Sports agent Kelli Masters was at her very lowest point in life. The broadcast journalism graduate and former Miss Oklahoma was searching for what to do with her life. She had recently graduated from the University of Oklahoma and had gone into law school just to open up career options for her. On the outside, everything looked great for this aspiring young woman. But on the inside, she was in a dark place and felt lost. It was at that moment she found God.
“I personally hit rock bottom. That ultimately paved the way to my faith in Christ and flipped my entire world around in a positive way.”
Kelli, like many, assumed she immediately needed to go to Africa or work in an orphanage. Now that this missing piece in her life was filled, she wanted to do more than what she had, but was fearful of what that “something” was. Mentors and friends encouraged her to stay in school.
She finished out law knowing that she was being prepared for something much bigger in life. “I always knew I wanted to devote some of my law practice to the nonprofit and giving sector to help those in need. That’s actually what led me down the path to working with athletes and in sports. Working with these athletes and their foundations really opened my eyes to the needs of pro athletes and what their world was really like – what responsibilities, opportunities, and struggles they have as athletes, and their need for great representation,” Kelli told Compete Every Day.
After much deliberation and prayer, Kelli spent one year researching the industry. She would cold call teams, other agents, scouts, and NFL personnel to learn of their experience with agents, the industry, and expectations. At the end of the year, Kelli knew she was facing a seemingly impossible task. But Kelli believed that God had brought her to this point in life so she would follow His plan through. And doors started to open. After being certified in 2005, Kelli signed smaller, undrafted players from nearby states. Her first signee, Cody Hodges of Texas Tech, set college passing records but never caught on at the NFL level. Then everything changed in 2010. In 2010, Kelli signed Oklahoma defensive lineman Gerald McCoy – the number three overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. Not only that, Gerald was Kelli’s very first drafted client. It was at that point this former beauty queen and Oklahoma lawyer caught the attention of the entire industry.
She knew her business and she knew how to represent players the right way in an industry known for corruption. “From the beginning, as a woman and believer, I know I would face battles. So from day one I’ve been very deliberate in my actions – everything had a purpose and was overly prepared. I knew rumors would be made and questions asked, but I kept the mindset that I can only control what I can control and everything else is out of my worry. My job, my players, my preparation was up to me, I would not let them down.”
The beauty of Kelli’s work and her focus is on preparing players for a lifetime – not just a brief NFL career. The average player’s career (for those who make an Opening Day roster) is roughly six years. Six years – a very small number in the scheme of one’s life. So Kelli is helping players prepare for the Draft and a NFL career, but her larger focus is about pouring life into them and preparing them for the long-term.
“Life is so much bigger than the NFL Draft. We make a huge deal out of the 40-yard-dash or Combine scores – and it is a big deal in the NFL – but it’s microscopic in the scheme of life. The NFL is a great opportunity for these guys if they make the most of it, but it is such a small window in the scope of your entire life. My goal is to help them make the most out of that NFL window, but also utilize it to prepare them for a life of significance and impact to be better husbands, fathers, community members, and businessmen. I love making my clients happy, but I’m in this business for the call years down the road that says ‘Kelli, thank you for shaping my life, putting the right people around me, and pouring into me. I am better for it.’ That is what I compete for.”
You don’t hear words like that very often from the sports representation world. Knowing up-close and personal what some of the industry looks like, it’s almost unheard of for an agent to admit focusing on life after football from day one and actually meaning it. But that is simply who Kelli Masters is. She believes the proverb that “iron sharpens iron” and has built a business on selflessly pouring her life into young athletes. Kelli believes so strongly in pouring into these players that she has an annual development retreat where she gets veterans and rookies together to learn from each other, and brings in outside speakers and professionals to help educate and encourage them. She even took a number of them to Haiti this past off-season for both the retreat and to pour life into the communities in Haiti. For most, it was a life-changing experience that has led them to come back home and search for more ways locally to give back.
When you think of sports agents, you think of “Jerry Maguire” and “Show me the money!” For most in the business, that is dead-on accurate – it is about the next deal, the next bonus, and the next agent commission. But for a select few like Kelli Masters, it’s about investing your life into the lives of others and helping them beyond the game of football and long after they’ve retired their cleats. She is a woman on a mission and leading the way.
Kelli Masters understands what it means to compete every day.