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Leigh Steinberg, the 64-year-old comeback kid

Ricky Williams' agent Leigh Steinberg gestures while fielding

Ricky Williams' agent Leigh Steinberg gestures while fielding questions from reporters during a news conference in Davie, Fla. (July 25, 2005) Credit: AP, 2005

Leigh Steinberg once was the NFL's most prominent agent, signing many of the top players in the draft, including eight players who went first overall. He was the inspiration for the 1966 hit movie, "Jerry Maguire," and was an early advocate for concussion awareness among NFL players.

And then the bottom fell out.

"I had a series of personal reversals, where my father died a long, nasty death of cancer, my two boys were diagnosed with severe eye disease, we lost a home to flooding that we had to knock down and ultimately I got divorced," said Steinberg, who also suffered crippling financial setbacks. "It was a 'Job-ian' feeling of powerlessness. I felt like Gulliver tethered down with Lilliputians sticking forks in him. I was devastated and sort of broken."

But Steinberg said he experienced a "moment of clarity" about something his father once told him.

"My dad had two core values," said Steinberg, 64, who represented NFL stars including Troy Aikman, Steve Young, Bruce Smith and Warren Moon. "One was to treasure relationships, and the other was to make a difference in the world."
Toward that end, Steinberg has gotten back into the agent business, and has penned an autobiography detailing his experiences. "The Agent: My 40-year Career Making Deals and Changing The Game."

"I eventually decided that, if nothing else, for the rest of my life, I would be a good father and, more importantly, I'd be sober," Steinberg said. "In about six weeks, it will be four years that I've been sober."

Steinberg said he is in the formative stages of a television program involving would-be sports agents competing against one another, and is also involved in several marketing ventures for products that enhance the NFL experience for television viewers and in-stadium fans.

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