The University of Pittsburgh features a distinguished history of placing players and coaches in the National Football League. As a result of their pipeline to the pros, the program has created a bounty of business for agents and sports management firms across the country.
Now, the Panthers can turn to one of their own for player representation: former defensive tackle, Gus Mustakas.
Following his redshirt-senior season at Pitt, Mustakas enlisted the services of Goal Line Football, a sports management firm with a proven record of representing players and coaches in the NFL. He prepared for the draft, and even worked out for the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants, before the long-term effects of multiple knee injuries caused the 6-foot-3-inch, 285-pound defensive tackle to fail his NFL physical.
Although his dreams of playing in the NFL may have ended that day, Gus’ relationship with Goal Line had just begun.
“That was kind of the end of my playing career,” recalled Mustakas. “At the time, I actually signed on with Goal Line Football and they represented myself. When I called them to tell them about the workouts and about the physical, we started discussing a couple opportunities for me to go forward with.”
Established in 1990 by Brian Levy, Goal Line Football represents football players and coaches across multiple leagues and various levels of competition. With their expansive experience in sports management, Goal Line stayed with Gus despite his diminished chances of playing in the NFL. Mustakas and his agent discussed alternative career paths, such as playing in the Canadian Football League or applying his knowledge of football as a coach. The idea of coaching gained some traction, too, when Gus held talks with Pitt’s defensive line coach at the time, Greg Gattuso, about helping out with his alma mater’s front four. However, it was the unexpected proposal by Goal Line which piqued Mustakas’ interest most.
“The next thing you know, we’re talking and they offer me a job to come back and work with Goal Line. So I went back to school, got my MBA, and I’ve been employed by Goal Line ever since.”
To become a certified contract advisor, the official title for what is commonly known as an “NFL agent,” the NFL Players Association requires that one must first receive a secondary degree. Having earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communications at Pitt, the Big East All-Academic honoree obtained a Master in Business Administration from nearby Point Park University. After passing the NFLPA’s mandatory exam for aspiring agents, Mustakas became a licensed contract advisor for Goal Line Football.
Goal Line, which Gus describes as “a great company to work for,” represents over 75 NFL coaches, including head coaches like Mike Tomlin, Vance Joseph and Steve Wilks. However, it is Mustakas’ duty to grow the roster of players which the sports management firm represents.
“My goal – and my colleagues’ [goal] with Goal Line – is really to build the players’ side up,” said Mustakas. “We represent over 27 NFL players as of today. Working on that side, developing young men, helping them achieve their biggest goals and dreams, and being part of that … it brings me back to a couple years ago with Quinton Jefferson, who was one of my clients who was a junior at the University of Maryland. He had three baby girls at Maryland, and decided to declare early because he needed to take care of his family. And being there on his draft day and hearing him get drafted, and helping him achieve his biggest goal and dream, and being there, that meant more to me than ever playing a down in the NFL – helping a young man achieve these goals. It’s been such a blessing to be an NFL agent.”
In fact, it has been such a blessing that Gus prefers his career as an agent over the idea of ever playing a down in the NFL himself.
“Of course, just like anyone, you always wonder, ‘Hey, what if I didn’t get hurt?’ I’m not going to say these thoughts never passed my mind, but at the same time, I was extremely blessed to be led in this direction. Being able to get connected to the game, and helping young men achieve their biggest dream, I think that’s my life calling.”
Gus’ “life calling” has enabled him to assist numerous players along their NFL journey, including former Panthers like Larod Stephens-Howling, Dom DeCicco, Ejuan Price and Jaryd Jones-Smith. Other noteworthy players under his direct representation include: Demetrious Cox, a graduate of Jeanette High School and current Carolina Panther; Quinton Jefferson, a former Woodland Hills Wolverine and fifth round selection by the Seattle Seahawks; and Tanoh Kpassagnon, a Villanova Wildcat drafted in the second round of the 2017 NFL draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. And while he would never prioritize one client over another, he admits to sharing a special bond with his clients out of Pitt.
“It’s special, because to tell you the truth, I was extremely blessed and lucky to go to the university,” he said. “And you know what? I bleed Blue and Gold. I love Pitt … To work with all my guys – I’m not saying I treat Pitt guys differently – but there is something special about it with going through the same doors they did and understanding the process. And being a proud Pitt man, yeah, it’s definitely great to work with University of Pittsburgh guys.”
Mustakas values the relationship he builds with each of his clients, though, regardless of alma mater. Part of what makes Gus such an effective agent is his desire to foster partnerships with his clients that are predicated on more than mutual financial gain.
“The main part [of being an agent] is negotiating their contact. That’s, of course, number one. But number two is the mouth piece between you and the NFL team. It’s almost more of a mentor [role]. You bring them in. You’re part of their family. You really help them achieve all of their goals, their dreams. You mentor them through the process. You talk to the team. You just make sure, in the right situation, they’re doing the right thing.
“People always think of Jerry McGuire; ‘Show me the money!’ I get that a lot. But at the same, you’re part of their team, and you’re representing them.”
