The Best in the Business
The Best in the Business
Since the company’s inception in 1985, CEO and Founding Partner Mark Bartelstein has earned a reputation for his unique and innovative approach to representing athletes in contract negotiations and general career planning, including off-the-field opportunities and interests. Based on his knowledge of the intricacies of the NFL salary cap, Mark has provided expert analysis on the topic at numerous sports industry seminars. Through Mark’s leadership, Priority Sports & Entertainment has become one of the elite firms in the industry. Mark first gained worldwide acclaim, when he negotiated the largest contract in the history of team sports. Mark graduated from the University of Illinois with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. He earned a Master of Business Administration from Northwestern University in 1984. He and his wife Sheri have four children (Josh, Morgan, Courtney, and Kirby) and reside in Highland Park, Illinois.
Deryk Gilmore is a certified contract advisor for Priority Sports. Prior to joining the Priority team, Deryk was involved with college athletics for over 11 years working in football as a Recruiting Coordinator and Director of Football Operations in both the Big Ten and Pac Ten conferences. A New York native, Gilmore lettered and played defensive tackle for the Penn State Nittany Lions, a member of the 1986 National Championship Team. After graduating from college, Gilmore went on to the University of Illinois where he began his work in football evaluating and recruiting the top high school players in the country. Developing unique strategies to market high school prospects, Gilmore helped the Illini recruit players that would take Illinois to the first major bowl game in 10 years. Deryk was then hired by the University of Oregon where he led the Ducks to a top 10 recruiting class in football and top 5 class in basketball, their highest ranked classes in the program’s history. Gilmore, known for his creative marketing strategies has been featured in a number of sports publications. Deryk has a Bachelor of Science from Penn State in Agribusiness Management and an MBA in Operations and MS in Sports Marketing from the University of Illinois. He and his wife Camille, live in Atlanta, GA, with their sons Dantae’ and Deion. Deryk and his wife, Camille, were recently profiled in Essence Magazine.
J.I Halsell has worked in professional football for nearly a decade. J.I. worked for the NFL Management Council, where he was responsible for the review & approval of all player contracts. J.I. then worked as the Salary Cap Analyst for the Washington Redskins, where he negotiated player contracts and managed the cap. In his role at Priority Sports, J.I. manages client recruitment, football operations and contract analytics. J.I.'s contract analysis and commentary have been featured numerously on ESPN and Comcast SportsNet which provides Priority Sports a unique competitive edge in the negotiation of player contracts. J.I. also handles social media publicity for Priority Sports. A native of Clinton, Maryland, he has his bachelors degree from Clark Atlanta University & MBA from Seton Hall University. He and his wife, Ashlee, have a son, Jalen, and daughter, Meela. He currently resides in Chicago, Illinois.
Mike McCartney has been involved in college football and the NFL as a coach, scout and personnel executive for more than 20 years. As the Quarterbacks Coach and Assistant Recruiting Coordinator at Colorado from 1987 through the 1989 season, Mike helped his father, Head Coach Bill McCartney, turn Colorado into a national power before moving on to coach at North Carolina for the 1990 and 1991 seasons. Over the next 6 years, Mike worked as a College and Pro Scout for the Chicago Bears. In 1998, Mike joined the Philadelphia Eagles as their Director of Pro Personnel. During his tenure, Mike was a key contributor in transforming the Eagles from a 3-13 club to a team that was 2 games away from the Super Bowl. As Director of Football Operations for Priority Sports, Mike was the first top-level front-office executive in the NFL to leave the league, during the salary cap era, for a major football representation firm. Mike brings the perspective and contacts of an NFL Scout and Executive which is invaluable to Priority clients in preparation for the NFL Draft and the upcoming NFL season. Mike received his Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Colorado, and his Master’s in Sports Administration from North Carolina. He and his wife Jenni, reside in Downers Grove, Illinois, with their 3 sons, Nickolas, Justin & Brandon, and daughter Alexa.
Rick Smith has played an integral role in the development of Priority Sports & Entertainment since its inception in 1985. As a Founding Partner in Priority Sports, Rick is involved in all aspects of client representation and business operations. Rick brings a unique analytical perspective to all areas of client representation. He is an expert in contract negotiations, and maintains a strong working relationship with every NFL general manager. As an attorney, Rick also reviews the legal issues inherent in all team, endorsement and personal contracts. After graduating from the University of Illinois with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics, Rick received his Law Degree from Northwestern University. He and his wife Julie reside in Highland Park, Illinois, with their two children, Emily and Jared.
Kenny Zuckerman is a veteran agent in the sports industry. He has been in the business for 25 years and is one of the most respected advisors in the game. As President of Athlete Representation and a partner at Priority Sports, he handles all football related issues pertaining to his clients. Kenny has negotiated hundreds of contracts and has successfully managed his new rookie clients through the rigors of the NFL Draft. In fact, Kenny has one of the best track records of helping his clients maximize their draft stock and get drafted higher than expected.
Additionally, Kenny has mastered the media and public relations to give his clients an edge on draft day. His NFL relationships are second to none. ESPN reporter Len Pasquarelli wrote that “Zuckerman is a former college football player and a longtime agent with deep ties and a fat rolodex.”
Most importantly, Kenny is always available for his clients. He answers his phone whenever he is not in a meeting or on a plane and returns calls as soon as possible. His hands on approach provides his clients a secure peace of mind. He is present at All-Star games, the combine and pro-day. He is a relentless worker who leaves no stone unturned. In the end, Kenny’s body-of-work, experience and reputation has elevated him to the top of his game.
He graduated from the University of Arizona, where he lettered and played wide receiver for the Wildcats. He is the founder & president of a non-profit youth tackle football organization in Los Angeles that brings players together from all walks of life. Kenny and his wife, Shani, live in Beverly Hills with their son, Reggie, and daughter, Mickie.