Paul Lawrence, ’89, carves out a successful career as a sports agent
Paul Lawrence, ’89, represents some of the biggest names in the NFL, including Tracy Porter of the Super Bowl–winning New Orleans Saints.
Fresh off a midday workout, Paul Lawrence, '89, stretches out on a leather couch in his house, which doubles as home base for his business. His cell phone sits on a nearby coffee table, just far enough away to be not too much of a distraction but still within reach. He's always on call, and sure enough, moments later the phone rings. It's an anxious client—a football player who's fretting about whether he'll soon be cut. Lawrence offers a reassuring word and suggests a diversion for the player to help keep his mind off his employment status.
It's a glimpse into the life of a sports agent, whose day-to-day duties, Lawrence says, are unpredictable. "Some of these guys want your help on everything ... making sure they got the right price on a car or how many suits they should have," Lawrence explains. "We're a concierge service half the time, we're a counselor the other half of the time."
Based in Snohomish, Wash., north of Seattle, Lawrence is a partner with
Maximum Sports Management, which represents roughly 50 professional athletes, most of whom are football players. Lawrence's own 10 or so clients include Pro Bowl receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson, both of the Arizona Cardinals, as well as cornerback Tracy Porter of the Super Bowl-winning New Orleans Saints.
When asked how he became a sports agent, Lawrence says Seattle University factored prominently.
"I get the most joy out of hearing how I impact my clients' lives. Then I know I'm doing something good."
— Paul Lawrence, '89, sports agent
As an SU student, Lawrence played on the basketball team and also worked at the Connolly Center, which the Seattle SuperSonics were using at the time for some of their practices. Over time he struck up a friendship with Sonics player, and current Portland Trail Blazers coach, Nate McMillan, who would go on to be the godfather of Lawrence's son. One thing led to another and Lawrence created a popular T-shirt featuring McMillan and Sonics Gary Payton and Kendall Gill. His knack for marketing was discovered, and before long he made his first significant foray into the world of professional sports by working for defensive tackle Sam Adams of the Seattle Seahawks.
But there's more to the story. A big part of Lawrence's career trajectory, he says, can be traced not only to his days at Connolly, but also to the education he received at SU. When he first arrived as a transfer student, his intention was to major in business, but in talking with his academic adviser he became increasingly interested in public administration and ultimately went that route.
"I'm not the guy who wants to sit there and read the book and say, 'OK, this is the answer because the book says it's the answer.' Well, why can't this be the answer? Just because nobody's thought of it? But it could be the answer. Public administration opened my eyes to that type of questioning."
Looking back fondly on the courses he took and the professors who taught them, Lawrence says, "I still remember [political science] Professor [James] Hogan. He was my favorite professor there," he says, adding with a laugh, "He'll be shocked to hear that."
Lawrence says the leadership and interpersonal skills he honed at SU serve him well in his profession. "Public administration prepares people to be city managers, mayors, senators. It's a lot of shaking hands, saying the right things, knowing when to talk, knowing how to talk. Well, I'm in a talking business," he says. "We negotiate a lot of contracts, but to get the clients, you've got to know how to talk to the clients."
Lawrence describes the lengthy courtship during which he and his client decide to go into business together: "Lots of conversations.
Once you really learn and understand the nuances of football, then you're just saying, 'OK, what kind of person are you?' The only way you find out what kind of person somebody is, is by spending some time talking to them. I'm on the phone a lot."
New Orleans Saints player Porter says there's so much more to his relationship with Lawrence than football. "Most guys talk to their agents only when they need to. [Lawrence and I] talk every day."
What began as a business relationship, Porter continues, has grown into "a close friendship, to him becoming a father figure."
When told of Porter's comments, Lawrence responds, "He said that?" before adding, jokingly, "I'm gonna kill him!"
There's no mistaking what words like Porter's mean to Lawrence.
"I get the most joy out of hearing how I impact my clients' lives," he says. "Then I know I'm doing something good. They could be the star or just a guy on the team or a guy looking for a job. When they say, 'My agent—I know he cares about me,' you can't describe how fulfilling that is."
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