I think before we go any further, I have to address the one question everyone asks, and that is, ‘how did you get your job?’ In the case of former Jets Director of Football Administration Ari Nissim, it was a case of developing a vision, choosing a school that fit that vision, then aggressively pursuing the opportunities that school brought him.
“I wanted to work in the NFL since I was in high school, which was right about the time the salary cap came into effect. Having no ‘in’s’ in the industry, I knew I would need to go to law school after college to have a chance, so I focused on going to the law school with the best sports program, and ended up at Tulane. Let’s not kid anyone: if I got into Harvard Law, I would have gone, but Tulane was an amazing experience, where I had the opportunity to meet a lot of people in the industry when they came down to speak.
“One of those people happened to be Mike Tannenbaum, then the Asst. GM for the NY Jets (and now a member of Chicago-based player agency Priority Sports). There is a fine line between persistence and harassment, and I was able to successfully navigate that line into a one-week internship after my second year of law school. I turned that one-week internship into a two-week internship, into a six-week internship, and then parlayed that into an internship at the NFL league labor operations department for the 2004 season, then had the opportunity to work with Jimmy Sexton in his sports agency (at the time, Memphis-based Athletic Resource Management, though Sexton is now with CAA), which gave me such a perspective of the agent/player side which I feel helped me working on the team side. Then in 2006 when Mike Tannenbaum was promoted to GM, Dawn Aponte was leaving to go work at the league office and they had an opening and I got the call to work in the Jets football administration department.”
Ari is a big believer in relationships. I asked him what, besides good grades, would give someone the best shot at success in landing an NFL job?
“Networking. You want to make connections and keep connecting with people. I am a big believer in relationships. Sports is such a small group of people (that) the more relationships you build the more doors you have the ability to have opened. I always tell students in law school to go to the sports lawyers conference every year. Now you see the sports analytics conferences; those would be good for networking as well. You never know who knows who.”
For War Story Wednesday, a story about persistence and doing whatever it takes that Ari tells. See you tomorrow.