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Morgan State grad Greg Barnett helped negotiate Justin Houston's record $101 million deal

Morgan State alum Greg Barnett has ascended from a middle school coach and teacher into a rising NFL agent.

One of the key figures behind Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston's blockbuster, $101 million six-year contract is former Morgan State strong safety and Deer Park Middle school coach and teacher Greg Barnett.

The deal is the richest linebacker contract in NFL history and includes $52.5 million in guaranteed money, $32.5 million fully guaranteed and a $20.5 million signing bonus.

An NFL agent since 2004 who also represents St. Louis Rams wide receiver Tavon Austin (Dunbar) and Chicago Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller (Mount Saint Joseph), Barnett recruited Houston out of the University of Georgia. He negotiated this blockbuster deal in tandem with powerful NFL agent Joel Segal and edged out Houston Texans star defensive end J.J. Watt's six-year, $100 million deal that included $30.9 million guaranteed.

"It was nerve-wracking, a long day of negotiating and we've been working on this since the scouting combine," Barnett told The Baltimore Sun. "We finalized the deal Tuesday night. I was actually in the emergency room until I got my blood pressure down and had to jump on a plane to Kansas City with Justin to come out there and take a physical and go over to the facility and go over the final language and sign his contract. It was a long process, a lot of final numbers, a lot of offset language and roster bonuses, lots of details, but it's very rewarding to see this happen for Justin."

Wanting to be in the same financial stratosphere as Watt was important for Houston, who led the NFL with 22 sacks last season.

"It was understood by the Chiefs about Watt and didn't really have to be said," Barnett said. "Justin is such a great guy and they definitely wanted to keep him and take care of him for what he does, on and off the field."

The only bigger contract in NFL history is Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who signed a six-year, $114.375 million contract in March that included a $25.5 million signing bonus and an average annual salary of $19.02 million.

Houston joined an elite group of non-quarterbacks earning in excess of $16 million per year, including Watt, Suh, Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson and Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams.

Barnett ascended from a coach and teacher at Deer Park after lettering four years at Morgan State as a scholarship football player for coaches Ricky Diggs and Stump Mitchell. Barnett graduated with a degree in elementary education to join Segal at Lagardere Unlimited.

He earned a master's degree in school administration from Goucher and did a sports marketing internship with an agent in Philadelphia, Mike Harris.

"Mike introduced me to Joel Segal, and that's how I got started," Barnett said. "It's been a lot of hard work and a lot of fun. I've learned a ton about the business working with Joel. If I wasn't an agent, I would be a school principal right now. I love what I do."

A native of White Plains, N.Y., Barnett, 40, landed his first client when he signed Woodlawn native Keion Carpenter. That led to his relationship with the Fuller family, including his representation of Kyle Fuller and Detroit Lions wide receiver Corey Fuller.

Barnett signed his first first-round NFL draft pick in 2012 when he picked up Virginia Tech running back David Wilson, who was drafted 32nd overall by the New York Giants.

The following year, Barnett signed Austin, a legendary high school football player in Baltimore who was drafted eighth overall and signed to a five-year, $12.756 million rookie contract.

"Tavon was definitely a key client," Barnett said. "He made a big difference."

With all of his Baltimore connections, Barnett has seen the growth in high school football and how the city is annually producing more NFL players in recent years.

"Baltimore is turning into a football city," Barnett sad. "It's transforming from basketball to a football city. When I was living there, you would see guys at all the basketball courts and doing AAU. Now, it's all about seven-on-seven football and Little League teams that compete nationally."

Barnett represents 16 NFL players, including Buffalo Bills wide receiver Percy Harvin and Houston Texans first-round cornerback and River Hill graduate Kevin Johnson. He also does marketing work for retired former Green Bay Packers wide receiver and Baltimore native Antonio Freeman.

"My philosophy as an agent is to just be honest with the players," Barnett said. "If they want someone who's going to tell them what they want to hear, then don't sign with me. I'm going to tell it like it is from the start and tell them the truth and do my job."

Barnett credited his education at Morgan State for helping him grow and realize what kind of career he wanted to pursue.

"It helped me learn how to grind," Barnett said. "Going to a school like that, you know your chances aren't that high of going to the NFL. So, I knew I had to think about what's after football. I wanted to be involved in sports and working with kids. Starting with my teachers and coaches, a lot of people helped me get to where I am today."

After Houston inked his big deal, Barnett didn't stay in Kansas City to celebrate. He immediately flew back to his home in Atlanta to take his two sons to swimming practice and hang out with his wife.

"I'm a super dad, family man, husband," Barnett said. "I'm at all the practices. I take them to school. I love that I'm able to do that with the kind of job that I have. I have time to do that."

Instead of taking time off, Barnett said he's already working on next year's recruiting class of clients.

"You can never take a breather," Barnett said. "I'm back to recruiting for next year and making sure everybody is ready for training camp. That's the priorities right now with Justin's deal taken care of."

awilson@baltsun.com

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