Back in the agent business after a lengthy personal detour, Leigh Steinberg's first new football client is, naturally, a quarterback.
Steinberg has signed SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert, the son of former NFL quarterback Gale Gilbert. Steinberg was Gale Gilbert's agent and also represents SMU coach June Jones.
This is the first time Steinberg, the real-life inspiration for "Jerry Maguire," has represented the son of a former client.
"It's the first signing of the new era," Steinberg said from New York, where he'll host a big Super Bowl party on Saturday. "It's totally exciting to be back in the saddle again. I love it and next year we'll do a full draft.
"The father went to my alma mater, so it's especially rewarding," added Steinberg, who like Gale Gilbert attended California. "The genes count."
A powerful agent since 1975, Steinberg had an all-star stable of clients that included many who would become NFL Hall of Famers, including Steve Young, Troy Aikman, Warren Moon, Howie Long, Thurman Thomas, Derrick Thomas and Bruce Smith. Known for a squeaky clean image, he battled alcoholism and bankruptcy, and let his agent certification lapse.
After getting sober and clearing bankruptcy, Steinberg was recertified by the NFL Players Association last fall and launched Steinberg Sports and Entertainment.
The funding for his new agency didn't come through until November, so with most college players already having decided on an agent, he decided to focus on players who would enter the 2015 draft.
Garrett Gilbert was an exception.
Garrett Gilbert said his father and Jones didn't necessarily steer him toward signing with Steinberg but that he discussed it with both of them.
"Obviously, he's a big name and really that's all I knew about him," the younger Gilbert said about Steinberg. "I knew that he formerly represented quite a few big-time draft picks as well as some of the top players in the NFL. One of the biggest determining factors was that everything seemed to fit perfectly in our discussions and for his plan for me going forward, as well as involving my family in that decision."
Gilbert is currently working out in northern San Diego in preparation for SMU's pro day in Dallas on March 28.
Steinberg said he generally uses Jones and Moon for input on potential quarterback clients.
"June says that if you take the film from game six in his junior year to this year, he's played as well as any quarterback in the country," Steinberg. "He thinks that he has the makings of a franchise-type quarterback. At this point he's not currently rated in that group."
Steinberg said Gilbert's pro day can help his draft stock.
"Garrett comes from good bloodlines," the agent said. "He has size but also running ability. He's able to be multi-dimensional. He throws beautifully. The maturation point for many quarterbacks, it all comes together at the end of their junior and senior year."
Gilbert was a highly touted recruit at Texas who was supposed to be Colt McCoy's successor. But he struggled and transferred to SMU. He put up some big numbers last fall before getting hurt late in the season.
Gilbert is projected as a lower-round pick.
"I've got friends telling me all sorts of things," he said. "All I can focus on is getting myself in the best shape possible as well as get ready for the pro day."
Gale Gilbert was a backup quarterback with teams that went to five straight Super Bowls, losing all of them. The first four were with Buffalo and the final time was when the San Diego Chargers lost to the San Francisco 49ers, who got a record six TD passes from Young.
The younger Gilbert is scheduled to join Steinberg in New York this weekend for Super Bowl festivities, so he can get a sense of what the NFL's about.
"I'm excited about him," Steinberg said. "This is the process. ... Wherever he ends up, I think he will end up starting in the NFL."
Big on promoting charitable causes, Steinberg will host his 26th Super Bowl party Saturday in Manhattan. It will help generate awareness for the Lone Survivor Fund and include a live uplink to troops in Afghanistan.
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