This month's cover story features Jonathan Jones, Brandon King and Obi Melifonwu of the Super Bowl LIII Winning Champions New England Patriots. The road to success is one that is truly a journey that isn't a straight line. In our interview we hear how these teammates fell in love with the game, made their way to the Patriots and how they get ready for their games every week! In addition, we also had the opportunity to talk with their Sports Agent, Sean Stellato of SES Sports, whose own life has been infused with sports as an athlete who then made the Jerry McGuire transition to being on the other side of the ball. The relationship between players and the agent is essential to their success.
Our shoot took place in Tribeca at the Serafina Tribeca, which is one of our favorite places for Italian comfort food. When it comes to hospitality and having the right vibe for a celebration, the General Manager, Christian Ferrara makes everyone feel at home while educating them on his cuisine and culture.
ATHLEISURE MAG: When did you realize that you wanted to play professional football and what was your journey to get to the New England Patriots?
JONATHAN JONES: I grew up loving watching the games as young as when I was 3 or 4 years old. I played high school football in Georgia and high school football in Georgia is just big! I went to Auburn, we won a National Championship. Leaving Auburn, I was a free agent and I chose to come to New England and it was probably the best decision of my life honestly as I have had the chance to go to 3 straight Super Bowls. It’s been a great journey as far as the NFL goes! But for my entire journey to come from where I come from to make it to the Patriots, it’s been a blessing!
AM: Tell us about the position you play and who do you work with closely on that portion of the team?
JJ: I play defensive back cornerback and mostly we work with the safeties and sometimes the linebackers.
AM: During the season what is your week like in terms of practicing to get to Sunday’s game?
JJ: After a game on Sunday, you come in on Monday and first thing you want to handle and collect everything from the previous game. You then want to start working on your body. Tuesday is a day of recovery for your body getting a massage, getting treatments for pains that took place from the last game. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday is all about training and practice. Saturday, it just depends on whether it is a home or an away game. But, it’s a full week and Tuesday isn’t like a day off, but more like a day to get ready.
AM: What are 3 songs that are on your playlist that get you ready for whatever game you’re playing?
JJ: It’s always a classic with me with Young Jeezy – it doesn’t even matter what song it is! Right now I have Little Baby on my playlist and I’m from Georgia so any of the Georgian rappers that are out right now – they’re there too!
AM: What does it feel like to be a 2 X Super Bowl Winning Champ?
JJ: It feels great to win Super Bowl LI and LIII. To get there every time is always the goal. I’ve been there 3 years in a row and to win 2 of them is amazing. A lot of people never even get there so for me to be there 3 times and to have won 2 is great! Every year you get there, you have to refocus and remember what you did last time to get there and how great you were at that time to win.
AM: What is it like in the off season as you prepare for the regular season?
JJ: The first thing is to get your mind and body right. You have to take the time during the off season. You want to make sure that you spend time for yourself, with your friends and family. But then it’s like you’re right back to when it’s time to go back and you also want to make sure that you stay in shape as well. It’s a quick turnaround and you have to be ready.
AM: What are your goals for the upcoming season?
JJ: My goal is to develop my game and become more of a leader within the team and to definitely work on my game with me being a young player. I want to continue to improve.
AM: How do you define your personal style? What do you wear when you’re going out for fun or when it’s a special night out.
JJ: My personal style is always about being casual with nice jewelry. I’m a laid back person. When it’s about going out, you can never go wrong with a nice shirt and jeans with nice shoes. It’s always an easy fix.
AM: Now that you’re able to relax what are 3 shows that you’ll binge on Netflix?
JJ: Oooo 3 Daredevil, The Punisher and Iron Fist.
ATHLEISURE MAG: What was your journey to get to the New England Patriots?
BRANDON KING: I went to Thompson High School in Alabama that was home for me. It was a pretty small town and in my senior year there, we got a movie theater and a Walmart which was pretty big for our town. Now, my high school is the biggest high school in the state which just goes to show how much it has grown! When I was there it was much smaller. During my junior year, coaches started coming in and recruiting and I talked to a lot of teams, but ended up falling short in my senior year by .03 to meet NCAA requirements.
A lot of people in my family were so happy that they thought I would be going to a Division I school on scholarship. So when I didn’t, a lot of people just put me on the back burner and a lot of people stopped talking to me because they felt that I was just going to be back at the house. But I knew what I wanted to do and I played for 2 years at Highland Community College in Kansas. At the time, I thought that I would be there for a year and then transfer to a Division I school, but that’s not how it turned out. I kept my head down to do what I needed to do so that I could continue to play football. I did well there and I got a lot of awards which I’m not big on as I believe the past is the past. You need to continue to work to do the things you need to do to be where you are. By staying there and doing the work, I got a scholarship to go to Auburn and transferred there. I played safety there and shortly after getting there, there was an injury to Justin Garrett the star linebacker which was a hybrid position between linebacker and safety so I changed to that position and I played that for most of my Junior year and then moved to linebacker. My senior year, I ended up breaking my thumb a week or two right before my first game of that year. I did everything that I could do to just stay at full speed. I treated everything with full respect, all of my teachers and anybody that could or would help me. I always had a smile on my face when I walked around as just having the opportunity to be there at Auburn was everything. Even in the worse times, you still have to smile. While at Auburn, I played linebacker, defensive end and safety. I was always ready for any opportunity and for people to see that I could do those positions being 225-226lbs was important and showed that I am versatile.
