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Russell Okung Cuts Ties with Agent: ‘I’m Betting on Myself’

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I saw this story a while back regarding former Oklahoma State offensive lineman Russell Okung. I’m sort of leery of anything on Derek Jeter’s Players Tribune because … well … it seems pretty self-serving (and it is), but this by Okung was incredibly thoughtful.

He wrote extensively about why he cut ties with his agent and is, as he puts it, “betting on myself.”

As a 21-year-old offensive tackle out of Stillwater’s Oklahoma State University, I knew I’d made it big time. I understood that my life would change forever. I’d no longer be that kid from humble beginnings in Houston, Texas, but a personality in the greatest league in the world. I could set up my family, my finances and my legacy forever.

Sounds good so far.

 

All I had to do was find someone to show me the money. In essence, I was under the impression that selecting an agent was the precursor to my wildest dreams. 

What he realized later is that all those big promises when he was in Stillwater weren’t necessarily coming to fruition. Okung, who is in the final year of a $48 million contract, is going to set up his 2016 contract all on his own.

And because I know I’m more than adequate without representation, I’m betting on myself.

I see his point. The 2.5 percent he was paying an agent amounts to over $1 million for his $48 million contract. Probably more for the next one.

I know my worth. I can look at the market and go directly to a team without an agent and tell that team my worth. And I can do so with confidence because I’ve done my research, I’ve educated myself and I’ve questioned the answers I’ve been given. And when it comes to reviewing the details of my next deal, I’ll hire an expert — a lawyer or a sports attorney who understands the dynamic of football contracts — to read the paperwork. I’ll negotiate a one-time flat fee that isn’t dependent on the size of my salary.

Yeah, that’s kind of really smart.

You see, there’s a new sort of athlete, and he’s not just an athlete. He’s a businessman and a living brand, a la Magic Johnson or LeBron James. He’s a player who represents himself because he not only understands the market and his own personal value, but has the self-assurance and financial know-how to do so, too.

My only issue with not having an agent — and I see this a lot in golf — is how invaluable they can be to you mentally. Jordan Spieth and Zach Johnson both talk a lot about how mentally peaceful they feel by having a nice-sized team (including an agent) alleviating them of everything outside of hitting a golf ball.

That might not be as big a deal in football where you aren’t traveling as much on your own (and offensive linemen don’t often get individual endorsement deals). Either way, I like the path Okung is taking because it’s unconventional. Is it economically beneficial? We might never know.

Finally, here’s a fun Russell Okung video.

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