Jack Mills began his association with University of Oklahoma football in high school.
“I came from a town in west Texas where OU liked to recruit. The coaches got to know me when they were recruiting my friends,” he said.
That led Mills to OU for college on a partial scholarship. Mills graduated from OU Law in 1963 and then served two years in the military.
“Eddie Crowder [one of the winningest football coaches in the history of the University of Colorado; he passed in 2008] offered me a job as assistant athletics director at the University of Colorado. I worked for Eddie for one year and went into law practice in Boulder.
Mills said because of his connections to OU and the University of Colorado, representing athletes seemed a natural fit.
In 56 years as a sports agent, things have changed quite a bit for Jack Mills.
“It was sort of a sideline to my law practice. There just wasn’t that much income to be generated,” he explained.
In 1969, Mills represented four No. 1 NFL draft picks, including OU’s Heisman Trophy winner Steve Owens, who remains one of Mills’ closest friends.
“When I started, the average salary was $25,000,” Mills said of his first clients to go to the NFL. “Now the league minimum is about $850,000.
“It was 20 or 25 years before I could exclusively do the athlete practice. Until free agency, the system did not provide much leverage for negotiations. That’s when players started to make more money.”
Mills credits his degree from OU Law for much of his success as an agent.
“It gives you a very nice background for the things you’re dealing with – contracts, labor law, taxation. I also think a law degree is an advantage in the recruiting process. If you can get an agent who is also an attorney for the same price, why not do it?”
Today, Mills’ most recognizable client makes a bit more than league minimum. Baker Mayfield chose Mills as his agent when he was a No. 1 draft pick and Mills has shepherded the Tampa Bay quarterback through the highs and lows of his career.
Mayfield was selected first in the 2018 NFL Draft by the Brows and signed a four-year contract worth nearly $33 million.
“He had a great third year in Cleveland,” Mills said. “His fourth year, he tore a ligament in his shoulder, and he played with it. He should have gotten it taken care of, but that’s how dedicated he is.”
After four years with the Cleveland Browns, Mayfield spent time with the Carolina Panthers and the Los Angeles Rams and Mills and his son, Tom, began searching for the place where Mayfield could be the star they knew he was.
They found it in Tampa Bay. Mayfield signed a one-year contract and Mayfield led the team to the playoffs, putting up career-high numbers.
“It’s worked out exactly the way we hoped it would. Like [former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and current TV analyst] Troy Aikman said, ‘he bet on himself.’”
Now Mayfield is a free agent and Mills and his son are searching for the best deal for the quarterback.
And the skills he learned at OU Law and honed over the last 56 years have paid off for Mayfield.
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