Quality Control, home of Lil Baby, launches NFL arm with Columbus agent
Industry veteran Brad Cicala will serve as managing partner for the newly created NFL branch of QC Sports
At first glance, Columbus might appear to be a less-than-ideal location for an NFL agent.
The city has no pro football team, a paucity of direct flights and can feel particularly far removed from cities like Los Angeles and New York, which are typically seen as the hubs of the sports and entertainment worlds.
But at the same time, Columbus is home to one of the best collegiate football programs in the country, Ohio State, which is known for churning out NFL draft prospects. The city also holds a unique geographic position, placing it a three-hour drive or less from a quintet of pro football towns: Cleveland, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Detroit and Pittsburgh.
These aspects have served New Jersey native and longtime NFL agent Brad Cicala well in the years since he settled in Bexley, and should continue to do so as he takes on his most recent challenge, heading up the NFL arm of QC Sports, a subdivision of QC Media Holdings, whose music division represents artists such as Lil Baby, Migos and Lil Yachty. (As part of the deal, QC acquired Cicala’s company, Terra Firma Sports Management, along with a roster of clients that includes current and former NFL players such as Pierre Garcon, Diontae Johnson and DeSean Jackson, among others.)
“I think the biggest thing [that interested me] were the parallels between what they’ve done in music with their artists and what I’ve done in football with the athletes I’ve worked with,” said Cicala, who started initial conversations with QC Media at the tail end of 2020 and finalized a deal earlier this month. “It was just a progression of how to take these guys, these young guys with extreme talents, and capitalize on and monetize those talents, but then also teach them how to springboard into the next part of life and to do the right things with the money and build equity and build brands.”
Cicala explained that the idea of building a brand was less about carving out an immediately recognizable personal image, like a Michael Jordan or a LeBron James, and more about preparing for the role a player might step into once their playing career ended, a necessary consideration with the average NFL career lasting roughly three years.
“So it’s asking, ‘What is my brand when I leave football? Am I a real estate developer? Am I a franchisee of McDonald’s? What is my next step from a business perspective?’” Cicala said. “At 30- or 35-years-old, there’s a lot of life left. Even if you have the resources to do so, no one wants to go sit on a boat for the next 50, 60 years of life. So it’s about getting into other business ventures … where you can make a living, if you need to, or where you're at least doing something you enjoy.”
Cicala’s interest in partnering with QC Media was partly driven by the work the company has done with musicians like Lil Baby in helping them develop into international icons with enough pull to feature in Super Bowl commercials for popular energy drink brands. “QC is global. If you look where their artists are, their shows are, there aren’t a lot of things we can’t touch,” said Cicala, noting how the NFL has started to expand its international reach, as well, playing games overseas in cities such as London.
Additionally, the prospect of working under the QC umbrella could prove be a further draw for athletes, many of whom have already spent significant time in the spotlight and could have an interest in exploring the world of entertainment, connections to which now exist in-house.
QC Sports is billing this new venture as a “full-service football division,” which Cicala described as a natural extension of the work he’s already done as a sports agent, helping advise players on every aspect surrounding life in football, from contract negotiation to personal finances, marketing deals and investment opportunities. But while Cicala said this is “not a significant evolution” from what he’s done in the past, he did allow that the new venture has caused him to shift from a “boutique firm mentality” to the more expansive “Fortune 500 mentality” adopted by the multifaceted company of which he is now part.
Though the world of sports agency is undeniably cutthroat, it’s also strangely familial, with agents and athletes developing years-long bonds that can rival blood relationships. Cicala, for example, still talks almost daily with client and former NFL receiver Pierre Garcon, who carved out an 11-year NFL career after being drafted out of Mount Union College in the sixth round by the Indianapolis Colts in 2008. Cicala also keeps in touch with the first player he signed as an agent, Lance Frazier, who played as a cornerback for the Baltimore Ravens and the Dallas Cowboys before logging additional seasons in NFL Europe and the Canadian Football League. Frazier now coaches football and basketball at Kennett High School in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.
“You’re dealing with people everyday [in this profession], so you learn things everyday about people, how they view things and what they’re going through,” Cicala said. “It’s a very personal business. You’re walking through the highs and lows with each and every one of your clients on a daily basis. … So it’s just a matter of keeping it simple. I am who I am. I take people how they treat me. And then I build a relationship and let it flourish.”