Grade-A Agent

March 25, 2011

Top NFL agent Joel Segal, B.A.’86, returned to campus to be inducted into GW’s Sports Executives Hall of Fame.

By Julia Parmley

He’s negotiated more than a billion dollars in deals for top NFL players and is known as one of the most powerful sports agents in the world.

But he’s also a good friend, devoted son and all-around nice guy.

These are just some of the comments NFL players, family and friends made about NFL agent Joel Segal, B.A. ’86, during his induction into the GW School of Business Sports Executives Hall of Fame in GW’s Jack Morton Auditorium March 24.

Mr. Segal has negotiated record-setting contracts for his clients, which include Michael Vick of the Philadelphia Eagles, Reggie Bush of the New Orleans Saints and DeAngelo Hall of the Washington Redskins. Mr. Segal also serves as president of Lagardere Unlimited Football.

More than 10 former and current NFL players were in attendance to honor Mr. Segal, including Mr. Vick, Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans, Ashton Youboty of the Buffalo Bills and Ike Taylor of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

In his introduction, GWSB Dean Doug Guthrie said sports are an important industry and a growing focus for the School of Business. “Joel Segal is a legend in this area and has an unbelievable roster of people he works for and with,” said Dr. Guthrie. “We are so happy to call him one of our own and to celebrate his presence.”

Chafie Fields, former NFL player and partner in Lagardere Unlimited Football, said Mr. Segal has changed his life since they first met 14 years ago. After an injury ended Mr. Fields’ football career, he said Mr. Segal made him partner in a business “that took him 20 years to build.”

“I come from what most people would consider a poverty-stricken community,” said Mr. Fields. “Joel, you gave me the opportunity to change my life and make a way for my family. I love you, you’re like a second father to me, and I’m grateful for everything you’ve done for me and my family. It’s an honor for George Washington University to have this man as an alumnus.”

Mr. Vick said Mr. Segal deserves “every accolade and every award he receives.”

“Throughout all the things I’ve been through, he’s always been there as a confidant and father figure,” said Mr. Vick. “Joel, I appreciate everything you’ve done for me and my family. I wouldn’t be anywhere else in the world than right here to celebrate with you.”

Robert Schmertz, B.A.’86, brand director for Steve Madden; Vinny Cerrato, former executive vice president of football operations for the Washington Redskins; Billy Martin, partner at Dorsey and Whitney; and Judge Marvin Segal, former justice of the Supreme Court of New York, also gave remarks.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, GW President Steven Knapp formally inducted Mr. Segal into the Hall of Fame.

Mr. Segal said he came to GW in 1982 with hopes of becoming a lawyer like his father. GW’s location in an “awesome city” afforded him access to “great internships,” but after he graduated with a law degree from Hofstra Law School in 1989, he realized that agency was his passion.

Mr. Segal praised the School of Business and Lisa Delpy Neirotti, director of GW’s Sports Management Program, for their work in the industry, stating “I think if I had [Delpy Neirotti] in school, I’d really be a super agent!”

“My whole professional career started at GW; I learned about work ethic and [developed] an understanding of how to out work people,” he added.

Mr. Segal thanked his clients, family and friends for their support, noting they were the reason he’s been so successful.

“Over the years, I’ve received a degree of adulation for landing good contracts but it’s about having unbelievable guys to represent and who make me look smart,” he said. “We’re all close and I care about them. But the bottom line: Leverage is created by getting great players. I don’t have a job—I have an existence representing the greatest guys in the world.”

“We’re in a tough time right now, in the middle of a lockout,” he added. “But we’ve prepared for this. I know one thing—we’re going to fight, no matter how hard or long it is, to get a good, fair deal for players. We’re ready, we’re prepared and then we’ll play some football.”

Calling the award a “huge honor,” Mr. Segal said it was inspiration to keep working and delivering for his clients. “I was surprised when GW asked me and I was flattered,” he said. “It makes me want to keep doing the right thing and to set a good example.”

The GW Sports Executive Hall of Fame was created in 2007 to honor alumni working at executive levels in professional sports. Past winners include Ted Lerner, A.A. ’48, L.L.B ’50, managing owner of the Washington Nationals; Randy Levine, B.A. ’77, president of the New York Yankees; and Abe Pollin, B.B.A.’45, former owner of the Washington Wizards and former chairman, chief executive and majority shareholder of Washington Sports and Entertainment.

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