After playing the last game of his college career with Oklahoma in January 2020, Jalen Hurts checked his Instagram messages. One was from NFL agent Nicole Lynn: “Hey, have you picked an agent? If not, I’d love to link.”
“A total Ave Maria”, is how Lynn describes it.
It was beyond a long shot. Most players entering the draft have long since picked an agent in January.
Lynn went to law school at OU and her husband had played at Alabama, where Hurts won a national championship before becoming a Sooner. He also represented a dozen Alabama alumni, including offensive tackle Evan Neal, Alabama’s most-recruited player in school history. Lynn was also from Houston, as was Hurts.
“All this synergy,” he remembers now. So she fired the DM on impulse. “I didn’t expect him to even see it.”
Hurts saw it; he was still in the process of finding an agent. “I wanted to hear it,” he says now.
Lynn met with Hurts’ father for three hours, then with Hurts himself at her father’s high school, all while sick with the flu. She didn’t know what to expect after the meeting. “Jalen has a poker face. He doesn’t show a ton of emotion,” she says.
In short, it went well: “People had doubts about me,” says Hurts. “People still have doubts about me.”
Despite having won a national championship and being one of the best college quarterbacks in the game as a double threat in both the air and the rush, Hurts was projected to be a mid-to-late draft pick, at least in the second. if not third or later rounds; he was selected 53rd. “He’s just not the guy,” one analyst said, summarizing the way most of the soccer world seemed to see it.
“That turns me on,” says Hurts. “Light a fire in me. It does something to me, because I know I’ll prove you wrong. But I saw that same fire in Nicole. She said: ‘I am a woman. People will ignore me. People will doubt me. They won’t give me the proper respect. But I’m getting over it, just like you. And that’s where we really hit it off. We had the same vision.”
Lynn was at the Senior Bowl with Hurts and her dad shortly after signing him when another agent, a man, told them, “Hey, if the girl doesn’t work out, call us. She’s sweet, but… you know.
Hurts didn’t care about that. “How much of this do you deal with?” she asked Lynn later. “Why would it matter if you’re a woman?”
“Oh Jay,” he said, laughing. “This is just my life.”
Hurts cared about her resume, her experience, and the trust he placed in her. He thought: What the hell else mattered? “People are going to doubt her because she’s a woman in this industry,” she says. “There was a sense of doubt. Why are you doing that? Can you represent a quarterback? What is she going to do with him?”
As Hurts began his pro career (he began his rookie season as the Eagles’ quarterback third on the depth chart), he found himself looking around the sports world and growing increasingly annoyed at the way he was being treated. to women.
“I know that the world of agents in the NFL, and in all of sports, is very male-dominated,” he says. “But Nicole was really on top of her stuff. She was ready. She knew what she was talking about. She was hungry. And she was determined. And I feel like that determination like that never rests. Once you meet such a determined individual, that hits me a little differently.”
The same for the women he already knew and the women he was getting to know. Hurts says he saw her mother, Pamela, work hard raising her: going to work, coming home to take care of the family and going to school to get her master’s degree.
“I admire anyone who puts their heads down and works for what they want. And I know women who do that every day, but they don’t get the same praise as men, they don’t get the praise they deserve,” says Hurts. “I’ve seen it now with tons of different women in my life who are hustlers. Athletes, coaches, women in the business world of sport. I see it all the time. And they deserve their flowers too. So if I say something about it that draws more attention, then I totally agree.”
Hurts, who has an older brother, also has a younger sister, Kynnedy, who is starting her senior year of high school in Houston and is an aspiring volleyball player. “She’s the smartest of the three,” says Hurts. “And I see her put in an endless amount of work. I grew up in the weight room, going outside, going over things in my head, playing catch with my brother and dad, working. She… she’s hitting the volleyball against the side of the house, she’s in the garage lifting weights, she’s doing all the same kinds of things with the same hunger. She has the same hunger, the same passion for what she wants to do. She is putting in work. … Whatever she decides to do, I take it back.”
As Hurts began laying the groundwork for his career, he hired women to run his life around football. Choosing Lynn as his agent was just the beginning. From media relations to brand marketing and customer services support, women run things for him across the board. “I have put a lot of trust and faith in a women-driven team,” she says, singling out Lynn and naming others like Chantal Romain, Shakeemah Simmons-Winter and Jenna Malphrus on her media relations management and client services team, along with Rachel Everett, who handles some of her marketing.
“I have a team of straight hustlers. … They do things. And that’s how I am on and off the field,” she says. “We are all trying to achieve something.”
Hurts continued to talk to Lynn about her experience as a woman working as an NFL agent, her curiosity growing as she learned more. They talked a lot about how difficult it can be to gain the trust of players and their parents. “Somebody like a white guy,” Lynn says, “as long as they have the look, right away it’s like, ‘Oh, you’re an agent.’ I have to first show that I’m an agent, which takes a lot of time, and also showing that I know what I’m doing. And then depending on the personality of the player, there’s usually still a couple of extra steps that guys just don’t have to deal with.”
Hurts does not usually express his opinions or participate in the speech of the day; he prefers to focus on football. But seeing what he’s seen, and thinking about his sister becoming an athlete, and just growing up and becoming more people in the world treating women, well, he wants to add his voice to that conversation. “My goal in talking about this is to advocate and support investment in women in sports,” he says.
Then there’s her own team, starting with Lynn. “Regardless of what stands in our way, regardless of what we want, we are going to conquer it all. We are going to conquer everything in front of us. And I think we’re off to a good start in three years.”
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