My senior year at Auburn, I was trying to do an internship while I was a full time student and trying to train for the NFL. I didn’t have an agent or anything like that because I didn’t have any money for that. When I was at Auburn, I played multiple positions, I was still under the radar for the most part. When I first got to Auburn, I just worked out with the strength coaches and I really appreciate them, because they prepared us very well in developing the athletes overall. I ended up just being there and working everyday and working in the schedule to actually be able to workout and I had to be productive and just go about a different way. I just came to work everyday and I don’t think it really matters, I have been in the league for 4 years and I still haven’t gone to a facility or trained with a specific individual. Being at Auburn and being with those coaches, they laid out what you had to and it wasn’t a big deal for me to get it done that way. After Pro Day came, I think I did pretty well and I walked up to the Canadian coaches and whoever was there and I wanted to shake everyone’s hands and to tell them thank you for coming by. We had all 32 NFL coaches there for our Pro Day I believe, to check out the talent. I tried to take the initiative to shake everyone’s hands that I could to show my appreciation. I did the same thing my last day at Auburn. Whether you were a positive influence or a negative influence, that’s what makes a person a person. Sometimes, people don’t realize that there is beauty in the pain and wherever you are in life, you can smile and do what you have got to do in life.
After that, I went back to work and I didn’t get any calls and then I got a call from one team with a contract. I just wanted to put my best foot forward and did everything I could do to play professionally – I didn’t want any regrets. That team called me and woke me up out of my sleep and I knew the dream was still alive and then a few days later, I got another call from another team and then I got a workout schedule from the Patriots and I never visited the Patriots or anything like that. I never went to check out the facility. I just had a workout set up at Samford University in Birmingham, AL and had an individual workout with him and it was the only thing I did. I got an opportunity to go out to other teams for my time to shine as a free agent. I wasn’t worried about the money it was finding the right opportunity – I chose the Patriots and I have been there ever since.
AM: Tell us about the position that you play and what portion of the team you work with closely?
BK: Right now I play linebacker. For the last 4 years, I have been a core special teams player. My position coach is Joe Judge – the special team’s coach. I work closely with Matt Slater, Nate Ebner – I work closely with those guys and just try to get all the ins and outs from those guys the best that I can. Those guys have been a part of a lot of Championship football. They have a lot that I feel that I can learn from. Maybe one day the goals that they have learned, I can reach back and help someone else too. They are great guys to be around, they put their pride to the side and put the team first. They don’t complain and they get it done. I have a lot of respect for them.
AM: During the regular season, what is your week like in terms of practicing and preparing for those Sunday games?
BK: I wake up at about 5:00/5:30/5:45am depending on whether I have an injury to tend to or not and it’s best to get working on that first thing in the morning. During the season I work, 12-13 hour days.
AM: What has playing in the Super Bowl been like for you?
BK: It’s been amazing. My first Super Bowl (LI), my head was kind of spinning with everything going on – I was going at like 100 miles a minute. This one, it was my 3rd one that I was a part of, and everything was a great experience, but I just wanted to get to the game. I knew how it felt to win a Super Bowl game and what it felt like to lose one. I knew what we came there for and it was nice to see my family and everything, as I don’t get to see my family a lot as they still work and I don’t get to see them that much. It was great to catch up with them, but at the end of the day, it’s a very long season and trying as you’re playing 34 games a year, as you have the preseason also and to play at that level. I wanted to do what we came there for and to put those distractions aside. You know what it’s like to watch the game when you’re younger and for me, it feels like the game gets too big and we all have different ways to approach it. Winning felt like weight coming off your shoulders. There are people that you bonded with in the beginning during training camp that don’t make it or you play with them half the season and something happens to them and they may not be on the team anymore. The new guys have to come in and fill in the voids fast, because no one is going to feel sorry for someone that doesn’t know what to do or not knowing the system. Everything counts and everyone needs to be on the same page to be successful. Playing with your team for awhile creates a sense of comfort. Winning and going through all that adversity is a lot – this season wasn’t perfect by any means! We knew that no one was going to be able to fix it but us. Our job is to get it done. It felt good to get it done and to be at 3 Superbowls in a row and to know what it is like to win and lose one and then to look at these guys I play with. I mean I have only been in the league for 4 years and I know my body doesn’t always feel too hot and to play with guys that have played 8/9/10/11/12 years, I have a lot of respect for them. It’s like ok, then let’s go! It’s a respect thing and everyone in that building comes to work every day and it’s hard for you to not do the same thing.
