Movers & Shakers: Spotlight on Shane Costa, UB Law Alumna & Agent with Pillar Sports Management

If there is an event associated with the professional sports community in Buffalo, it is almost a certainty Shane Costa will be in attendance. Not only will Shane be in attendance, but it is likely he will be volunteering in any and every capacity he can. Therefore, it is not a surprise that the last time I worked with Shane he was managing the volunteers for the Fred Jackson & Friends Happy Hour where 100% of the proceeds benefited Friends of Carly and Boys & Girls Clubs of Buffalo. Shane is deliberately focused on giving back to the community, almost as focused as he is on the success of his clients.

After graduating from UB Law (where he graduated Magna Cum Laude), Shane became a certified NFLPA Agent, having a player drafted and multiple players signed to contracts in his first year alone. Despite being one of the busiest people around, I was able to steal a few moments of Shane’s time so he could shed some light on what it is like to forage through the competitive business of sports agency – and succeed.

Courtney: Shane, how do you differentiate yourself from the competition in such a competitive industry?

Shane: Well, I think it’s critical to find a “niche” or otherwise a differentiating skillset from others in the industry. But its also important to make sure you’re going after the right players/clients and making sure they fit who you are as an agency and what you do for players. Oftentimes it’s less about differentiating yourself from competition and more so finding the players/clients that fit what you and your agency do best, and vice versa.

Courtney: How have your background and educational experiences set you up for success?

Shane: I was really fortunate to have a background and experience in pro football on the team side, particularly in player personnel. That helped give me a wealth of experience and contacts that are really hard to come by if you enter the agency business from scratch. Getting a law degree helped too, obviously; there are a lot of day to day issues that having a legal background and education really help with.

Courtney: For those interested in pursuing a similar path, what is the best piece of career advice you can offer?

Shane: I am a big proponent of getting as much experience on your resume as possible, and then taking advantage of whatever opportunity you’re offered. If you’re looking to get into a specific sport, students should take any internship or job to help them learn and network, whether that’s with a pro or minor league team (or agency), and regardless of what department it’s in. You’ll gain a ton of contacts and experience, and it’ll help you learn and understand the intricacies of the business.

Courtney: What do you think is the best way to prepare athletes for their lives after their playing careers?

Shane: The best time to help prepare athletes for their “post playing career” is before it even begins. When we meet with players, one of the first things we ask is what they want to do after they’re done playing football. Obviously, we hope all of our clients play for 15 years and never have to worry about money when they’re done; the reality, though, is that every play will want or need to do something when their playing careers are over. The NFLPA and the NFL work together to provide a ton of resources for players to help them prepare for life after football, including internships, seminars, workshops, shadowing experiences, tuition reimbursement, and a whole lot more. It’s vital that players take advantage of these resources and programs, and our agency is very encouraging of all our clients to do so.

Courtney: What do you do in a typical day, week, or month?

Shane: Its very cliché for this industry, but there really is no typical day. On the agency side, its more about “seasons.” For example, January is all-star game season, where you’re done signing clients and now going to their all-star games and starting the process of the draft. February and March is about the combine and free agency for your vets, as well as pro days. April is focused mainly on the draft, and then May through the summer is maybe a slightly slower time where you begin preparations for the fall and the next recruiting cycle. The fall is about doing things for clients on teams, as well as recruiting. Each day can differ in what you do obviously, and new and unexpected issues crop up all the time.

Courtney: Do you tend to represent players from a specific league? If not, what do you find interesting about the different leagues and managing a diverse roster of players?

Shane: I do pro football mostly; and within that, really only the NFL. We will have some players who, in the path to get back into the NFL, will play in the XFL or CFL to get new film or otherwise jumpstart their careers. We also represent some esports players, and that is a relatively new and fascinating arena with a lot of similarities to other pro sports.

At this point in the discussion, Shane humored me and elaborated on a few questions I have been personally interested in pertaining to the NCAA and fight for NIL rights.

Courtney: If law is enacted to compensate student athletes for NIL, how do you see such legislation affecting the industry? Do you see student athletes hiring agents in the future?

Shane: I think it’ll be very interesting to keep an eye out on how the NIL issue unfolds. The NCAA has historically resisted change in this area, but states are starting to force their hand a little bit. I would certainly hope that any new rules or laws would allow for students to have some type of representation, as any effort or movement to restrict players from having someone look out for their NIL protections would certainly not be in the student’s best interest.

Courtney: How might the interaction between professional players and student athletes change? Do you see professional players sponsoring student athletes in the future and how might that affect your job as an agent?

Shane: There have certainly been some former pros that have waded into this industry or into the athlete training industry. It’s not widespread yet, and I don’t see it changing anytime soon; but I personally think that anything or anyone that has student athletes’ best interests at heart should be welcomed with open arms.

Courtney: Any other remarks on proposed NIL legislation?

Shane: I’m hopeful that new rules will be passed that truly has students’ best interests in mind. I wouldn’t say I’m skeptical; but I do want to wait and see what it looks like before declaring a victory or otherwise feeling like a new chapter has finally turned. 

Once the NFL CBA talks come to a close, I am hoping to have Shane shed some insight on how certain issues were viewed from an NFLPA agent’s position. Burning questions at the moment include the proposed 17 game schedule, lifetime health care for players, concussion protocols, and mental health services for players.

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