After spending two tough years in New York Jets training camps in the late 1990s as a running back, where he outlasted many other players, Lawrence High School graduate Louis D'Agostino is ready to tackle another arduous challenge: Getting his own business off the ground.
"Every day I had to fight for my job; I was fighting for a position [with the Jets]," D'Agostino said. "Every day was a new challenge. I was put on the spot, and I had to perform. Business is a sport. At the end of the day there's no difference. I still have to have the ability to adjust and adapt on the fly."
From an improbable professional football career to business owner, D'Agostino, 37, of Hewlett, has bucked enough odds in his lifetime to know that anything is possible and he can reach the end zone one more time. The secret to his success is simple — always working to his own high standards.
"There's only one thing you can control, and that's your own preparation," said D'Agostino, whose insurance business expertise includes commercial risks, real estate, not-for-profits, manufacturing, retail and technology, among other areas. "Every day I had to be better. What do I do to get better? Whatever project I was on, I gave it 1,000 percent."
D'Agostino was a starring running back/linebacker at Lawrence High School, winning the 1990 Thorp Award, an honor given annually to the most outstanding football player in Nassau County.
He went on to attend Hofstra University before transferring to the University of Rhode Island with the hopes of earning a scholarship. In his senior year, after playing well for two seasons and garnering several accolades along the way, URI awarded him a full athletic scholarship.
Proving the scholarship was well deserved, D'Agostino played his heart out and picked up his third team MVP award, along with First Team All-Conference and All-American honors. In his senior year, he also won the Albert Lebeouf Award, given to the top student-athlete at the university.
Although undrafted out of college, D'Agostino managed to impress the Jets at a tryout camp, prompting the organization to sign the local hero to a contract.
As his playing days came to an end, D'Agostino began working for Frank Crystal & Co. in 2001, bringing the same type of unrelenting drive that made him a gridiron success to the business world.
After a successful ten-year tenure with Frank Crystal & Co., a 75-year-old insurance agency, D'Agostino took a risk and left the company in order to form Iron Cove Partners, LLC, a full-service insurance and financial services agency with offices in New York City, Long Island and Florida, in August 2010.
Though he was doing well as a director in the business development department at Frank Crystal & Co., D'Agostino said he believed he needed to branch off in a new direction in order to fulfill his career aspirations. But he also realized it would be a challenge.
"I just felt like now, I can make a living or I can design a life," said D'Agostino, who also played for the Florida Bobcats of the Arena Football League starting in 1998 and the New York/New Jersey Hitmen of the now-defunct XFL in 2001. "I wanted to have an ownership stake in whatever company I was working for. I knew it was going to be a lot of work, but I knew I'd be happier. Failure wasn't an option for me. I knew I'd make it happen."
D'Agostino said he spent an exorbitant amount of time learning the insurance business and improving his overall communication skills, utilizing whatever resources were at his disposal.
"I was in constant search for information that was going to make me better and compete in business," he recalled. "I would find every resource I could get my hands on — whether it was on the Internet, books, CDs, or magazines."
D'Agostino has earned the respect of many of his colleagues, including former New York/New Jersey Hitmen teammate and former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Charles Puleri.
"Louis is the type of guy I would follow into battle," Puleri, who works in the mortgage business in Florida, adamantly said. "He's self-made, self-taught. He took his passion for football and sports and took it into business. He's all about creating something, being a part of something, building something, and he will achieve success."
D'Agostino said he believes his hard work gives his company a good chance at reaching its goals within two years. And he doesn't doubt, for one moment, that he will accomplish them because of his past success.
“Failure is not in my vocabulary," he said. "I know it’s going to take time and an awful lot of hard work, but I prepared myself for this moment.”
Editor's note: This story incorrectly state D'Agostino's age. He is 37, not 38. The final quote of the story was also changed.