AM: So what do you do during the off season to prepare yourself for the next upcoming season?
BK: I take a week or 2 off as I feel that that is well deserved. The off season is really short. I feel like it’s only a month and a half off. By the time I get home it will be around Feb 28th and we have to report in April. I bought a home in Tennessee last year and I’m trying to get everything there and get the family settled in and then I have to see the family in Alabama.
AM: What are the goals for the next season?
BK: I’m not really big on setting goals because disappointment is one thing and I feel that you can get really deterred if you do set the goal. I take one day at a time. People will say that they want to do this or do that and then people will look at you and say, “hey you said you were going to do this and now look at you.” I’m the kind of person, that I just let things ride and happen the way that they happen. I will figure out the pieces of the puzzle to get to where I want, but hopefully, I will be able to put it together in the right way for the way that I want. I just want to be productive, dependable and that I am doing things in the right way.
AM: Since you are on the road so much, what are 3 items that you like to have with you that make you happy or comfortable?
BK: I try to keep a pair of headphones with me. Sometimes I use them, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I listen to music in the locker room, sometimes I don’t. When I travel, I like to have headphones because you can block things out. This year I have been bringing my tablet with me more because I can watch my movies on Netflix and take my mind off of things. You’ve been putting in the work during the week to know who you are going against so I want to relax when I travel to the game. When I get to the hotel, then I like to be able to pick that back up again to think about the game.
ATHLEISURE MAG: So when did you realize that you wanted to play football professionally and tell us your journey on how you came to the New England Patriots.
OBI MELIFONWU: At the age of 9. Well it’s a funny story. I came to Massachusetts as the age of 3 and when I was about, I want to say between the age of 6/7, I watched the Patriots win Super Bowl XXXVI. I realized then that I really loved football and then at the age of 8, I brought a Pop Warner sign up sheet to my mom and she ended up throwing it out and saying it was too dangerous. I was crushed that year and I methodically thought about how I could get her to sign the sheet. So the next year, the same thing happened, I brought the sheet and she didn’t sign it and then I brought another sheet for her to sign and she ended up realizing that I was serious about it and she signed it. I’ve been playing football ever since!
My journey to the Patriots was one that I least expected. I went to high school and I got one offer from UCONN. It’s the only offer I got and I went there and had a pretty good year. Then I got drafted by the Raiders in the second round. Then after I got drafted I felt like that I was finally here and I could prove myself and play football. Unfortunately, I had injuries that happened to me that slowed things down. That last year, I ended up getting injured in August and I got cut. I was devastated. But I understood that everything happened for a reason. Nothing good good comes without perseverance and I really believe that God gives the strongest battles to the strongest war riors. I took that perspective and I just worked and got as healthy as I could and I got picked up by the Patriots. It was ironic as that was the team that I grew up watching playing. It was the team that I wanted to be on since I was little.
AM: Tell us about the position that you play and who do you work closely with in that portion of the team.
OM: The position I play is safety and that position is on defense. It is basically the last line of defense – you stop Receivers, running backs, any skilled position from scoring as that last line of defense. If stuff breaks through the line of the linebackers, even sometimes the cornerbacks. The Safety is the one that kind of has to save the day. Getting to the NFL and getting to the Patriots, I started to work really closely with the defensivebacks on the Patriots like Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon and Coach Belichik. They really helped me to improve as a player.
AM: During the regular season. What is your week like in terms of practice, working out, watching the game tape – what are the typical things that you tend to do as you prep for that gameday?
OM: A typical week is like a lot of studying and a lot of watching the games on your own. Everyone has their own routine and things that they like to do to help them get ready for the game. I just like to go into work and try to really take notes, implement the gameplan for that practice and do that everyday. As the gameday gets closer, just kind of take a step back from the physical part just really try to focus on what I need to do for that day. I’m visualizing different things like certain calls for certain formations and certain situations. Just mentally preparing to be ready for that game and I feel like that’s a good mindset to have. There are 53 people on a team, but only 47 people get dressed. Some weeks you might be up and some weeks you might not be. Some times you may be activated and other times you may not be activated. It’s almost like you have to take that approach every week because you don’t know when you’re number is going to be called. If you’re not ready for your number to be called, then you’re going to miss out on that opportunity at that time.
AM: You’re in amazing shape – how long are you in the gym and what are some of the key workouts that you do? Do you have 3 that are your go to in particular no matter what?
OM: Yeah, it’s funny that you say that because in college, I really just ate anything I wanted. In terms of healthy, I mean I just did everything and ate anything. But when I got further along in my career, I started really trying to watch what I ate. Even until now, I still do my best to stay healthy because I understand it will help me in the long run with my longevity.
