JTM Sports emerges as reliable agency in new world of NIL
Tommy Thomsen and Jackson Zager are each quick to bring comedic relief to their football careers.
Each played quarterback for IMG Academy, surrounded by incredible talent. Their first year together in Bradenton, in 2016, the list included: Kellen Mond, Grant Delpit, Andre Cisco, Trey Sanders and K. J. Hamler.
It was pretty clear at that point neither were going to live out their college football dreams. But over the next two years, they grew close and built countless connections with IMG athletes.
Thomsen, now 22, is a commercial real estate agent. And Zager just wrapped up his first semester of his sophomore year at SMU. Near the start of 2022, they formed JTM Sports. An agency built for the NIL age, they’ve signed a list of clients including Florida quarterback commit Jaden Rashada and Oregon receiver commit Jurrion Dickey.
And while some pause when they hear their ages, in an undeveloped, immature area, they have emerged as two of the most recognized powerbrokers in the NIL Era. Thomsen has helped negotiate nearly $250 million worth of real estate deals.
They’re certified sports agents in a number of states, including Florida, Alabama, New York, California and Ohio. They’re registered with institutions in Illinois and Michigan. JTM Sports employs a staff of three, too.
“What Jackson and Tommy have been able to accomplish in a short amount of time, and the professionalism they bring to the industry is remarkable and refreshing,” said attorney Darren Heitner, who has emerged as one of the most respected voices in NIL. “They aren’t in it for the spotlight but, from what I have seen, instead focus on how to best be fiduciaries for their clients, putting them in positions to succeed.”
NIL collectives have taken over the college athletics’ landscape, now growing to more than 200 at the Division I level. Donor-driven and focused on a specific school, collectives have also been the centerpiece of controversy in the first 18 months of NIL, specifically when it comes to inducements in recruiting and the Transfer Portal.
As some have gripped to the cliche term of the “Wild West,” Thomsen and Zager have had to guide high school athletes through the unknown. JTM officially signed Jaden Rashada as a client at the end of November. But they previously worked with the quarterback this spring, working to find endorsement deals for the four-star recruit. Rashada is allowed to sign partnership agreements as a high school athlete in California.
The former IMG teammates had to help the quarterback out of a sticky situation in June when he committed to Miami and reportedly signed a seven-figure deal with John Ruiz’s LifeWallet. Since then, Rashada has since decommitted and flipped to Florida.
But the experience was no doubt eye-opening. Since then, Zager and Thomsen have had to enter into more and more conversations with collectives at times.
“A lot of these guys don’t know their value because they were either given an extreme number from someone else,” Zager said. “For example, a linebacker receiving a $1 million offer. And then another school throws a realistic number, maybe $200,000. So it’s making sure that things are actually real.”
At one point, Zager has had to call an organization’s bank for a certificate as evidence for how much is actually sitting in an account. While the seven-figure offers sound lucrative and life-changing, oftentimes they’re not real. Only a select few, such as the top quarterbacks in each recruiting class, are looking at those financial packages.
There’s also the reality that Zager and Thomsen are young. They travel across the country to see their clients. The conversations are not constantly about NIL potential. Sometimes it’s going to grab dinner or see a movie.
Having similar hobbies and interests as their athletes are only helping JTM Sports.
“I think that the biggest thing, in terms of building trust – athletes want to be able to relate to you,” Zager said. “I think us being younger guys, they feel like they can call us up and have a conversation about anything.”
Delivering the latest news from a collective is not the exciting part of the job. Thirty percent of the recruits surveyed by On3 this summer said they would be willing to go to a school that’s not a perfect fit for a NIL deal.
“You get painted as the bad guy, which is a good thing,” Thomsen said. “Agents should be held to a higher standard. But it’s our job to relay the information, and it is their job to call the shots. So at the end of the day, if they’re pissed at us and don’t want to work with us anymore then that’s their call.
“We’re the messenger. And we’re going to do the best job to maximize value. But it’s very situational.”
Every collective operates differently. While some ask for contracts to be signed, others allude to the package that would be offered upon enrollment. Trying to navigate that without some expertise can lead to a web of problems. Thomsen and Zager try to simplify the entire process.
NIL money is short-term. The school that can promise the best development and fit is going to provide the biggest win for the athlete in the long run. Making decisions based on what will prepare an athlete for the NFL or succeed in college will pay dividends over NIL cash.
“What we really offer up is the safety and the security of making sure either way, whatever that value is, that money is actually going through safely,” Thomsen said. “Your eligibility isn’t at risk. And you’re actually getting paid. Because we’ve already heard a bunch of horror stories where athletes aren’t getting paid.”