Showing Them the Money

Trey Robinson’s gig as an NFL agent

Published in 2023 South Carolina Super Lawyers magazine

By Brendan Meyer on April 21, 2023


At Clemson, Neil “Trey” Robinson had a front row seat to the behind-the-scenes life of an athlete. His best friend and roommate was Aaron Kelly, the star wide receiver for the Tigers who appeared destined for the NFL. He signed with an agent and kept training, but didn’t get drafted.

“In my simple mind at the time, I figured that if you don’t get drafted, that’s the end of the road,” Robinson says. “But I quickly learned that it’s just the start of a different path.” In Kelly’s case, he was signed by the Atlanta Falcons, and had stints on six teams in the Canadian Football League, Arena Football League and Indoor Football League.

It’s a path that an NFL agent plays a big role in navigating.

Robinson with his father, fellow attorney Neil C. Robinson Jr., at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for Super Bowl LIII in 2019.

Robinson’s experience with Kelly, paired with his upbringing in a house full of lawyers, led him down his own path of becoming an NFL agent. Today, the 35-year-old Charleston native represents players through MVA Sports. The agency currently has three agents that represent 13 active NFL players—and it’s no coincidence that a handful of those athletes took uncommon paths to NFL success.

Justin Coleman, for example, didn’t hear his name called in the 2015 NFL Draft. The slot cornerback still signed with the Minnesota Vikings, but was cut months later. Then he tried out for the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots. The Patriots signed him, then cut him the next day, so he flew back to Seattle to be on the Seahawks’ practice squad. Two days later, they cut
him, so he flew back to Boston to sign with the Patriots.

“He flew about 10,000 miles in a matter of about a week,” Robinson says, who coordinated this whole rollercoaster ride. “I feel like I could go toe-to-toe with any travel agent out there in terms of booking travel.”

A few years later, Coleman signed a record-breaking, four-year, $36 million contract with the Detroit Lions, becoming the highest-paid NFL player at his position. It’s one of Robinson’s proudest achievements.

Of course, negotiating contracts is a big part of the job, but NFL agents need to wear many other hats, Robinson says. “Sometimes I’ve got my legal hat on. But I’m also an unofficial part-time realtor, travel agent, event coordinator and psychologist.”

One time, a client FaceTimed to ask how to use a thermostat. He’s also fielded questions as diverse as how to operate pool heaters to coordinating travel for players’ pets. “I am their Google to a certain extent, because you build that relationship of trust. They trust that you will point them in the right direction,” Robinson says. “We want to be a resource in all avenues.”

Robinson says there are few better feelings than being in the same room as his client on draft day when they receive the call. He’s also had the chance to attend the Super Bowl and a team after-party. 

“I wasn’t expecting much at the party, and then all of a sudden John Legend starts performing,” Robinson says. “There’s definitely these cool experiences and opportunities that come with the job.”

It all ties back to the relationships he has with his clients. A win for them is a win for him. He’s celebrated the success of clients like Coleman, former first-round pick Johnathan Abram and 2022 second-round pick Jalen Pitre to name a few. He’s also helped with their downs.

“It’s hard to tell a client that they’re going to be released or they won’t get drafted,” Robinson says. “It’s your job to help them move forward and guide that path.”

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