In terms of gym workouts, I do the typical three which I feel is the bread and butter of bench, squats and power cleans. Then there are other things like core and I’m always trying to work on a lot of stability stuff to help maintain the strength of my arms. I’m really trying to get into yoga. I’ve tried it a couple of times and we just don’t have the best relationship right now haha. It’s something that I am going to try to continue to do.
AM: You’ll probably like Hot Yoga or a Cardio based one, it may make you feel more aligned to it more.
AM: So what are your go-to foods in terms of what you do to maintain your body and then what splurge food do you enjoy eating?
OM: My go-to vegetable is broccoli. I love it grilled, cooked, sautéed, whatever! My go-to meal for fuel is pasta and meat sauce. I’m the type of person that when I am performing or doing any type of physical activity, I have to eat before. I feel like that I can feel my body using that to fuel me throughout whatever workout or activity that I’m doing. So that’s my go-to meal.
Splurge I mean – everything under the sun that’s sweet! I try to cut down on dairy – icecream not too much but chocolate, cake, cookies – whatever sweet that you can think of I will most likely eat. That’s really my splurge or any fast food.
AM: On game day, how do you prepare – do you have a routine that you go through or is it more of a mindset?
OM: It depends on how I am feeling for that game. I feel that how I prep is the same, but on that day of the game, some days I will listen to Future or Meek Mill to get hype. Then other times I will listen to Jhene Aiko’s, ‘The Calm Before the Storm’ to get ready. For game day the night before, I try to do a lot of visualization for the game. I try to put myself in the position of the game so if it should happen that way, it’s not the first time that that happened. I try to keep a level head and not think too above or below the game. I try to understand mentally that things will happen throughout the game and that I shouldn’t get too overworked about it especially as a DB because the position I play and that CornerBacks and Safety’s play you might get beat on the play or give up a touch down or you might give up a big chunk and in the position that we play – we have to have short memories. We can’t let that one play affect the rest of the game. So those are just things that I do before and during the game.
AM: What was Super Bowl Sunday like for you and what has it been like since the game? Obviously, we shot your cover days after the big win and we’ve been watching your Instagram.
OM: The experience has been really great. Like being able to be in a Super Bowl and just being able to soak it in – it’s a blessing because so many people go through a whole season, 10 seasons, 16 seasons all the way to get to here and they don’t win a Super Bowl. As a player, you play the Super Bowl for many reasons. I feel like you play to make it to the Super Bowl, win the Super Bowl and then become a Hall of Famer. The fact that I got to experience that in my second year is something that I will not take for granted.
AM: You have great style – how would you define it? What do you wear when you’re just hanging out with friends or for a night out.
OM: With my friends, I just like to be comfortable. I wear a lot of joggers, a lot of sweats, nice comfy sandals, sweatshirts – I love sweatshirts like the one that I wore in the shoot, that’s the kind of things that I’m talking about.
When I go out, I’m a simple person. Obviously I like my figure and I like to take care of my body. I want to wear things that show that off whether I’m wearing slim fit shirts as well as slim fit and tapered jeans to show off my legs. Just something nice on my feet, whether they’re Yeezy’s, Timberland’s – any sneaker that looks neat and fit. My style is simple. I wear a lot of solid classic neutrals with a simple fit – nothing too extravagant.
AM: Now that you’re in the off season what are you thinking about and what goals are you setting to prepare for next year?
OM: My goals in terms of next season is that first, I have to get away from football. You work and you train for 8 months and then you have to go and take time to get away. I have really learned that in my time in the NFL. You have broken your body down to play and now you just need time to step back so that you can ease into it. I want to get my body right so that I can come correct in April. I can compete and everything I need to do but this year I am very focused on my body and mind being right emotionally and spiritually. This way I can perform at the level that I know I can and that I can show everybody else especially the Patriots organization that they didn’t make a mistake in picking me up and in giving me that chance.
AM: You’re based in Foxboro, where can we find you grabbing a meal, working out and shopping?
OM: Working out – I haven’t figured it out. I have a couple of places that I might try as I just got here. You can find me at the Patriots Place at Showcase Cinemas – I love the movies! I watch too many movies or playing video games or find me at the mall. Not even shopping, just walking around seeing things. I’m really observant and I like to see things.
I also wanted to say thank you for the interview and having us. I just want to thank everyone that helped me to get to this point and I don’t want to leave anybody out. To all the friends, coaches, everyone on this journey that has helped me out and you guys putting me in this magazine. I just want to say thank you!
ATHLEISURE MAG: We enjoyed having you a part of our cover shoot and we know that prior to being a sports agent, you also had a career professionally in football. Can you tell us about your athletic career and then what took place that led you to becoming an agent and then eventually launching your firm?
SEAN STELLATO: What a great question. Well I was born and bred in Salem, Massachusetts. I played highschool football there and had a very successful career there. Actually, the spinoff from my book, No Backing Down, came from my Junior football season which had a very diverse underdog team, a legendary coach that I always call a first generation Bill Belichick. As the team was projected to not win a game they found themselves undefeated playing another undefeated team. A major teacher strike shut down the school system – we ended up playing in front of 12,000 people and I had my career game on National Television and that was kind of my coming out party. After graduating Salem, I had the opportunity to go to a Boarding School for a year called the Gunnery Prep School.
