Latest PlayersRep Sports Management News
Jan 14, 2018
Photo by Contributed photo Andy Simms, left, and Nicole Lynn, right, were two of the six PlayersRep agents who are now part of Young Money APAA Sports. That group also includes Cortez Bryant, second left, and Adie von Gontard. Draft hopefuls Andy Simms and Young Money APAA Sports have signed six NFL draft prospects who could be selected this spring. Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas: Projected as a late first-round pick by Walter Football. Keke Coutee, WR, Texas Tech: Projected as a second- or third-round pick by Walter Football. D'Montre Wade, CB, Murray State: Projected as a third- to fifth-rounder. Jeremy Reaves, S, South Alabama: Projected as a third- to fifth-rounder. Dimitri Flowers, FB/TE, Oklahoma: Projected as a fourth- to sixth-rounder. Daurice Fountain, WR, Northern Iowa: Projected as a late-round prospect or an undrafted free agent. Andy Simms wasn’t looking to sell the sports agency he founded with Wesley Spencer in 2000. And he wasn’t anticipating his name would be mentioned in the same sentence as rapper Lil Wayne. But after PlayersRep Sports Management landed current Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Dede Westbrook as a client prior to the 2017 NFL draft, Simms’ company caught the attention of Cortez Bryant, Wayne’s manager and the chief operating officer of Young Money Entertainment . At the time, Young Money APAA Sports — launched in 2014, and boosted by the acquisition of APAA Sports Group two years later — was repping a few NFL players, including Westbrook, on the marketing side. It was then that Bryant, an influential figure in the music industry, started thinking about how PlayersRep could help Young Money get much more entrenched in sports. “They were one of the companies that took care of their guys,” Bryant said of Simms, a Hawken High School graduate and Solon resident, and PlayersRep. “They had all the intangibles. That was the perfect piece of the puzzle that was missing.” In December, the groups had a deal . Young Money APAA Sports acquired a majority stake in PlayersRep (with Simms and Spencer retaining a minority share of their business), and Simms, Spencer and PlayersRep’s four other football agents would bring their 40-plus clients under the Young Money umbrella. “Now football is taken care of,” Bryant said. The deal also fills a significant void for Simms and his crew. Bryant — a partner in Maverick Management, which works with the likes of U2, Nicki Minaj, Paul McCartney, Britney Spears, Madonna, Miley Cyrus and Florida Georgia Line — and his team have the marketing prowess most big-time athletes covet. “The ability to build our clients’ brand — we were not where we wanted to be on that end,” Simms said. “Most agencies are not. That gives us a huge competitive advantage over everyone else. That’s why we made the move.” The transaction already is paying dividends. Young Money APAA Sports has signed six prospects who could be selected in this spring’s NFL draft. One — former University of Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson — is projected as a first-round pick . The college standouts join a group of Young Money clients that includes the likes of Cleveland Browns cornerback Jason McCourty and his twin brother Devin, a two-time Pro Bowl safety for the New England Patriots. Philadelphia Eagles Pro Bowl tackle Lane Johnson and Patriots safety Duron Harmon (who, with the help of PlayersRep, inked a four-year, $17 million extension last March) have also switched over to Young Money. The move to Young Money, however, isn’t “to sign more draft picks,” the 43-year-old Simms said. “It’s to sign the guys we want to sign,” he said. “It’s never been about quantity. It’s about the quality of the guys.” Bryant believes the same. Wayne’s manager thinks the combination of Simms’ and Spencer’s two decades as NFL agents, plus Young Money’s marketing muscle, could vault the company into the same conversation as such heavyweights as Creative Artists Agency. “It could be the top NFL agency,” Bryant said of Young Money APAA. “The CAAs of the world, they work with all these guys, and what they offer is what we built — especially on the branding and marketing side. We can offer the exact same thing. But we’re more hands-on, more boutique-oriented. Our guys aren’t going to get lost in a field of hundreds and hundreds of guys.” Simms stressed that the new name doesn’t change how the agency deals with its clients. Instead, they can offer their clients more — and avoid going the way of so many businesses that have failed in the always-competitive, often-brutal industry. “We could’ve stayed and continued what we were doing,” Simms said. “What it comes down to is I’ve seen a lot of businesses come and go the last 20 years. I’ve seen agencies who had a large market share and seen what happens to them over the years. We are not going to be a dinosaur.” Young Money APAA Sports now has almost 50 clients on the football side. The group includes some NFL assistant coaches, including former Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator Todd Downing, and some who are working at the college level, including Nick Hill, the 32-year-old head coach of Southern Illinois. The company’s basketball division is led by APAA Sports Group founder Adie von Gontard, whose great grandfather founded Anheuser-Busch and whose grandfather owned the St. Louis Cardinals. Simms, who was still a student at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law when he signed his first NFL draft prospect in 1999, isn’t nearly as in tune with the hip hop industry as he is the agent game. But he knows how increasingly intertwined music and sports are, and he loves the potential of the bulked-up Young Money brand. “This move was put together with an eye toward the future,” Simms said. “This wasn’t to be a top-10 company, but to be the best in our business.” MORNING ROUNDUP Business headlines from Crain's Cleveland Business and other Ohio newspapers — delivered FREE to your inbox every morning. Sign up for the Morning Newsletter.