In order to offer the highest level of representation, Gus performs comprehensive film study and player assessment on each of his clients. By understanding their on-field strengths and weaknesses, it prepares him to advocate for his players when it matters most.
“It’s being able to talk intelligently to the teams, in that you know what your player is doing, what he’s working on,” Gus said, regarding film study. “And then from draft prep, understanding your senior, and understanding assessments from an NFL team and how to maximize their draft potential. It’s breaking down their film, understanding what they do better, so when you’re talking to a Kevin Colbert or you’re talking to a Les Snead, you can talk intelligently to them and let them know your football knowledge is there.”
Much of Mustakas’ football I.Q. derives from his five years at the University of Pittsburgh. Arriving in 2005 as a lightly recruited 2-star defensive end out of Cooper City, Florida, Gus lettered as a true-freshman and never looked back. An ACL injury in the second game of the 2007 season may have forced him to take a medical redshirt, but his unyielding focus prevented the injury from derailing his college career. Following a solid redshirt-junior season, Mustakas earned second-team All-Big East honors as a redshirt-senior while serving as a starter on one of the most talented defensive lines in program history.
“The playing days – I‘m very proud to be a Pitt alum, to play at the university, and to represent the Blue and Gold. I had a great playing career. Yes, of course, I had some injuries, but I was able to battle through in my senior year, become second-team All-Big East, and one of my biggest awards I won was being voted captain by my peers.”
Mustakas added, “One of my biggest goals was to leave the university in a better spot than when I got there. And although we didn’t win a couple big games, we did end the season ranked 12th to 15th, depending on the polls in the county, and it was the first 10-win season in the last 30 years. I think our senior class definitely left the university in a better spot.”
The program’s improvement during Mustakas’ time at Pitt is undeniable; the Panthers won sixteen total games in his first three seasons, and won nineteen total games over his final two seasons. The improvement was far from a solo effort, though, and to this day he remains in contact with many of the teammates who also deserve credit for Pitt’s success.
“That’s the great thing about Pitt: it’s a true brotherhood,” he said, as many former Panthers do. “Guys like John Pelusi, Adam Gunn, Scott McKillop, Nate Byham, Mick Williams – we’re always constantly talking to each other. It might go months from when we see each other, but when we do, it’s like we never left. It’s that brotherhood that never leaves.”
Gus remains involved with the Pitt football program, and not just as a contract advisor for NFL prospects. He attends as many home games each season as his schedule will allow, and in November, he served as the Panthers’ honorary captain for their home matchup against the North Carolina Tar Heels.
“It was such a special chance to go back and be able to talk to the team, and go through pre-game, and be on the sideline,” said Gus. “It was awesome. It was such a great time, and it meant the world to be represented by Pitt and for them to think of me to come back as an honorary captain.
“The only bad thing was I gave the pep talk – you know, the pre-game speech – and I thought I did a great job. And then UNC returned the opening kickoff [for a touchdown], so I don’t know how good of a job I did. I told my wife, jokingly, that the message I delivered was so deep, it took a couple weeks for it to kick in … and that’s when they beat Miami.”
— Pat Narduzzi (@CoachDuzzPittFB) November 9, 2017
While back on the sidelines at Heinz Field where he once wore number 93, the competitor within Gus longed to be unleashed. Jokingly, but with a real nostalgic desire to once again represent Pitt on the field, Mustakas requested playing time from two of the coaches under which he played years ago: Director of Player Development and High School Relations, Bob Junko; and Defensive Line Coach and Assistant Head Coach, Charlie Partridge.
“I told Coach Partridge and Coach Junko, ‘Let me sneak in there. I’ll give you one, max maybe two series. I’ll leave it all out there.”
Remaining active within the Pitt football community also enables Mustakas to interact with Head Coach Pat Narduzzi, someone who he did not play under, but believes is the right man to return the Panthers to glory.
“I think he checks all the boxes; I mean, his passion, his leadership, his recruiting quality. I think it has taken a couple years. I think we’re on the bottom slope of something special that’s going to peak very soon. Having him at the university, having the opportunity to talk with him – those kids are lucky. He’s fired up, he’s passionate, he’s what you want in a Pitt coach. It’s exciting. I think with the coaching staff they have, the University of Pittsburgh has an extremely bright future.”
Outside of work, Mustakas dedicates his time primarily to family. He resides in South Fayette, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Shaylee Mustakas. The two met while at Pitt, and together they have two sons: Demetrios, a 2-and-a-half year-old whom Gus labels as his “defensive end”; and Niko, a 1 year old whom he labels as his “nose tackle.”
With a young family and a clear career path, Gus Mustakas likes where he is at the age of 31 and sees nothing but promise in the future.
“Life is fantastic,” said Mustakas. “I’m very blessed to have my wife and two boys. I’m very excited in the NFL agent world. I think I have a lot of great young clients, currently, that are about to break out into the scene next year. I’m looking forward to continuing to build my clientele and have multiple top draft picks next year.”