I’m fully indebted to them because they taught me the value of education. They gave me the opportunity as it was such a political spinoff with the team after the Junior year, because of the coach being fired, that all of the kids who were going to be seniors were pretty much in harms way. The new person that they hired didn’t care. People were looking out for themselves and not for the kids. So a lot of the minority kids who had single parents, didn’t have a father figure to look out for them and it ultimately killed their careers. I was fortunate and was the Lone Ranger that was able to fly from the nest and get an opportunity – a true blessing was Gunnery Prep School – they gave me a full scholarship which was $33,000 to go there! I mean there were 8 of us together in a 3-bedroom house where I grew up in Witch Craft Heights in Salem. My mom was a stay at home mom and my parents didn’t have a college degree. They gave me that blessing and opportunity and I was on the basketball and football team there. I went onto Marist College – my mother doesn’t fly so I gave the Heisman to them. I did receive denial letters from a couple of schools and I still do read them a couple of times a year because if I let rejection define me, I wouldn’t have been doing what I am doing.
I played Division I basketball and football there which, is 45 mins north of the city on the Hudson. It was a beautiful campus and had a successful career there. My junior and senior years there I was the leading wide receiver for the 2000-2001 season. I finished there 9 straight semesters on the Dean’s List. The beauty of an education and just remembering the first time that I had been on an airplane to play basketball at Pepperdine – an amazing journey through college. But we played down in Florida after 9/11 about 10 days after that and I got scouted by an Arena Football coach and he ended up following up with me after the season and I had the opportunity to play 2 years professionally for the Arena Football League for 2002 and 2003. One of my head coaches for one of my teams is now the head coach at Purdue and he beat Ohio State this year.
You know, I saw the movie Jerry McGuire back in 1996 in high school and I fell in love with the movie. I thought about how cool it would be. I mean, as a football player, you think that you’re immortal and that you can play forever and I had to face that reality. I could have played in 2004 and I said, “I’m going to go hard on this sports agent thing.” I had 2 agents that I had hired and then I fired. I felt that there was this gap between how I wanted to represent players and the lack of transparency that I was fed when I played. I felt that I wanted to reshuffle this industry and threw my hat in the ring and got licensed late 2005. I didn’t know what I was doing and I spent a few years banging around on my own for a few years and then I partnered up with a firm and then I got exploited and in 2013, I was with the firm for a few years. We joined with a client each and then it grew into 10. I was flying our New Year’s Eve, Christmas Day signing guys getting exploited making pennies on the dollar. The night I got inducted into my high school Hall of Fame, I told my wife, “I’m not happy where I am in my career.” I told her that I wanted to have my own firm and she said, ”let’s draft the termination letter today.”
I walked away and I had signed a Non Compete so I had to walk away from all of those guys. I had one loyal client that said, “I signed with you, you’re my guy.” He never played a down in the NFL after that point and he said, “I’m leaving and coming with you.” Like Jerry McGuire walking out with Ron Tisdale, a receiver and goldfish – I walked out with an unproven long snapper and a pet boxer dog named Sly. I remember when I left that firm, they said that I would never make it in the industry. But my whole life people said that I was too small to play football, that I wouldn’t play Division I or play pro. I feed off of and that’s all I needed to hear and my wife was my witness and I put my head down and went to work.
I signed my first player, Bryan Braman, who won the Super Bowl last year, he kept me in business and I made a pact when I got into the business and I said I would never go to the SuperBowl unless I had a client in the Super Bowl, and the last 5 years I have had my guys every single year play in the Super Bowl. My drive to be an agent is to be the best and football lifted my soul when I would step onto the field. It brought me so much structure and joy to my family’s life and my life as well as the ability to have an education and to network with the ability to meet people and to interact. It's a special place in my heart. I have been inducted into 3 Hall of Fames which I am so proud of that as I was statistically not supposed to be here in terms of how I was raised, my size. I never let my greatest asset – my work ethic, down. That is what I stayed true to!
AM: What is your day like during the season vs off-season? For those players that you rep, how much contact to you have with the team and the league?
SS: My day to day – my mornings start off very early. I can only workout very early because my phone is always blowing up with 100s of calls and 100s of emails a day. That’s a big part of my lifestyle that I approach every day as I lift and I run. I get my mind right and I try to read a book every 2-3 weeks. I'm finishing my second book and it all comes down to time of year right? So obviously, if you have clients who won the Super Bowl, you just go balls to the walls to try to monetize and to expose them and align brands with them that are in line with their missions. In terms of post SuperBowl, when you win, you’re talking about shifting gears. So let me rewind.
