Safe to say Kevin Abrams’ dream job didn’t just fall into his lap.
A high school player with a love for football, Abrams, BA’94 (Philosophy), tried to walk-on with the Western Mustangs in his first year at university. He didn’t make the cut. But that doesn’t seem to matter today.
Funny what two Super Bowl trophies can do for a guy.
Abrams has worked in the front office of the NFL’s New York Giants since 1999, the last 11 years as assistant general manager.
He is the primary negotiator for player contracts, manages the Giants’ salary cap and player salary budget, and coordinates compliance with the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement.
He also works with college and pro personnel departments to evaluate players in preparation for the draft and free agency.
“When kids ask me how to go about it, I tell them if you asked 100 people in my role, you might get 100 different answers,” the 40-year-old Abrams says. “Timing is what it is. I had great people looking out for me. I never had to be in a position where I didn’t know where my next step was going to be.”
After graduating from Western, Abrams contemplated, but decided against, law school, and worked for a jewelry manufacturer in his hometown of Toronto. But he kept his hand in football, volunteering as a coach for the North York Bandits, a junior high-level team.
A chat with family friend Howard Starkman (Toronto Blue Jays VP media relations at the time, now VP special projects) would move football to the forefront.
“I told him (Starkman) the industry was of great interest to me but I didn’t know how to get my foot in the door,” Abrams says.
“He told me if you have the financial and geographic flexibility to do it, quit your job, get all the practical experience you can, even if it’s volunteering, keep coaching and apply to Ohio University’s graduate sports administration program.”
Abrams ran with this advice, enrolling at Ohio and seeking out volunteer opportunities with the NBA, Major League Baseball and college football’s Cotton Bowl. Soon after, he spent a season in corporate relations for NFL Europe, then returned to the United States for several internships: public relations with the Buffalo Bills, scouting and training camp operations with the Washington Redskins and, finally, labour relations, player personnel and salaries with the NFL league office.
“I was getting closer and closer to the role I was most interested in and eventually the Giants needed a salary cap analyst,” Abrams says.
That was 1999 and Abrams has called the legendary franchise home ever since.
During his tenure, Abrams and the Giants have made three trips to the Super Bowl, winning twice, the most recent this past season with a 21-17 win over the New England Patriots.
Abrams has been successful putting the best product on the field, but he quickly learned he’s not buying and selling auto parts, but dealing with the lives and futures of young athletes.
“When it comes to my job, we’re not dealing with commodities, we’re not dealing with products, we’re dealing with human beings,” Abrams says. “Sometimes it seems like people talk about (the movie) Moneyball and analytics when it comes to athletes. There’s some value to that point of view, but I also think it’s a bit shortsighted … there’s a human element to what we’re doing. There are intangible qualities that can’t be quantified.”
While Abrams is excited about the coming football season, he knows it will be more difficult for the Giants with the bulls-eye on their back and the term ‘dynasty’ being bantered about.
“I’ve seen it (dynasty) mentioned a few times. Saying it has never crossed my mind would be a lie, but we don’t think about those terms,” he says. “We had success in 2011 and that doesn’t earn us anything in 2012. In this business you’re constantly trying to re-invent yourself and you have to get better.”
Abrams talks about his favourite football movie, his Super Bowl rings and the whereabouts of Jimmy Hoffa here.
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