Ashley Millerick brings two essential qualities to her position as Willis & Woy Sports Group's first ever fully accredited female agent:
She's the recent recipient of a law degree, and she's a former athlete, lettering in varsity track at TCU.
One gives the 25-year-old credibility and the legal know-how to earn a space at the NFL's bargaining table; the other gets her that all-important access with potential clients.
Millerick, who graduated from TCU in 2009 with a degree in communications, admits she doesn't hesitate to play the purple card.
"Yeah, the TCU athletic office always teases me when I go back there that I've gone over to the other side," Millerick says with a laugh. "But if my having gone to the school helps further our relationships, that's all right because they certainly are putting out a lot of big talent lately."
In fact, it was former TCU football player Jason Phillips who introduced Millerick to his agent, Jordan Woy. And not long afterward, during her first year of law school at Texas Tech, she started interning at Willis & Woy in Dallas.
"I've been working for Jordan pretty much ever since," says Millerick, who passed the NFL Players Association agent certification exam in July and so far has been most active in helping place two of this year's rookies on NFL squads: SMU's Josh LeRibeus with the Washington Redskins, and TCU's Braylon Broughton with the New Orleans Saints.
Surrounded by competitive sports for as long as she can remember -- she played basketball, soccer and track and ran cross-country -- Millerick now seems eager to immerse herself in a field known for oversize egos, bloodthirsty battles and, let's face it, an abundance of testosterone.
"The reason the agentry business is so hard to be financially successful at is because it tends to be driven by a group of men who are following ego, and are not business-minded," says Millerick. "For so many of them, their route to making money is by developing the biggest client list, often by stealing other people's clients. But I'm learning from Jordan that you should never go to an already-represented client and try to underbid his agent's fee -- let alone write that client a $100,000 check -- just to add him to your list.
"I admire that Jordan never down-sells himself. He knows his value and he handles himself accordingly.
"The more I understand how other professionals approach this business," says Millerick. "The more I realize that the way Jordan has done it, with great honesty, is why he has lasted for 25 years."
For his part, Woy had no hesitation about bringing Millerick on board as his firm's first fully certified female agent.
"Ashley is smart, ambitious and tenacious," Woy says. "She is also extremely businesslike, which is vital when you are a young female sitting down with a lot of young male athletes. From the very first moment players and their families meet her, they realize right off the bat just how serious and focused she is. Though she is young herself, she is so well researched and so professional about what she's doing that these clients immediately treat her as seriously and respectfully as she treats them."
Millerick brings a stark pragmatism to the double-edged sword of being a young, attractive woman in the male-dominated world of pro sports agents.
"I try to use the fact that I'm an energetic woman to actually open up more channels of communication, because I'm finding that as a woman, more of my clients feel a greater ease and trust in talking with me," says Millerick. "In fact, as a woman agent, some of the players carry less of the stereotype of male agents in their head, and I try to use that to my advantage."
At the same time, Millerick acknowledges that she faces a whole different slate of challenges.
"Oh, I'm not naïve at all about how most of the men in that conference room might be thinking of me, this young, 25-year-old chick-agent, and they are thinking, what does she know?" says Millerick. "As a woman, I know that I have to be more on my game than a male agent. A male agent can say something stupid and it won't be held against him. But that's not necessarily the case if you're a woman."
And no matter how she tries to keep things strictly business, inevitably the occasional athlete mistakes her recruiting efforts for something more.
"Honestly, 80 percent of the people I deal with respect the scenario in which we're talking," says Millerick, who says she takes extra care to dress professionally and avoid scenarios where drinking is involved. "But for those who make a pass at you, and it has happened, often with a late-night text, you have to walk a fine line between not hurting a player's ego or being rude. So I tend to tell him that while I'm very flattered, I'm trying to build a business relationship and to work with him and I can't mix business with pleasure. Things have to remain platonic.
"If it happens again, and he clearly hasn't gotten the message, then we can't continue to have any kind of business relationship."
Millerick knows integrity isn't automatically associated with the image of an agent, but if she hopes to rise through the ranks of the NFL, it will be crucial to her ultimate success.
"I've always been someone who enjoys a good challenge," says Millerick. "And, let's face it, there hasn't been a woman -- certainly not a woman as young as me -- who has really reached the level of success I aspire to in this male-dominated business, with its occasionally bad reputation -- and, most importantly, stuck it out and made a long-term profession of it."