Ari Nissim – From NY Jets Front Office to Sports Agent

A lifelong football fanatic, Ari Nissim ’00 (UW-Madison) has made a career in sports, getting in the game with the New York Jets, and making his mark as a sports agent with groundbreaking deals.

In the world of football, Ari has worked on both sides of the table, negotiating over a billion dollars in NFL contracts, using his talents to negotiate, disarm, bluff, and out-maneuver the other side to meet the fiscal goals of his clients. 

Bright Lights. Big City. Big Aspirations!

Growing up in New York City, Ari always wanted to work in football. When he was in high school, the NFL salary cap was introduced, and he saw it as an inroad to a career in the sport he loved. 

After getting his undergraduate degree at Wisconsin, Ari went on to Tulane to pursue a law degree, specializing in areas that would give him an edge in the sports management arena.

Through a Tulane alumnus, Mike Tannenbaum, who was in the NY Jets front office Ari got his start with the New York Jets with a one week internship. That grew into another internship with the NFL Management Council labor operations department. Mike was impressed by Ari, and when the opportunity arose, Tannenbaum offered him a job with the NY Jets.

From 2006 to 2013, Ari served as the NY Jets Director of Football Administration, where he managed the salary cap, helped to build the team roster, and negotiated and wrote the player and coaching contracts for the team.

Never a dull moment with the Jets

In a town that’s brutally critical to its football franchises, Ari said in an interview from 2010, “I’m the guy that puts the team blueprint in pencil and gets all those guys on one roster.” 

His primary responsibilities were, “working with the salary cap, working with the agents, extending our players, and trying to set the core of the team for the future.”

Ari joked that he was fortunate to work for the Jets, “when they made the playoffs.”

The first 72 hours of free agency, and the NFL draft were the most challenging, especially regarding sleep. During these times he said, “the pile of Diet Coke bottles around the recycle bin in my office was overflowing.”

Ari believes in principles of trust, accountability and honesty, but negotiations can still turn sour. One time with the Jets, Ari was closing out a negotiation with an agent, and even though the negotiation looked to be a “done deal” things turned testy. The agent stormed out of the contract talks yelling, “I don’t want chocolate, I don’t want strawberry, I just want f**ing vanilla!”

This clip of Ari and an exasperated coach Rex Ryan made it into HBO’s Hard Knocks in 2010, but there was a happy ending. After a three-week holdout, Ari and team smoothed things over and the Jets signed their first round draft pick, Darrelle Revis.

They call him Money Man

After leaving the Jets, Ari branched out and became a sports agent in 2014 and has represented three top 10 NFL draft picks after landing premier running back Todd Gurley as his first client. 

NFLPA Awards with Todd Gurley and Melvin Ingram

In an era where running backs were making $2.5 million per year, Ari negotiated a record breaking contract that earned Gurley $14.3 million, who became the highest paid running back in NFL history at the time.

CBS Sports reported that, “Ari Nissim has dramatically changed the financial landscape for running backs.” 

Ari is now managing member of Legend Agency where he represents players, coaches, and broadcasters. 

Pilam and Wisconsin roots

Though he was a New Yorker, Ari had roots in Wisconsin. His family lived there and his mother was an alumna. His grandfather owned the campus soda grill, which later was sold and became the Kollege Klub.

When he pledged, Pilam was a smaller fraternity, but grew to 40 members after he joined. Ari became Rex, IFC Justice Council, and was named University of Wisconsin Greek Man of the Year in 2000.

He said, “Pilam gave me an opportunity at an early age to learn real world values more than any class. I learned house management, putting out fires, solving problems, and social interactions. I’m very thankful for what that did for me.”

He’s still dialed in, saying, “I still talk to a number of my brothers. I’m in a fantasy football league with a bunch of them.”

Ari is a loyal Wisconsin fan, loves hanging out at the Terrace, and is grooming his daughter to follow in his footsteps of Badger fandom.