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Volume 22 No. 35
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Athletes First makes push to secure future with new deals for 3 agents, looks to branch into other sports

NFL player representation firm Athletes First has taken a big step in securing its future by signing long-term deals with three of its agents, including making David Mulugheta an equity partner. Mulugheta represents several stars in the league, including Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson and Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

Athletes First, which represents more than 100 NFL players, also made NFL agent Joe Panos a partner and signed NFL player and coaches agent Kyle McCarthy to a long-term deal and promoted him to director of football. Mulugheta has been named president of team sports, and will spearhead A1’s efforts to expand beyond the NFL.

Mulugheta

Brian Murphy, Athletes First president, said that signing the three agents to long-term deals was the top priority for the agency this year. 

“It’s crucial, critical to keep your best employees, your best family members, in the family,” Murphy said. “They are exceptional agents, but more importantly, they have been with Athletes First for a long time now.”

Panos

Panos, a former offensive lineman for the Eagles and the Bills before becoming an agent, joined Athletes First in 2012 and counts Cowboys center Travis Frederick, Cowboys offensive tackle Tyron Smith and Lions offensive tackle Rick Wagner among his clients.

McCarthy, a former safety who was captain of the Notre Dame football team, has a client list that includes Texans linebacker Zach Cunningham, Broncos rookie tight end Noah Fant and Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur. He joined A1 in 2015.

McCarthy

Mulugheta joined A1 in 2011 and became an NFL Players Association-certified agent in 2013. Since then he has represented 11 first-round picks, including Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins, the first selection by the Redskins this year. Mulugheta has a client base of about 30 players, and 10 of them, including Chargers safety Derwin James and Redskins safety Landon Collins, are Pro Bowlers. 

Mulugheta’s employment agreement was up at the beginning of 2019 and there was talk in the industry that he could join a rival agency or start his own. “I heard all the rumors about David,” Murphy said, “but I was fortunate because I was talking to David throughout the process so I knew the facts, and the facts were that everyone wanted David.”

Murphy

Asked why he stayed, Mulugheta said loyalty to the agency that gave him his start and a chance at ownership were the two main reasons. “Anything you want to do, you want to have ownership,” he said. “You want something that’s yours that can’t be taken away.”

Mulugheta said he had offers from other agencies but that it came down to staying at A1 or starting his own shop.

“It might have been more lucrative to start my own company,” he said, “but I thought I would be doing a disservice to my clients if I did that. Because I wouldn’t have had the foundation, the network and obviously the support staff that we have at Athletes First that took years and years to build.”

Mulugheta is starting to vet opportunities to enter other sports, and although it’s early, baseball and basketball are possibilities, he said.

UTA SIGNS PLAYERS-TURNED-BROADCASTERS: United Talent Agency has signed former NFL quarterback E.J. Manuel and former NFL center Eric Wood, negotiating deals for both of them to join ESPN’s new ACC Network as analysts.

Manuel will serve as lead analyst for the ACC’s Friday and Saturday studio shows. Wood will serve as an analyst working both games and in studio for the ACC Network. Additionally, Wood, who played nine seasons for Buffalo, also is joining the Bills’ media team, where he will serve as a radio color analyst.

UTA agents Ryan Hayden, Jerry Silbowitz and J.B. Fitzgerald are representing them and negotiated the deals.

GLUSHON SIGNS NBA CLIENTS: Glushon Sports Management has signed Kansas forward Dedric Lawson and Yale forward Miye Oni for representation in this week’s NBA draft.

Glushon also recently signed Raptors guard Jodie Meeks and NBA free agents Trevor Booker and Cameron Payne. Jason Glushon, who founded the agency in 2016, is representing the players.

Liz Mullen can be reached at lmullen@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @SBJLizMullen.