Interview with Sean Howard, President of Football at PRIME Athletes

By: Nick Zobel, @Nick_Zobel

Front Office Sports is proud to have sat down with Sean Howard, President of Football at PRIME Athletes, a Los Angeles-based athlete management and marketing firm. A former high school All-American and UCLA Bruins linebacker, Sean received his JD from the University of Oregon School of Law when injuries ended his football career in college. Sean has worked as an NFL executive and scout for the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers and was an agent at Octagon prior to co-founding PRIME. He has been an NFLPA Certified Contract Advisor since 2005 and represents multiple first round draft picks including Brandon Weeden, Whitney Mercilus, and Brandon Pettigrew.

What’s your typical day look like?

“I get up and read quite a bit, just keeping up to date with current affairs,” Sean described. “I then go through a log of each of my clients so I’m handling any business matters that are pressing.” The ability to maintain constant communication and stay organized is therefore hugely important. “Then it’s cyclical. It all depends on the season,” with fall recruitment, winter draft preparation, and spring/summer contract negotiations bringing their own schedules and unique challenges.

What’s the most difficult part of your job?

“Recruiting,” Sean instantly said. While recruitment season brings a lot of travel, Sean explained that his biggest issue with recruitment is the “very ‘salesy’ component which I don’t prefer.” At the same time, however, Sean conceded that “it’s pretty cool to learn about these prospects and their families,” and that eventually helping them achieve their professional and financial goals is “rewarding.”

What are some of the challenges industry newcomers face?

Throughout his career, Sean has seen industry newcomers suffer the mistakes “similar to a lot of athletes today: they want to experience the success right away.” Instead of expecting “instant gratification without putting in the necessary hard work,” aspiring sports business professionals should take the time to learn about the business and “develop almost an innate know-how.” Sean suggests that the most effective tool for those just coming out of school to establish this knowledge is by gathering practical experience through internships and volunteer opportunities.

What’s the most common mistake industry newcomers make?

New agents have fallen into a trend of ”feeling like they have to fulfil a certain caricature” when establishing themselves. Sean pointed to the characters of HBO’s “Entourage” as inspiration for a number of new sports agents. This is a dangerous practice, as an agent’s blatant attempts to hide his/her personality will interfere with his ability to establish relationships with clients.

What do you look for in a new hire?

Sean’s primary focus when looking for a new hire can be summed up in one word: integrity. In an industry often objectified by Jerry McGuire-like generalizations, Sean argues that integrity is “irreplaceable.” Beyond honesty, Sean looks for potential employees who have “a passion, someone who is smart, and resourceful.” Just understanding sports business isn’t enough; you need to demonstrate desire to work in the industry and use available tools and skills to get tasks done.

What is your experience with mentors?

Sean credits much of his success to the influence of mentors, explaining that they’re “extremely important. I wouldn’t be here but for the influence of Terry Donahue,” the former 49ers GM who gave Sean his first job out of law school. According to Sean, mentors provide mentees with a practical education that can’t be matched by formal in-class instruction. Now that he’s on the other side of the mentor relationship, Sean has found it “tremendously rewarding to mentor others… [because] I’m able to impart knowledge and a style [and] I help develop this industry even more.”

What are some key current market trends?

As the recent capital investment in CAA demonstrates, the athlete management market is preparing to go through another round of aggressive acquisitions. “It’s very, very cyclical,” Sean explained, “and it seems right now that there’s a push by groups to acquire others.” Sean also pointed to a trend of targeting specific divisions, either by internal expansion or acquisitions.

Final words of wisdom.

“Always stay true to yourself and let your passions guide you.”

Interview with Ryan McKenna, an Associate of Talent Recruitment for Thuzio

Weekly Whip Around; South Florida's Attendance Problem