Interview with Sports Agent Sean Stellato

Stellato at Gillette Stadium photo courtesy of bostonglobe.com
Stellato at Gillette Stadium
photo courtesy of bostonglobe.com

Many of us who love sports like to imagine themselves in the highest of positions within an organization. Some of us like to fantasize about being the Head Coach or GM of a team, others may dream about being an athlete or sports agent. If you have ever seen Jerry Maguire, you probably thought being an agent was one of the coolest jobs in sports. Getting into the sports agent industry is extremely difficult. Staying in the business is even harder. Sean Stellato of SES (Stellato Enhanced Sports) granted me the opportunity to ask him questions about his life and his career as an NFL, CFL, NBA and MLB player agent.

Perrone (left) and Stellato (right)  photo courtesy of item live.com
Perrone (left) and Stellato (right)
photo courtesy of itemlive.com

Sean Stellato grew up in historic Salem, Massachusetts. He became a star athlete for Salem High School’s football and basketball teams after leading both to state championship appearances his junior year. In 1994 (his junior season) he quarterbacked his team to an undefeated record despite a teachers strike that should have prevented his head coach Ken Perrone from coaching, but he did so despite opposition from the school district. Perrone was an extremely successful coach at the high school level for 22 years, and Sean has expressed that Perrone could have been the winningest coach in Massachusetts high school football history had he not betrayed the teachers strike and subsequently been fired after their 1994 season. 

The story of his 1994 football season is a well known story in Massachusetts. Stellato was a hometown hero. People doubted him because he was undersized to be a star QB and no one thought the team had a chance after the teachers strike. His story of overcoming the odds is Hollywood-esque. He has written two books, one about his life and the other about his 1994 Salem High School football team. In July of this year, his book No Backing Down: The Story of the 1994 Salem High School Football Team caught the attention of Angelo Pizzo, the screenwriter for “Rudy” and “Hoosiers.” Pizzo plans on bringing the story to the big screen. The movie is still in the earliest of stages, but Stellato hopes to have it ready by the story’s 25th anniversary in 2019. The video below features footage of the team, Stellato and Perrone from their hallowed 1994 season.

Stellato’s success in football was matched by his skills in basketball, leading his team to an undefeated season and winning a Massachusetts state title for Salem High School. In his senior year at Salem High School, Stellato broke numerous football records and began attracting Division I schools for both sports he played. He decided to go to The Gunnery Prep School in 1996 for one year where he was named All-New England in football. After his year of prep school, he decided to commit to  Marist College where played on a basketball scholarship and was also a wide receiver on the football team. After being the leading wideout for Marist in his final two seasons, he signed an Arena Football League contract with the Florida Firecats in 2002. He played in the AFL for two and a half years before retiring. His next venture would prove to be his toughest yet, the sports agent industry. Stellato has overcome the odds before, and he’s doing it again, establishing his own firm in 2013 after 7 years of being partnered with other sports agents.

Did playing in the AFL help you get into this industry? Or did you know out of Marist that this is what you wanted to do?

photo courtesy of itemlive.com
photo courtesy of itemlive.com

“No, to be honest with you. I watched Jerry Maguire my senior year of high school in 1996 and I kinda really liked the movie and liked the character and what that side of the business was. To be honest with you I’ve always envisioned trying to do something around sports because it was such a big part of my makeup. I’ve always trained like I was going to the Olympics, you know, everything I did was to get better and improve. A lot of people didn’t think I’d accomplish even a third of what I was able to do because I was 5’9″ 183 pounds when I was playing. I had a passion for the agent side but I didn’t know if I wanted to coach or be a scout. But then having a couple agents that I hired and fired, I thought ‘you know what, that’s definitely something that I would like to throw my hat into the ring and give it a shot’. I got into the business because I grew more passionate about it and knew that I could only play football for so long. But I didn’t really have connections in the business when I got in. Man, I cut my teeth. I literally cut my teeth. When I tell you, I mean I grinded day and night and traveled everywhere, it’s insane.”

Who have you worked with in regard to teams and businesses?

“I’ve worked with pretty much every (NFL) team . That’s what you do, you work on the relationships. You’re constantly trying to promote your players and clients. I have two clients up in canada as well in the CFL. No NBA players, but I played Division I basketball so theres potential still there. I’m really focusing on NFL players but I do have a kid in baseball by the name of Brandon Bingel. He was drafted last year, single-a ball with the Pittsburgh Pirates. As far as businesses, I’ve done deals with Rolex, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Dick’s Sporting Goods, the list goes on.”

photo courtesy of storybook cove.com
photo courtesy of storybookcove.com

What is the other side of the table like when you sit down to negotiate these contracts?

“I mean, they’re intense. They can be frustrating. But you know, you have got to control your emotions. Remember, you’re fighting for your client and they’re trying to devalue or put their own spin on it so sometimes you take it personal.”

Describe a typical week of yours.

“It’s very long days. I’m still in the office (I conducted the interview at 6pm on a Tuesday), I’ll be here for another two or three more hours. You just never know. My job is like being on the Tower of Terror, you’re up and down in seconds before you can even shake a stick. There is a ton of traveling. The most important aspect of my job is servicing my clients and keeping them employed. Being able to deliver 24/7 – 365 for your clients is the name of the game, it’s very important. I have roughly 20 clients, it’s nonstop.”

What is the most difficult part of your job?

“I think recruiting, travel, the lack of gurantees in contracts. It’s a very physical high impact game (NFL). There is a lot of turnover. It’s kind of a concoction of a bunch of stuff, you know. There’s only 1696 jobs for a lot of talented players out there.”

With only 1696 player jobs available in the NFL, how do you go about recruiting clients that can take one of those spots?

“I mean I watch film, recruiting can be looked at and done a variety of ways. But I like to watch film and do my own diligence when looking for clients. Sometimes I get referred to players by my own clients.”

What is your favorite part of your job?

“I love being able to call up a client. I love to be able to get them work you know, when they sign a contract, negotiate a deal. Those are the things that really make my heart beat a little harder and really give me a reason why I want to be in this business. Cause at the end of the day I’m taking the baton further (for his clients) than I was able to go as an athlete.”

Is there any advice you could give someone who is aspiring to get into the sports agent industry?

Stellato with Joe Vellano after Super Bowl XLIX photo courtesy of thehypemagazine.blogspot.com
Stellato with Joe Vellano (center) after Super Bowl XLIX
photo courtesy of thehypemagazine.blogspot.com

“Honestly, I would never advise my kids to get into this line of work because it’s beyond cut throat and especially the NFL side of things, there’s not a big pool of jobs. It’s hard to have a balance of being a father and being a husband and having this job. My best advice is really to just do your research before you make a decision to jump full fledged in. Cause remember, you know, dreams don’t make overhead. (I mentioned going to law school and the prospect of that helping breaking into the industry) Entertainment law? That’s a great line of work if you can get in, but the actual Jerry Maguire NFL sports agent, I mean, it’s tough man, it’s real tough. You have days where sometimes you wonder why you’re even doing it. But you know what, it’s all on you. You have got to feel within what you really want to do and what you’re passionate about. You can never go wrong with a law degree. You have to be able to speak. I was a Public Relations major at Marist, it helped me with my career. You have to be able to speak, it’s very important. The media can obviously put a major spin on things.”

You can follow Sean on Twitter at @seanstellato and Instagram at @ses_sports.

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