If you lived in a big football town or city growing up, whether it was an NFL, college or high school team, you understand: there’s just something about the energy at a football stadium. Not to mention, it totally gets us in the fall, back to school spirit. Alexa Stabler, sports agent at Stabler Sports and daughter of a Pro Football Hall of Fame member, completely understands this pull.
After going through law school and working as a practicing attorney, she faced the loss of her father and ultimately decided working in sports was where she was meant to be. She started Stabler Sports, a full service agency aimed at helping athletes reach their goals both on and off the field. Not only is Alexa total entrepreneur #goals, but her passion and drive to help the players and families she represents is evident. We talked with her about how law school prepared her for her career now, how she began Stabler Sports, and the advice she would give to women looking to get into the sports industry.
What was your first job, and how did you land it?
A large law firm offered me a position out of law school, but I knew a big firm wasn’t a good fit. I turned it down and moved to New Orleans with no job. I landed with a small firm there through a family friend but left after six months to practice law with my now-husband, who opened a patent practice shortly after passing the Bar Exam.
What experiences and lessons did you learn practicing law that have helped you get where you are?
Although a law degree is not required to be an NFL agent, law school taught me skills that make me an effective agent: negotiating, working with contracts, advocating for the client’s best interest, and counseling clients on business and personal decisions are parts of being both a lawyer and an agent. I think a lawyers’ understanding of fiduciary responsibility makes them particularly well-suited to be agents.
Had you always known you wanted to be a lawyer?
No. I studied broadcast journalism in college wanting to work in television news. I had great experiences and met really cool people during internships at CNN and MTV but ultimately felt pulled to law school (with no idea what type of law I wanted to practice).
Your father was a pro-athlete and even has a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame! What was that like growing up?
My dad being a professional athlete shaped a lot of who I am and what motivates me today. Dad was able to leverage football into a lifelong career through broadcasting, endorsements, and appearances. I saw the good and the bad; the power of celebrity but also the broken down body and the opportunists who tried to take advantage of him and other players.
What I did realize early on was how special he was — no matter where we went people always wanted to talk to him, and he always gave them time. He used to say, “It’s when they stop asking that you have to worry.”
When did you realize that you wanted to work in sports?
I lost my dad to cancer in 2015. Losing him hit me hard and caused me to re-examine where I was headed and motivated me to take some risks. As an attorney, I had experience negotiating, working with contracts, and advocating for my clients. I also knew my perspective as a former player’s daughter was valuable. Being an agent seemed like a natural marriage of my personal and professional life, so I sat for the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) agent exam and launched Stabler Sports in 2017.
My dad worked hard to succeed at football’s highest level, so I thought hard before putting his name on the business because I never want to tarnish his legacy.
What was the process of starting your own agency like?
I was firm in my desire to open my agency rather than working with an existing agency. My husband started his own law firm and has always been a source of support and inspiration. I wanted to see if my approach to athlete representation would resonate with players. It was a big risk.
My dad worked hard to succeed at football’s highest level, so I thought hard before putting his name on the business because I never want to tarnish his legacy. Starting a business is tough, regardless of industry, but I have never regretted it.
As a sports agent, what does your typical day look like?
My day depends on the time of year. I spend football season recruiting. Players sign with my agency in the winter when they finish their seasons. They then play in all-star games and train for the Combine/Pro Day leading up to the Draft in April. The Draft is an exciting time; the guys finally learn what city they will call home. They report to their teams for Organized Team Activities in May and June and training camp in August. Then football season starts, and it all begins again!
What are the most rewarding aspects of your job?
The relationships my clients and I build and doing work that my dad would be proud of. It’s rewarding when players understand that we’re a team; I succeed when they succeed. I consider myself successful when I help a client achieve his version of success.
After having spent their entire lives playing a game that beats up their bodies and requires personal sacrifices, being part of them finally making it a career is awesome.
What about the most challenging?
The “tough guy” mentality of football is challenging. I wish I could make all my clients watch Brian Dawkins’ Hall of Fame speech; he eloquently spoke of his struggles with mental illness. I need to know what’s going on with my clients physically, mentally, and emotionally to effectively represent them, advocate for their best interests, and ensure they’re happy and fulfilled. It can be difficult to get them to open up because they’ve been conditioned to play through pain.
I was angry at football for awhile. Ultimately though, these guys need someone who cares, who understands they are more than football players, and who will be there after football ends.
Your dad suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease common in athletes with a history of repeated brain trauma like concussions. How does your experience dealing with this translate into the work you do as an agent?
Seeing my dad deal with the effects of football taught me the importance of having a solid advocate. People generally increase their earning capacity over the years as they gain experience. That’s not the case with most football players as their earning capacity peaks much sooner. My clients have to maximize what may be a very short window. I view my role as protecting them from outside noise, letting them focus on football. Success on the field will generate opportunities that can help them long after football is over.
I initially wrestled with working in football because it’s so violent and caused my dad a lot of pain. I was angry at football for awhile. Ultimately though, these guys need someone who cares, who understands they are more than football players, and who will be there after football ends.
Other than your dad, was there anyone else who inspired you to start your own agency?
Yes, his teammates and other former players whose stories gave me pause. Players whose stories I’ve read and wondered if they could’ve ended up differently if they’d had better guidance.
Seeing my dad deal with the effects of football taught me the importance of having a solid advocate. People generally increase their earning capacity over the years as they gain experience. That’s not the case with most football players.
What have you learned since opening your company and have you had to pivot in any aspects?
That this is the path I’m supposed to be on; that I’m better at work I enjoy; that I have a lot to learn!
As much as things are changing, women in sports still aren’t regarded in the same way as men. What advice would you give to women who want to do the work that you do?
Go for it! Intern at an agency or with a team or league. Cultivate relationships with people working in sports. Cold call and email. What’s the worst that could happen? Understand why you want to work with athletes. There has never been a better time to be a woman in sports. Don’t let your inner doubt win.
Where do you see Stabler Sports in five years? Ten years?
I want Stabler Sports to grow. I’d love to build a team that helps athletes in other sports. In ten years, I hope to have clients enjoying their time in the NFL and also have clients who have retired from football and are enjoying fulfilling second careers. I’m confident in my “why,” so I’m going to see where that takes me!
There has never been a better time to be a woman in sports. Don’t let your inner doubt win.
What was the most meaningful career advice you received?
Having the support of my dad’s teammates and other former players is meaningful. I feel a renewed sense of purpose when they encourage me because it is guys like them I hope to impact.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
It’s not the critic who counts.
Alexa Stabler is The Everygirl…
Your camera roll is full of…
My cat Rex
Last show you binge watched?
The Handmaid’s Tale
Last item you splurged on?
Best way to spend a day off?
Working out then watching football
Favorite sports team growing up?
Alabama Crimson Tide
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and why?
Amal Clooney. “Having it all” is a myth, but she’s close.