After playing the final game of his collegiate career for Oklahoma in January 2020, Jalen Hurts checked his Instagram messages. One of them was from NFL agent Nicole Lynn: “Hey, you picked an agent? If not, I’d like to connect.”
“A total Hail Mary,” is how Lynn describes it.
It was beyond a long shot. Most players entering the draft have long chosen an agent by January.
Lynn went to OU law school, and her husband had played at Alabama, where Hurts won a national championship before becoming faster. She has also already represented about a dozen Alabama graduates, including offensive tackle Evan Neal, the highest-drafted Alabama player in school history. Lynn was also from Houston, as was Hurts.
“All that synergy,” she recalls now. So she shot DM on impulse. “I didn’t even expect him to see it.”
Hurts saw him; he was still in the process of finding an agent. “I wanted to hear that,” he says now.
Lynn met with Hurts’ father for three hours, then with Hurts himself at his 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 their doubts about me,” Hurts says. “People still have doubts about me.”
Despite winning a national championship and being one of the best college quarterbacks in the game as a dual threat both through the air and on the ground, Hurts was projected to be a mid-to-late draft pick, at least in the second. if not the third or subsequent rounds; he was elected 53rd. “He’s just not the type,” said one analyst, summing up how much of the football world seemed to view him.
“It turns me on,” Hurts says. “It lights me up on fire. That makes me feel good because I know I’m going to prove you wrong. But I saw the same fire in Nicole. She said: ‘I am a woman. People will ignore me. People will doubt me. They will not give me due 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 his father shortly after signing her when another agent — a man — told them, “Hey, if the little girl doesn’t work out, give us a call. She’s sweet, but you know that.”
Hurts didn’t care about that. “How much of this do you deal with?” Lynn asked later. “Why does it matter that you’re a woman?”
“Oh, Jay,” she said with a laugh. “This is just my life.”
Hurts cared about her resume, her experience, and how he trusted her. He thought: What the hell else did it matter? “People will doubt her because she’s a woman in this industry,” he says. “There was a sense of doubt. Why is she doing this? Can a quarterback represent? What will she do with it?“
As Hurts began his pro career — he began his rookie season as the third-string quarterback on the Eagles’ depth chart — he found himself looking around the sports world and feeling increasingly troubled by the way women were treated.
“I know the agent world in the NFL and all sports is very male-dominated,” he says. “But Nicole was really on top of her stuff. She was prepared. She knew what she was talking about. She was hungry. And she was determined. And I feel that such determination never ceases. Once you come across such a determined individual, it strikes me as a little different.”
The same for the women he already knew, and the women he was getting to know. Hurts says he watched his mother, Pamela, work hard throughout his upbringing — 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 head 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,” Hurts says. “I’ve seen this now with thousands of different women in my life who are confusing. Athletes, coaches, women in the sports business world. I see it all the time. And they deserve their flowers too. So if I say something about it that brings more attention to it, then I’m all for it.”
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 of us,” Hurts says. “And I see him doing endless work. I grew up in the weight room, going out on the street, going through things in my head, playing with my brother and dad, putting in the work. … She’s hitting the volleyball on the side of the house, she’s in the garage lifting weights, she’s doing all these kinds of things with the same hunger. She has the same hunger, the same passion for what she wants to do. She is getting to work. … Anything she set out to do, I brought her back.”
As Hurts began to lay 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 marketing to the brand’s customer service support, women run things for it across the board. “I put a lot of faith and trust in a female-led team,” he says, pointing to Lynn and naming others like Chantal Romain, Shakeemah Simmons-Winter and Jenna Malphrus on his media relations and services management team of the client. along with Rachel Everett, who handles some of his marketing.
“I have a team of straight runners. … They get things done. And that’s how I am on the field and off it,” he says. “We’re all trying to achieve something.”
Hurts continued to talk to Lynn about her experience as a woman working as an NFL agent, his curiosity growing the more he learned. They talked a lot about how difficult it can be to gain the trust of the players and their parents. “Someone like a white male,” says Lynn, “as long as they have the look, immediately it’s like, ‘Oh, you’re an agent.’ I have to first try that I’m an agent, which takes a lot of time, and I also prove that I know what I’m doing. And then, depending on the personality of the player, there are usually still a few extra steps that men just don’t have to deal with.”
Hurts does not usually speak his mind or engage in the discourse of the day; he prefers to focus on football. But seeing what he’s seen and thinking about his sister who’s going to be an athlete, and just growing up and becoming how more people in the world treat women — well, he wants to add his voice to that. conversation. “My goal in speaking about this is to advocate and support investment in women in sport,” he says.
Then there’s his team, starting with Lynn. “No matter what stands in our way, no matter what we want, we will conquer it all. We will conquer everything before us. And I think we’re off to a good start in three years.”
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