Just Like Colin Kaepernick, His Agency, X-A-M Sports, is Fully Prepared For This Moment
By: The Football Girl | Posted: February 03, 2013
Shawn Smith is used to working at home in her pajamas, sharing an office with her husband, Scott, and getting out on the occasional work trip. But this week, in New Orleans, she is as much a “mover and shaker” as anyone. When Shawn has not been shepherding Cardinals WR Andre Roberts around radio row or checking in on Jaguars DE Austen Lane at a party, her phone and email are blowing up with potential endorsement deals and media requests. And she is being quoted all over the place. You see, Shawn is the vice-president of marketing and public relations for X-A-M Sports, the medium-sized agency that represents the NFL’s hottest player– Colin Kaepernick.
This week has been one of the most intense and exciting in the history of X-A-M, but one they are handling as well as possible under the circumstances. As subscribers to the Colin Kaepernick philosophy on the subject – pressure comes from lack of preparation – X-A-M is perfectly equipped for this moment.
X-A-M Sports, based out of Madison, Wisconsin and in existence since 2004, is unique for one striking reason. That man who shares an office with Shawn is not only her husband, but one of the two X-A-M certified agents.
Shawn knows what you’re thinking.
“People always say, how can you world that closely with your husband? I could never do that,” Shawn said. ”But it works for us because we have the utmost respect for each other and I’m working with my best friend.”
The agency’s origins rest with Scott, who was representing 4-5 clients along with another attorney while employed by Coudert Brothers in Washington D.C., a law firm that eventually dissolved in 2006. Scott’s practice was bolstered by Shawn who, while not an official employee of the firm, originally worked pro bono on the marketing and public relations efforts of his athletes. Shawn holds master’s degrees in social work and public administration, and in her previous position at a non-profit in Denver, worked with all four of the major sports teams. Her energy, hard work and professionalism transferred perfectly to athletes.
The final piece of the X-A-M puzzle is the second agent, Jason Bernstein. Jason, who is based in Bethesda, Maryland, caught Scott’s attention as a law student at Vanderbilt. According to Shawn, Jason called every week expressing interest in working with Scott, who he knew about through his family.
Jason, jokingly, disputes that he “stalked” the Smiths to that extent, though he agreed that this exact aggressiveness is what’s required to succeed in the competitive agent jungle. Whatever the truth is, it worked. Jason got the coveted job in law school and became a certified contract advisor/agent before graduation. The three of them now handle everything from setting up housing and health insurance (rookies aren’t covered until September) to counseling players on personal issues.
(l-r; Colts RB Deji Karim. Scott Smith, Jags DE Austen Lane, Jason Bernstein, Chargers OT Kevin Haslam)
They have grown, but by design, not too much. X-A-M prefers to keep their clientele around 30 players, allowing for Scott, Shawn, and Jason to provide the highest level of personal service to each one.
“That was part of the reason I went with them,” said Andre Roberts, who is in his 3rd season with the Cardinals. “With some of the bigger agencies I feel like could be lost in the mix, but not with them. “
Jason believes that this personal touch was a key impetus for Kaepernick’s selection of X-A-M, when he could have chosen virtually any agency in the business. Large agencies—for example, CAA—have multiple high-profile clients, all of whom are used to being the center of attention. At X-A-M, Kaepernick gets full attention, as does every other client.
But the biggest draw of X-A-M is that they’re a family – literally. Even the agency’s name itself has family ties, standing for the Smiths’ son, Maxwell (think backwards), who was just an infant when the agency formed. [Max is now 10 and their other son, Emmanuel is 5]. The Smith family is tight knit with all their clients and their families. Even the Smith children get involved, hosting play dates with the kids of X-A-M clients in their home. At one client’s, Jason Snelling’s wedding, the attendees were Snelling’s family, Snelling’s bride’s family, and Scott, Shawn and Jason.
This sense of community is what Jason thinks had a lot to do with Rick Kaepernick, Colin’s father, steering him toward X-A-M, after hearing from over 100 agents during Colin’s senior year. As evidenced by the droves of Kaepernicks swarming around the lobby of the 49ers hotel in New Orleans where I chatted with Shawn and Jason, family is extremely important to them.
Colin’s mother, Teresa, also appreciates the accommodating nature of X-A-M versus some bigger firms. When talking about Colin’s loyalty in a recent interview with TFG, Teresa mentioned how many agencies wanted to force Colin to work with their specific trainers for the draft season.
“But X-A-M said they’d go with who Colin wanted,” Teresa said. “He’s just loyal to people that have been good to him.”
X-A-M has now grown to the point where they can be selective about clients.
“At this point, our goal each year is to sign a select group of players who not only have the talent to succeed at the NFL level, but more importantly are high character individuals,” Jason said.
Colin is a high character guy, but he’s also a highly demanded one these days. Shawn is balancing requests from every late night talk show, companies who want to talk about deals, and tons of appearance requests, not to mention all the calls and emails X-A-M gets from people falsely claiming to work for Colin. All the while she’s consistently working on off-season events and endorsements for her other clients.
Shawn admits, “Colin is a high priority because it’s the Super Bowl and he happens to be the quarterback.” But she is hoping his success has a trickle down effect. “Perhaps one company will have Colin and need another player for something else and come back to us,” she said.
But today the X-A-M team is focused on the game. Jason is happy they don’t have a client on the Ravens so they can sit back and cheer their hearts out for Colin without worry of offending anyone. Which is a good thing considering they’ll be sitting near Rick and Teresa Kaepernick.
Come Monday, Shawn may be accompanying Colin on a late night talk show circuit or she could be headed home for some deserved quality time with her family. But whether she’s in a suit or pajamas, the professional lives of Shawn, Scott and Jason will be forever changed by this Super Bowl experience. But, just like Colin, they’re prepared for it.