When you hear that an NFL agent has taken the agency's clients on a trip, what images cross your mind? Lavish dinners? Thousands of dollars spent on alcohol? Beautiful women flanking alongside the agent and said players? Perhaps a scene straight out of Entourage?
How would your perspective on the NFL, its players and agents change, if you learned about one such agent-sponsored trip that featured days filled with feeding orphans, developing leadership skills and working to restore a Haiti that was devastated by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake?
When it comes to being an NFL agent, Kelli Masters doesn't fit the typical mold. Masters' gender is the most visibly apparent difference between she and the majority of NFL agents. Yet, beyond the surface, it is arguably Masters' strict commitment to leading her clients through decisions made under her Christian faith that sets Masters apart from most NFL agents.
That faith led Masters to develop a five-day mission trip to Haiti this NFL off-season. The purpose of the trip was for her agency's players bond with one another, develop leadership skills and serve those in need. "When I wrote out my goals for this year, I wanted to keep growing as an agent and being excellent as an advocate for my players. For me, that doesn't just mean on the contract and legal side of things, but also helping them grow as people. If I don't make a real impact on their lives, have I really fulfilled my calling? It was important for me to not only be the best agent I could be, but to be the best mentor, who is going to make a lasting impact on their lives, during this season of their lives and the rest of their lives," said Masters.
In the months after drafting her 2013 goals, Masters reached out to religious and athletic leaders to best determine how she could achieve her goal of positively impacting the lives of her agency's players. Two men in particular -- Norman, OK's Journey Church's Adam Barnett and NFL quarterback, Colt McCoy's father, Brad, who works as an athletic director for leadership consulting company, The Flippen Group, helped guide Masters' planning. From Barnett, Masters received the idea of taking her players to Haiti and serving people in the country's villages during the day. In working with McCoy and The Flippen Group, Masters found the idea of turning the group's evenings into a leadership development program.
On a Friday evening in March, Masters, NFL veterans Quinton Carter and Ronnell Lewis, NFL rookies Demontre Hurst and Stefphon Jefferson, and Team USA bobsledder Aja Evans, met in Dallas, TX for a trip orientation. The following morning, they were first off to Miami and then took another short flight to Haiti. The five days that followed would change all of the travelers' lives. "Within the first 24 hours of being in Haiti, it impacted all of us and gave us a new perspective in life. It made us realize the things we focus on are not the point of life. Within 24 hours of arriving in Haiti, we were all affected," Masters noted.
The work and activities the group engaged in played a large part in the deep impact they felt throughout their time in Haiti. Working with Mission of Hope, the group directly served some of Haiti's 400,000 orphans and delivered food to a nation whose food supply only covers 55 percent of its population. "We spent the first day serving in the villages around us. The next day, we joined up with Arizona Cardinals kicker, Jay Feely, who was delivering food up to a remote village in the mountains. It was amazing to go to this remote village in the mountains, where they only spoke Creole. All of my players were learning to speak Creole and playing with the kids. We prepared meals and served them. They are in the process of building a new school building. They can't get construction tools and equipment there, though, because this place is so hard to reach. So, we carried large rocks from the riverbed to where they were building the school. It wasn't very hard work, but the rocks were so heavy," Masters explained.
The days they spent serving needy people in remote Haitian villages opened the eyes of Masters and her clients to the blessings present in their own lives. "The orphans there are dreaming of more for their lives. As we were driving through Port-au-Prince and seeing the way they were living -- where you know eight or nine people are living in a closet-sized house -- you think that these are real people with the same desires, hopes, dreams and emotions that we have. You want to know what you can do to help them. It was extremely eye-opening for us," Masters recounted.
The trip's lessons weren't lost on Masters' clients. Stefphon Jefferson, who played running back collegiately at the University of Nevada and is slated to be drafted in this year's NFL Draft, found the experience life changing. "I went down there, and it was a life changing experience. I've never been on a mission before. Interacting with the people down there, the clients that Kelli brought and the Haitian people, helped me learn a lot about myself. Since I've been back, I have a new perspective on everything," Jefferson noted. Jefferson plans on taking that new perspective with him to the NFL. "This will impact me in the NFL by teaching me to be a better leader, to show love for everybody and to embrace everyone. You have to be a servant to people. I will now go out of my way for somebody who needs my help. I want to be a puller, not a speed bump in the road."
While Masters created the program to help achieve her own goals of serving her clients, she hopes other agents follow suit. "I paid for my guys to go do this. I felt like it was a good investment. I'd hope other agents would see that," she noted. If Jefferson's reviews of the trip are any indication, other agents should be following closely in step. "The trip showed how much Kelli loves us. We're not just her clients. We're part of her family. That's what I was looking for in an agent. She's fulfilling everything she said she'd do," Jefferson said.
With the lives that were touched and the leadership skills that will be taken into NFL locker rooms this fall, Kelli Masters may have just turned the tables on the way NFL agents entertain their clients.