With the NFL scouting combine next week and free agency approaching, this is a busy time for sports agents. But not for Jim Steiner.
After 35 years in the business, the St. Louis native and John Burroughs High graduate quietly called it quits at the end of the 2011 season.
“When you’re finished and you look back and you reflect, I had an incredible run,” Steiner said. “You meet a lot of different people. You’ve got associations with the athletes, with the owners, the general managers _ people on the inside.
“It’s just been a very exciting and stimulating profession. It’s lots of fun compared to most professions. You’re on and off the field. You’re at Super Bowls. You’re at playoff games. If you like action, the sports business will provide it.”
For years, Steiner was one of the most well-known football agents in the business. He represented the likes of Jerry Rice, Roger Craig, William “Refrigerator” Perry, Mike Alstott, Jon Runyan, Randall Cunningham, Dan Hampton, and Steve McMichael to name a few.
More recently, with the CAA mega-agency, he represented Jeremy Maclin and helped recruit Blaine Gabbert. The last client he had with the Rams was wide receiver Mark Clayton. All told, Steiner estimates he represented between 300 to 500 athletes. That’s a lot of contracts.
Steiner got into the business purely by accident. After graduating from Southern Cal with a degree in business in 1973, he planned to stay in Los Angeles and become a stockbroker. But when his father died in 1974, Steiner came back to St. Louis and never left.
He hooked up with agent Richie Bry of Bry & Associates in 1976, and was off and running as a sports agent. He did a little baseball in those early years, and represented basketball player Anthony Bonner when he came out of St. Louis University.
“But it’s been 99.9 percent football,” Steiner said.
Along the way, he had four transformations in terms of agencies _ from Bry & Associates to Sports Management Group, to SFX, and then CAA, where he hooked up with industry giants Tom Condon and Ben Dogra.
Over the course of his career, the NFL agent business has become much more competitive and complex. For example, there was only very limited free agency until 1993. And the draft has become an industry in itself.
“It used to be you signed a player and waited for the draft,” Steiner said. “Now you sign a player and you send him to a workout facility. You invest in them. You’ve got the trainer. You’ve got nutrition. You’ve got the test preparation. You’ve got media training.
“It’s become a huge business in terms of creating an opportunity for the players to be drafted as high as possible. From the time you begin to sign ‘em through the draft, it’s constant attention.”
But not for Steiner. Not anymore. He’s looking for a new challenge.
“I’m just going to stay here (in St. Louis) and see what the next adventure will be,” he said.