they are pretty aggressive about working a deal out. If they aren't sure they want your player back, then I go out in free agency and revisit with them to see if they can afford to match the offer I've found on the outside. The bottom line with Jerry and Stephen is there is not any subterfuge."

The same can't always be said of Woy's fellow agents.

Rosenhaus, who has been accused of circumventing NFL Players Association rules and stealing clients, has contributed to the proverbial oil slick surrounding sports agents. And he has embraced that bad-boy image.

"The problem with Drew [who famously represented Terrell Owens during his darkest hours with the Philadelphia Eagles and currently counts Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant among his clients] is that he has developed a bad rep for stealing clients from other agents, by undercutting sometimes by half what other agents charge, or by, again allegedly, offering inducements to some players -- which you're not allowed to do in the NFL," says Woy. "All of that unethical behavior helps give all of our business a bad name. I look at Drew a bit like a caricature of the shark who always eats, constantly on the prowl for new players, but never sleeps."

But Woy is quick to point out Rosenhaus' essential agent qualities: "There is no question that Drew has an absolute love of what he does. He works at it seven days a week, around the clock, so you can't help but tip your hat to someone who loves what he's doing and works nonstop at it."

For all his highly evolved theories on being a pro sports agent, even Woy admits that the high-stakes game he has been playing for a quarter-century often comes down to one simple guiding principal: "Always be closing."

The mantra runs through Glengarry Glen Ross, one of Woy's favorite movies, and he has been known to make his underlings watch it, specifically the scene in which Alec Baldwin's character pounds home that brutal but critical advice.

"I tell them that serving your clients is both a labor of love and central to always bringing in money to the firm and to the players. In fact, you do always have to be closing," Woy says. "If not, you're wasting our time, your time and the clients' time."

Alec Baldwin couldn't have said it any better himself.

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