By Terry Foster
Super-agent Leigh Steinberg is bullish on University of Michigan football.
He believes the stars are aligned in what could end up with a national championship for the Wolverines. He loves the campus, respects the support group surrounding the program, is impressed with the talent but more importantly he knows that coach Jim Harbaugh can deliver.
He calls Harbaugh one of the most misunderstood people in sports, but he also believes he has the passion, smarts and innovation to deliver.
“You start with the fact that he is smart and creative,” Steinberg said during a recent phone interview. “He has always had the ability to think outside the box. He has a bright and inquisitive mind and when we’ve had conversations we tackle all kinds of subjects. He is intense and is proud of the University of Michigan experience. That is a central part of it and he is super hyper competitive.”
Those are similarities that Steinberg shares with Harbaugh who he represented as an NFL coach.
Steinberg is sharing his knowledge Saturday during an agent academy Saturday at the Michigan Union (10 am to 5 pm). He might even be able to spend time with an old friend.
“The attempt is to create a new generation of agents who have an idea about ethics and values,” Steinberg said of his camp. “And to develop skills that we don’t necessarily push in education. I am having this one day boot camp to develop listening skills, how to recruit, how to negotiate and how to brand yourself, how to market and develop the charity foundations.”
Steinberg knows what he is talking about. The character Jerry McGuire is based on his life and he has represented 61 first-round draft picks. He has also spoken at U-M 80 times mostly to law and business school students.
Harbaugh is portrayed as an odd ball that does not get along with people. That played out in San Francisco. There was turmoil there and Harbaugh left the team in 2014 despite leading the team leading the team to the playoffs for three of four seasons.
There were reports of friction between Harbaugh and management and he was portrayed as a ticking time bomb that can only get along with folks for so long.
“Part of the 49ers experience portrayed him unfairly,” Steinberg said. “Jim is just a super competitive guy and the guy you see on the sidelines is not how he carries himself in real life. He is a very funny guy with a great sense of humor. He can be very low key and engaging. He likes people and people interest him.”
There is another Detroit story that interest Steinberg. Arn Tellem left the business to become an executive president with the Pistons. He currently is working the community and looking for ways to engrain the Pistons into downtown Detroit.
My guess is eventually it will lead the Pistons into a downtown presence at Little Caesars Arena or through a separate joint venture with Quicken Loans CEO Dan Gilbert.
“It is amazing to me that there weren’t more people (agents) who did not go into management,” Steinberg said. “They do it in Hollywood where people from agencies work for the movie companies and vice versa. The skills developed over the years in understanding the players’ mentality, and branding and in making a difference in the world are applicable.”
(The Leigh Steinberg Agent Academy takes place Saturday (10 am to 5 pm) at the University of Michigan’s Michigan Union in the Wolverine room. Cost is $375 for adults and $250 for students. Payments can be made at http://www.venmo.com/steinberg-sports.)