In the fall, you’re talking about recruiting kids for the 2019 the following draft. You’re going to college games and evaluating films. At the same token, you’re servicing your guys with their needs and what they want. Then you have the guys that are on the street. You have to designate x amount of hours to make sure that they are employed. For the guys that are playing during the season, you have to make sure that you get them appearances for their marketing. Right when the season is over, you go into guys who are unrestricted free agents that are able to test the open market - so gauging what their value is and seeing which teams best suit their needs.
You’re constantly trying to work on your relationships with teams as that’s key. In terms of having that relationship and letting them know you have great guys and you’re not just throwing people at coaches. It’s 24/7 – 365. I don’t really call anytime that I travel a vacation because I am constantly fielding guys and am a hands on kind of guy. It’s how I believe I should run this.
AM: Is it hard for you to represent clients that are on different teams?
SS: I’ve got guys in a lot of different markets. It’s great to be able to interact with so many teams as no one usually stays with the same team – maybe Brady and a handful of others. Shuffling around is just human nature in the NFL especially with salary caps. With free agency, it’s a different landscape than what it was 20 years ago. That being said, it’s important that if you have guys on other teams where if – for contract extensions or just to broker deals – it’s new markets that are important because every market is different. My conversation with the Dallas Cowboys is different than the New England Patriots. Everyone has different core values and beliefs – obviously everyone wants to win in this league and to monetize opportunities as the league has crossed over to $15B in revenue. It’s a fine tuned machine.
AM: I’m sure you have a number of people who request to be represented by you. What process do you have in deciding whether someone will join your roster?
SS: I tell everyone that there is 1,440 minutes in a day and I have two lives, one as a sports agent with SES Sports as my infrastructure and I also have my family which is my wife and 4 kids. I try to keep that balance and sometimes I leave my self a little thin and I try to be better at that.
In terms of managing expectation. My phone is constantly ringing, when I first started I was the one seeking out guys and now I can cherry pick guys that I want to have. Obviously if you get a 1st or 2nd rounder, you don’t want to miss that opportunity. I think managing expectations, having that connection with a player who has the core values and beliefs that alignment is important. Some guys put a higher value on their skill set and it’s like having a house that you try to sell in the open market where you think it’s $2M and everyone else thinks it’s $1M – it’s going to be tougher to sell. You have to compromise, and you can’t sugarcoat it with your clients, you have to keep it real and be transparent with them and do what is in their best interest.
AM: What is a typical Sunday like for you during the season?
SS: A typical Sunday is impossible for me to be in every market. I have yet to be in every market on the same day. Last year in the Superbowl having 8 guys in the game – 5 in the Patriots and 3 on the Eagles – I mastered it that day! In terms of a typical Sunday, I try to at least see every player each year. If not I have the NFL package and thank God for cell phones! My Director of Football operations is phenomenal and he doesn’t take his eye off the ball. He’s always keeping me in the loop on things, from Social Media, research, staying current on guys and watching everybody. I take watching these guys very seriously. When I go to the Superbowl and people go as fans, it’s different, I go in as a business. I don’t change my preparation in terms of game rituals. I stick with them as a player as I do as an agent.
AM: What are those rituals?
SS: I make sure that I have the same things for breakfast every Sunday. I always say a prayer before kickoff. I kiss my crucifix. When I go to church that morning, I pray for each player individually. Sometimes I wear the same socks is he plays from one week to the next. I always have the same snack before kickoff or during the game. During the Super Bowl, I will put my phone in the cup holder and not touch anything until something happens. During the AFC championship, I was very unprepared weather wise, but when I am suited up, I always put my baseball hat on and turn it backwards and pretended I was playing Little League Baseball with a rally cap on. I didn’t move it until they won it in overtime. My wife thinks I’m crazy with my superstitions, but I don’t know. I get superstitious on certain things and whatever works – works for you right?
AM: With this last Super Bowl win, what was that like for you and what is it like that you’re a part of these guys careers?
SS: Just surreal and gratifying. I tell everybody that when you have that baby and hold it in your hands, it’s a life changing moment. When you have these players and you have such a passion for football like I do, I took them as far as I could take them and see them taking it further it just touches my heart like no other. This one was the most special win, because clients like Jonathan Jones – he led the defense in tackles, he had a sack and contributed so much to that win. Ryan Allen could have been the MVP of the game. Brandon King, he’s just an absolute beast and Obi with his story of how he ended up here.
AM: His story is incredible.
SS: With Obi, we had 4 teams to pick through and I don’t ever like to take credit, but I really pushed and stressed the fact that he needed to be a Patriot and not a Saint or a Chief. We picked the winning lottery ticket there.
