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Matthew Leist and Eric Dounn – SPORTS AGENTS BLOG

LAA Sports is a team and a family. Matthew Leist, CFO of LAA Sports is an NFLPA Certified Contract Advisor from New York City. He and Zac Hiller, founder and CEO of LAA Sports, grew up together. Their previous relationship was built on dependability and hard work, which made him a great fit for the agency. Eric Dounn is from South Florida and is LAA’s Chief Marketing Officer. Eric caught Hiller’s eye when Hiller saw Dounn’s passion and ability to maximize memory space for his clients, ensuring they capitalize on their earning potential.

Zac Hiller and Matthew Leist

The first thing that strikes you when talking to Matthew and Eric is their unbridled passion for their clients. They want to build more than an agency; they want to build a brand known for its loyalty and integrity. One is clear with this team; their impressive list of clients will always come first. Sports Agent Blog sat down with Matthew and Eric to discuss their background, connection and what kind of representation clients can expect when they join their agency.

SAB: What do you think defines the best agents and agencies? What is the “it” factor that LAA Sports has?

ML: I believe the best agents and agencies are the ones who stick with their client every step of the way, no matter what. The agent that a customer knows they can lean on and turn to any time, sport or otherwise. The “it” factor that LAA sports possess are those more supposed qualities like “loyalty.” Loyalty is the most important part of any relationship and more particularly of the agent-client relationship, which is why we are “LAA”.

ED: I think the term “best agent” is subjective. I think there are agencies that have been in the business for 40 or 50 years and have built a solid foundation while representing big names, but that doesn’t mean they are the “best agents”. It just means that they represent famous people. For me, this business is all about personal relationships and the best agent would be one that a client can know they are always in their corner, even outside of sports. That’s the main thing we focus on with our clients: having and building that long-term relationship with their best interest always first.

SAB: You both seemed to take a methodical approach to developing your football skills and becoming agents. What drew you both to this career path??

ML: What pushed me to become a sports agent was seeing Zac evolve in the industry. Zac and I started a nightlife business when we were teenagers that went global. During this time, Zac had met an agent who had opened his eyes to the world of sports representation. Zac signed the NFL’s best running back, Dalvin Cook, and asked me if I wanted to get involved. He knew we worked very well together from our old company and thought it would be an easy transition for me to apply the skills I had learned. In that moment, and there, I knew I wanted to fulfill a childhood dream of becoming the best agent in the world.

Zay Flowers and Eric Dounn

ED: Weird for me, I’ve played basketball all my life, but I’ve always loved watching football. I knew from an early age that I wanted to work in sport. Growing up, I collected autographs. As I got older, I started to form relationships with the players I received autographs from, which then turned into business relationships with them. It came full circle for me when I took the next step in representing them. It’s truly a blessing when I see little kids asking my clients for autographs and I always encourage them to sign for the young fans, because that was me before.

SAB: I listened to an interview that Zac Hiller did with “Beyond the Helmet,” and the one thing that struck me while I was listening was the “leave it all on the ground” approach. Do you both think it’s hard to navigate this current social media/advertising culture by quietly making moves for the client behind the scenes?

ED: Today’s generation is all about perception. What we see on social media and not what is actually real. The power of social media can hurt you as much as it can help you. One thing we teach our guys is to use it wisely. Every athlete is different, but we will always emphasize to our clients that they are their own businesses and should treat every tweet, post or story as a business because the public is always watching.

SAB: Both of you have recruited some impressive names recently. Tell me about your college recruits.

ML: Some of the best players I signed are now national champions. James Cook and Kearis Jackson of the Georgia Bulldogs. When I’m looking to sign a player, we not only want a great football player but also a good person off the pitch. They are a great talent on the pitch, but an even better person off the pitch.

James Cook is an extremely quick and versatile running back who has a skill set that cannot be taught. Cook has the ability to make defenders miss and stop in no time. He’s one of the best pass-catching running backs out of college in recent years. Scouts love him, and it will be amazing to see him turn pro and play on Sundays. James is one of seven siblings.

Growing up, Kearis always ran around outside with a soccer ball in his hands. He’s never been one to play video games at home, which he finds boring. He was known for being one of the fastest kids in the country at the age of 9 and had broken several records playing little league football. He was always active and wanted to be around some type of sport, be it athletics or football. Everyone considered him one of the best athletes in my county and my nation at such a young age. Once in high school, everyone wondered why he would go to college, whether it was for football or athletics. He kept everyone guessing because he played both sports until it was time for him to graduate. He had become a state champion in both sports. As for signing day, he chose football over track and ended up at the University of Georgia after holding 34 Division 1 offers.

ED: To give you an idea of ​​one of the best guys I recruited and signed for NIL was Boston University wide receiver Zay Flowers. When I’m looking to sign a player, we not only want a great football player but also a good person off the pitch. This guy definitely fits that mold. He’s a great talent on and off the pitch, but an even better person off the pitch.

Zay Flowers played travel and high school basketball. He is an extremely fast and versatile wide receiver who has a skill set that cannot be taught. He has the ability to make defenders miss and stop in no time. Scouts love him and it will be amazing to see him turn pro and play on Sundays. Zay is one of 14 siblings.

SAB: I can see the past ties between members of the LAA Sports team, so it makes sense that there is a foundation of trust when integrating people into the team. Going forward, what aspect of client representation do you want LAA Sports to be known for?

ML: LAA sports is a boutique agency. Team members all have a past connection. Zac and I return to our slumber camp days when we were seven years old. Zac knew he could always count on me no matter what or when something needed to be done. To move forward, we are looking for people like us. Someone who will put the interests of his clients first, with honesty, loyalty and integrity. LAA is a question of loyalty!

ED: We have a management internship program that was created to find certain types of people who we believe can add value to our team. Not everyone is cut out for this job, but everyone wants to be involved. This program allows us to decipher who has what it takes to be part of LAA. We stand for loyalty and trust can be built over time. It’s a tough business that takes countless hours and can get very stressful if you can’t handle the pressure. We don’t allow anyone to be part of the LAA brand, but when we find the right people, we’ll grow when the time is right. Remember, it’s not about us, it’s about the customers and what’s best for them.

SAB: The NIL space is constantly evolving. Tell me about how LAA Sports is evolving with this ever-changing arena?

ED: The new NIL rules that started this year look great to us for college athletes. It was long overdue for these kids who generate so much revenue for their schools but really earn nothing in money to show for it. Yes they are on a full scholarship which is great but it is great for an athlete to get their name, image and likeness out there to build their own brand and generate revenue for themselves. Also teaches them at a young age that this is a business and to treat it as such, from the day they set foot on campus.

ML: With the NIL constantly evolving, we always have the same approach. Players need to focus on being the best football player they can be, and the rest will come. Customers cannot lose sight of what is most important, which is football. Your client may be distracted and unconcerned about the big picture, which is their lifelong dream of playing in the NFL.

SAB: Do you think that reliability plays a role for clients when they decide to entrust representation to your agency?

Ed: Yes. I totally agree that being a bit younger gives us a better edge than most due to the fact that we can relate to college kids. We are all young and play a big brother role for them. I strongly believe that they feel the energy that we have and what we bring to each of our guys goes a long way. They know they can tell us anything and everything that’s going on, whether on the pitch or off.

ML: I believe relatability plays a huge role for clients when deciding to be represented by LAA, because without being able to identify with you, there is no trust or common ground. My clients are my family for life, not just for the duration of their contract, so I want them to feel the brotherhood and trust LAA.