Northeastern grad turns dream of working in sports into reality with job at top NFL management agency by Cody Mello-Klein November 9, 2023 Share Mastodon Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Working at Athletes First, a premier athlete representation agency that negotiates contract and endorsement deals for professional football players, Paige Cooper, class of 2021, helped ink a deal with Reebok for Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields. (Todd Rosenberg via AP) In 2021, Paige Cooper found herself sitting in Fenway Park not as a diehard Red Sox fan, as she had done countless times, but as a graduating senior from Northeastern University. The baseball stadium where she had shared so many memories with her father –– and was one of the major reasons she came to Northeastern –– was seeing her off on the next phase of her journey. Cooper’s life sometimes seems full of these full-circle moments where the past and present collide in unexpected ways. She just recently had another one at her job at Athletes First, a premier athlete representation agency that negotiates contract and endorsement deals for professional football players. Athletes First recently helped Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields sign a multi-year endorsement deal with Reebok. Paige Cooper, Northeastern University class of 2021. Courtesy photo It was a major moment for the shoe brand, which is attempting to move back into team sports. It was also a big deal for Cooper, who, alongside Fields’ marketing agent Bryan Burney, helped ink the deal with the very people Cooper had co-oped for a few years back while she was at Northeastern. “It’s really exciting to be on the other side of negotiating,” says Cooper, who graduate from Northeastern in 2021 with a degree in business administration. “My co-op at Reebok provided me invaluable insight into how a brand functions. Being familiar with the brand and team allowed me to provide value in assisting Bryan [Justin’s marketing agent] with securing the partnership. Learning from Bryan has been tremendous to my growth and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to play a small role in this massive deal. … It’s funny that I got into the industry through Reebok and now I’m experiencing this full-circle moment in my career, only a few years into it.” Cooper’s path to Athletes First has been a lifelong one. From an early age, watching Red Sox games with her father, she knew she wanted to work in sports. “I wasn’t ever insanely good at any sport, but I just loved being in the sporting environment,” Cooper says. “I always thought the stories of players and the relationships between people were so fascinating.” Drawn to Boston by her love for the city’s sports teams, Cooper started her freshman year at Northeastern intent on navigating her way into that world. She came in with a defined vision for her career and never wavered. When it came time to think about her first co-op, she realized most of the co-op positions at sports organizations and teams like the Red Sox were limited to technology or engineering. So she pursued a co-op at the Jimmy Fund, the fundraising arm of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Why take a fundraising job? “The Jimmy Fund became the Red Sox’s official charity in 1953 and the team I co-oped on organized golf tournaments and worked on events at Fenway, so I thought, ‘This will be my in,’” Cooper says. “I did that, met a ton of people at the Red Sox, at Fenway Sports Group, at NESN and by doing so, I dipped my toes into the Boston sports world.” From there, in 2019, she started her second co-op in Reebok’s sports and entertainment partnerships division, working with talent agents and finding new talent that could partner with the company. It was exactly what she wanted: The fast-paced, relationship-focused work environment was perfect for an ambitious social butterfly like Cooper who can make the most of any opportunity. “Reebok was eye-opening in the sense that I wasn’t experiencing the traditional marketing that I was learning in my classes or reading in my textbooks,” Cooper says. “I wasn’t working on ads or media, but instead helping facilitate partnerships and connecting people to the brand.” She ended up leveraging the conversations and connections she formed at Reebok and with talent agents outside the company to catapult into an internship at Creative Artists Agency in 2020. Cooper graduated Northeastern having completed six co-ops and internships. I wasn’t ever insanely good at any sport, but I just loved being in the sporting environment,” Cooper says. “I always thought the stories of players and the relationships between people were so fascinating. Paige Cooper, graduate from Northeastern in 2021 with a degree in business administration Cultivating and maintaining relationships is central to the work of an agent –– and a young, driven woman who knows what she wants to do without hesitation. “One thing I pride myself on is the relationships I made during my co-ops and internships and fostering those relationships throughout the years. Just because you might have had a conversation with someone in 2018, the connection doesn’t mean anything if you’re not proactively keeping in touch with that person,” Cooper says. When an industry executive Cooper had met during her internship at CAA ended up at Athletes First, Cooper kept in touch and, eventually, secured an internship at the company. After three weeks in the position, Athletes First hired her full time. Her work is now completely defined by her ability to build relationships with athletes like Fields. When it comes to navigating the various strong personalities involved in professional football, Cooper says it’s no different than any relationship. It’s about being observant and understanding someone’s needs, behavior and passions. Whether it’s her client’s favorite video game, how many siblings they have, whether they have a pet and what breed it is, knowing these details help Cooper know what partnerships to pursue for her clients. “A client will reach out to me saying he is obsessed with a fruit snack brand or would love to partner with a pet brand for his dog,” Cooper says. “A head coach reached out the other day telling us he’d love to be a guest host on a TV show. Every part of my job is extremely individualized.” Only a few years into her career, Cooper can confidently say she has her dream job. The only question she has now is where to go from here — and whether there’s another full-circle moment in her future. “This is definitely the path I always thought I was going to go down, which I know is super rare,” Cooper says. “I’m at the point where I feel like –– now what? I still have so much to accomplish in my career.” Cody Mello-Klein is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on X/Twitter @Proelectioneer.