This one in particular meant more because I felt like my guys contributed more to that particular win. I had bigger roles and obviously in my mind, it has increased more in the last few months. I mean last year, it was special because of Bryan – he pretty much kept me in business and kept the lights on in 2014 when I was a year into it. It’s been remarkable. You want to see all of your clients win a ring. Obi got his this year, Bryan got his last year, Trey Sullivan got one last year. This year I didn’t have any players on the opposing team. Last year I felt bad for my Patriots clients that lost, but on the same token, I felt good for Bryan. For the Falcons/Patriots Super Bowl, I had 1 client on the Falcons whose family was completely devastated and my Patriot clients pulled off the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history. It’s been a blessing to be affiliated with history. The Patriots, whether you love them or hate them, are remarkable in what they do and they have done what no other franchise has been able to do in these times. You can talk about the Cowboys, Steelers and Green Bay Packers, they did not do it in a time period like this. There was no free agency, there was no salary cap. It’s a completely different animal today. What Belichik and Brady are doing – it’s remarkable. I’ve been able to grow up in this area and be able to model and build a sports agency around and learning from them – how they negotiate, how they do things at the organization to how I manage the kids’ careers.
AM: With the draft coming up, what is your role for that and what do you do?
SS: It’s to be a confidant to the players that I represent and to know that they are not going to be a guinea pig. To know that they are with someone who is not going to reinvent the wheel. Being with someone who has the relationships in the league who is going to sell them and brand them organically to make them successful in the NFL. It's a very trying long time, but at the same token it’s a lot of time and emails – the combine is a tremendous amount of leg time getting in front of people. It’s constantly selling, planning, promoting, These calls build for the combine for their pro day so they can be successful and play in this league. It’s a process that I take very seriously – you want to have all the guys that you represent drafted, but at the end of the day – you manage their expectations and you hold their hand and say, “hey, if you’re undrafted. That’s ok. Some of the greatest players that ever played this game went undrafted.” That’s sometimes your destiny and your fate.
AM: When we were on set for the photoshoot, we enjoyed hearing about a number of projects that you are working on outside of your life as a sports agent. Can you share them with our readers here at Athleisure Mag?
SS: My first book, No Backing Down, which is a human triumph story on 3 levels – my personal story, legendary coach and our team, has a forward written by Doug Flutie and it was endorsed by Bill Belichik, Evander Holyfied, Mike Ditka, Washington Post, NY Daily News and it goes on. It’s an incredible book and it’s now in it’s second edition. The screenwriter/producer of Hoosiers and Rudy will finish the script for the movie shortly as we’re in the very early stages of that, but I like my chances with such an established and well known screenwriter. If you go to SeanStellato.com you can order the book and obviously you can get it on Kindle via Amazon. I’m going to have a Draft party on April 25th that is going to be a great night if you’re in the Boston area as it will be at the Ferncroft Country Club as it will be a chance to meet with some of the Super Bowl Champions – Jonathan, Obi, Brandon and some of the college kids. It also includes a Celebrity Golf tournament that will raise money for the Junior Golf Fund. We’ll have one of th e top Sushi Chefs in the world appearing and providing phenomenal sushi and we’ll have good Italian wines. The Draft party will also reveal the title of the children’s book. I love to read and as a kid, I read a lot of books that I couldn’t relate to.
July 19th, will be the release of my children’s book which will also be a magical day! It will be held at the historical Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, MA which opened in 1925. This book is a Friday Night Lights meets Harry Potter and it is a magical football story that is mostly fiction, but there is a non-fiction component to it. It takes place in my home city which I am excited about. One of the main characters is my daughter who is suffering from psoriatic arthritis and I am looking to bring awareness to this condition. It will be an evening with some of my clients and we will celebrate a post Super Bowl party as well as to unveil the book which is going to be a magical night for everyone.
Our football camp takes place July 21st and it’s our 12th year doing this. I try to make it Disney World for a day for a young girl or boy where they can attend this non-contact camp. The day is hosted by my clients and myself and they have an amazing day with goodie bags, they get autographs and they get their jerseys signed. They compete and the winners get awarded cool swag. They leave feeling so inspired and uplifted and that they can do anything and that is the message that we try to convey. No Backing Down isn’t just a book title, it’s our motto. It’s for every man, woman and child regardless of your gender. It’s for someone with a vision, someone that maybe they have been denied and told that they can’t do that they can be relentless in the pursuit of following their dreams. That is what we convey to everyone that comes through these doors. It’s my baby and it’s one day a year which takes 6 months of preparation that we try to go all out for the kids.
AM: How many kids would you say are at this camp?
SS: We get anywhere from 100-200.
The thing about this camp is, we may not have the household marquis huge names coming. But I have blue collar guys that can relate to these kids because there aren’t a lot of kids on the planet that are going to be 6’5” and 275lbs like Gronk. Someone like Jonathan Jones who is 5’9” and 180lbs and flies like the wind or like myself, I was an underdog, but if I can do it – anyone can do it. Sometimes you just need that person to just push you along to give them that advice. They can be advised and pushed in the right direction. That’s a great day obviously!
AM: How do you take time for yourself so you have what you need to fuel others?
