Life was supposed to get easier for Kelli Masters. Instead, her battles continue to become more difficult. As Masters is about to discard one stereotype, another soon blocks her path. The 34-year-old has gone from being a non-athletic baton-twirler, to a dumb blonde law student, to a ditzy Miss Oklahoma, to a bottom-feeding female lawyer, and now is a blood-sucking sports agent. How quaint. Masters has only herself to blame. Instead of choosing the path of least resistance, Masters continues her quest to conquer stereotypic misconceptions. Each climb seems to get higher. Metaphorically speaking, she has scaled Quartz Mountain, Mount Whitney, Rainier, Kilimanjaro and McKinley. Presumably, Everest awaits. The steeper the climb, the more determined Masters becomes. "Coming out of college, I couldn't get around it,” Masters said. "I was one of those little twin twirlers. I kept thinking, ‘How in the world am I going to be taken seriously at anything I do?' Instead of looking at it as a negative, I took advantage of the fact some people knew me. That gives you an open door to network, which is huge in any business. "My job once I get in the door is to not be a cute girl, but to be someone who knows what they're talking about.” Masters' good looks no doubt have opened some eyes, but they also slammed some doors. In the shark-infested waters of being a sports agent, Masters has hooked only minnows. She was in the Adrian Peterson sweepstakes two years ago, but lost in the end. Masters has worked the last three NFL Combines, but will not attend this weekend's NFL Draft in New York City. This year's clientele includes defensive back Martel Van Zant and fullback Julius Crosslin of Oklahoma State, linebacker/fullback Ian Pleasant of Oklahoma, offensive tackle Walter Boyd of Tulsa, punter Chris MacDonald of Texas State, safety Brandon Logan of Grambling and wide receiver Jeremy Trimble of Army. These clients likely will go undrafted, and will then rely on free-agent deals orchestrated by Masters, who spent an hour on the phone Wednesday morning with Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher. Rather than shoving her clients down the throats of NFL scouts, Masters uses a more subtle approach. "I don't try to tell scouts why they're wrong about my guy,” Masters said. "I just make sure they have all the information.” Titans scouting coordinator Blake Beddingfield said he appreciates the method. "She's very good at finding out if her client fits a team's personnel,” Beddingfield said. "She's really easy to talk to. She's not overbearing. If you give Kelli a call, you might get a voice mail, but you're going to get a call back in five minutes. That's rare in this business. "She's doing it the hard way because she's dealing with clients on the fringe, but I'm confident she's going to get a big-name client.” With Masters, doing business gets personal. "She really takes care of her clients, takes a personal interest in their lives,” Beddingfield said. "She's spent a lot of her own personal money on players who aren't making her money, and that's not a bad thing.” Masters has dipped her toes into other waters. Previous clients include world-class gymnast Guard Young, weightlifting champion Shane Hamman and former Texas Tech quarterback Cody Hodges, who is now an inspirational speaker following a brief stint in arena football. Masters represents two baseball players currently playing Class A ball. She has worked with former OU athletes Josh Heupel, Harvey Grant, Darryl Kennedy and Chuck Watson on their charitable foundations. A movie depicting the life of Van Zant, who is deaf, is scheduled to begin filming this fall with some footage being shot during OSU home games. This has resulted in Masters working closely with several school officials from her Bedlam rival. Four coaches have approached Masters concerning representation. Masters jokes that her sports agent Rolodex started out with two names. Now there are several hundred. She has bent the ears of coach Barry Switzer and Heisman Trophy winner Steve Owens. "Coach Switzer is protective of me,” Masters said with a laugh. "He says, ‘Do you really want to swim with these sharks?' He has seen so many sides of this business. His insights have been invaluable.” It's not all blood and guts. There are some perks. Masters attended the Maxim party at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Resort during last year's Super Bowl in Glendale, Ariz. She will attend the ESPYs as the guest of Kevin Plank, the CEO of Under Armour. Masters had been approached with job offers throughout the country, but she can't seem to leave her home state. Masters was born one day late — July 5. She missed being a "little firecracker” by one day. Then again, maybe not. Kelli and Kim Masters, her older sister by 20 minutes, are Oklahoma City natives. They were the baton-twirling twins who won countless competitions and eventually led the Pride of Oklahoma marching band onto football fields throughout America. For 17 years, the twins tried to convince anyone who would listen that baton-twirling indeed was a sport. Athletes who watched their training regimen became believers. The 12 national titles and five world titles in twirling also helped. After graduating with a degree in broadcast journalism from OU in 1995, Kelli became an intern at KWTV Channel 9 and decided to get a law degree. While attending Oklahoma City University, she entered the Miss Oklahoma pageant, won the 1997 crown and advanced to the Miss America competition. The $70,000 she earned in scholarship money helped pay her way through law school. Masters discovered there was more to being Miss Oklahoma than waving to the crowd. "Honestly, the Miss Oklahoma process developed me,” Masters said. "I used to be a quiet law student who could barely speak in front of people. Give me a baton and I was fine. (Before I competed in pageants) I couldn't get in front of a jury, or a negotiation room, and articulate myself the way I needed to articulate myself.” Masters graduated with honors from OU Law School in 1999 and was admitted to the Oklahoma bar in 2000. She is entering her 10th year as a member of the high-brow law firm of Fellers, Snider, Blankenship, Bailey & Tippens in downtown Oklahoma City, where her 17th-floor office in Chase Tower overlooks the Skirvin Hotel and the ever-expanding Bricktown area. Masters is one of seven female attorneys with the firm. NFL agents must become certified by passing an NFLPA exam, which consists of Collective Bargaining Agreement inquiries.Comments
Masters said the passage rate for that test is lower than it is for the bar exam.
Agents are allowed three hours to complete the NFLPA exam. Masters finished in one.
"I looked around the room and saw people sweating and freaking out,” Masters said.
Masters is in her third year as an NFL agent and gave herself five years to make it in the business.
If no big fish are in her client pool by 2010, she'll either climb Mount Everest or return fulltime to business litigation.
Sports agent Kelli Masters, a former Miss Oklahoma, is on a quest to conquer the male-dominated sports industry. by BRYAN TERRY, THE OKLAHOMAN