SS: It’s a good point. I’m a stickler on my diet and on my preparation. It’s all about those endorphins, whether I’m jogging or in a swimming pool. I get a high when I get to spend time with my kids, see my daughter to play basketball, ballet or gymnastics. Occasionally, in the summer I do try to get some downtime and I love the beach and the ocean to get a little Vitamin D. Every year I spend time to take my family down to Disney World, which is a bit more exhausting than a true vacation ha! A true joy and high for me is giving back and touching lives like going to an orphanage or a Children’s Hospital. When I was trying to make it as an agent when I was nearly out of the business, I used to pray that if I was allowed to do what I do then I would make sure to give Him the glory and honor Him every day and would help kids. I stayed true to that promise when He blessed me and anointed me with this skill set to make a difference in this industry. I go to the chiropractor 2 times a week, Dr Garrity in Naherty, MA is phenomenal and he keeps me so right. My wife is an amazing cook. I'm fortunate when I’m not on the road so much, that I get those homemade meals! I’m young enough – I want to leave a mark on the life and blessings that I have got! I’m so passionate about what I am doing. I know that I always think about my ancestors who came over from a boat from Calabria, Italy with only a couple of meals and a suitcase to come and take that and run with it. I want to preserve their legacy and that is the true joy. I’m passionate about my Italian heritage and what my family went through so that I can do what I do now.
AM: Since you travel so much, what are 3 items that you always have on you/you’re carry on that you have when you’re on the road?
SS: Great point! I have to have Jesus Calling my little meditation and prayer book that has scriptures for every day that my Mother in Law gave me. It really starts my day off right. I carry a journal with me wherever I go. My wife laughs at me, but I don’t consider myself a writer, although I have written 2 books – I never know when that next thought of book might come into my mind. I just shut down and take an hour or two to write. I’d hate to forget something that – I mean Walter Payton who I loved, used to have old school pictures of his family. So I have 16 pictures in an album in my portfolio – my wife, my kids, my dog, my parents – at the end of the day, I reflect on that when I need it. This journey isn’t all vertical and I have people that care about me, love me and support me – it’s not just for the man in the mirror. Those are the 3 and I feel like I missed something but I know it’s only three and I hope that they are ok ha!
AM: It’s what you do and it’s more than ok!
OBI MELIFONWU PG 16, 32, 36 | NATALIE FEDNER David Bowie Tank | G STAR Denim | FERRAGAMO Belt | YEEZY ADIDAS Sneakers | PG 18 - 23, 29, 30 +_ BACK COVER | CLAUDE RUSSELL NYC Zipped Mesh Jacket | G STAR Denim | ETHIKA Underwear | FERRAGAMO Belt | PG 38 | TED BAKER Sweatshirt | G STAR Denim | YEEZY ADIDAS Sneakers | NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS Super Bowl Champions Player's Sweatshirt |
JONATHAN JONES COVER, PG 40 - 47 | NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS SUPER BOWL Game Day Player's Jersey | PG 16, 18, 26 - 37 | TED BAKER Blazer | HANRO Tee | ALL SAINTS Jeans | OFF-WHITE Sneakers |
BRANDON KING COVER, PG 40 - 48 | NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS SUPER BOWL GAME DAY Player's Jersey | Adidas | PG 16 -33, 37 | TED BAKER Short Sleeve Woven | KINROSS Cashmere Blazer | EMBELLISHMENT Jeans | PG 34 | KINROSS Cashmere Ombre Sweater |
SERAFINA TRIBECA FOOD CREDITS
Throughout the cover shoot, we shot within Serafina Tribeca's restaurant and in addition to the New England Patriots' Super Bowl Champions and their sports agent, Sean Stellato - we also had Christian Ferrara, the General Manager of the eatery included in our shoot who also shared a few dishes that appeared in the shoot as well as suggestions on what you should try when stopping in for a bite, wine or a few cocktails:
. 18oz Ribeye
Grass fed Ribeye simply marinated in extra virgin olive oil, pepper, touch of garlic and rosemary for three days. After that, naturally grilled without adding any butter.
It comes with crispy and flavorful roasted potatoes and string beans.
. Rigatoni Bolognese
Rigatoni al dente with the finest homemade 100% beef sauce.
. Spaghetti Carbonara
As our tradition says, we only use crispy pancetta, Parmigiano Reggiano 24 months aged and Pecorino, eggs and crushed black pepper.
. Pizza al Tartufo Nero
Our secret recipe made from a bouquet of Italian cheeses, black truffle carpaccio and white truffle oil.
. Short Ribs
Slow cooked (4.5 hours) short ribs in our Chianti Riserva red wine, mixed vegetables and homemade gravy sauce Served with saffron risotto and Tuscan mushroom porcini crostini.
IG Stay in the loop with what the New England Patriots Super Bowl LIII Champions are up to: Jonathan Jones @GetItOnJones31, Brandon King @_King205, Obi Melifonwu @Obi_1nOnly, their sports agent Sean Stellato @SeanStellato and one of our favorite places to dine @SerafinaTribeca.