Rote, Kyle, Jr.

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ROTE, Kyle, Jr.

(b. 25 December 1950 in Dallas, Texas), soccer player, broadcaster, and leading sports agent who was the first rookie and first American to win the North American Soccer League scoring title with ten goals and ten assists for thirty points.

Rote was the son of Kyle Rote, a former All-Star, All-Pro wide receiver for the National Football League's New York Giants, and Betty Jamison Rote. His parents divorced when he was twelve. Rote was more than an award-winning soccer player, he was an accomplished athlete in football, swimming, tennis, golf, cycling, and baseball. In 1967 when Rote was sixteen and an All-State defensive safety in football at Highland Park High School in Dallas, he chose to play soccer as a conditioning exercise for football. He was also captain of the baseball and basketball teams. Graduating from high school in 1973, he was offered fifty football scholarships and decided to attend Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

After a year at Oklahoma State, Rote left to enroll at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, where he started to play soccer seriously. The day after his 4 June 1972 college commencement, Rote married Mary Lynne Lykins, his college sweetheart, in the chapel at Sewanee. The couple eventually had four children. Also in 1972 Rote was picked on the first round of the North American Soccer League draft by his hometown team, the Dallas Tornadoes.

Rote soon attracted national attention as a soccer player and became an immediate star. In 1973, his rookie year, he became the first U.S. player to win the scoring championship of the then-struggling North American Soccer League. He became the club's all-time leading goal scorer with forty-two goals and was named as the 1974 Rookie of the Year.

In 1974 he was invited to compete with forty-eight other celebrity athletes in a mini-decathlon promoted by the American Broadcasting Companies (ABC) television network. He won the event and received the Fram Trophy as the Superstar of the Year. He proved this accomplishment was not a fluke by winning the trophy again in 1976 and 1977. At the end of the 1974 season Rote was selected to the national soccer team, which provided the opportunity to become one of the sixteen players to represent the United States in the 1978 World Cup.

U.S. soccer was in its developmental stage when Rote was playing. It was still adapting to a game that, on a national level, was foreign to most Americans. Many of the teams were made up of European players, and the great Brazilian player Pele, who was close to retirement, was signed by the New York Cosmos to boost U.S. interest in the game. Rote's visibility as a successful soccer player provided a tremendous boost to the sport's domestic profile. He later reflected, "It turns out that my best contribution to soccer was winning the Superstars."

Rote has written several books on soccer, including Kyle Rote Junior's Complete Book of Soccer (1978), with Basil Kane; and the Wilson Guide to Soccer (1994), with Donn Risolo. He also hosted national television shows, worked as a sports commentator, and gave motivational lectures to companies such as AT&T, Polaroid, IBM, and Pillsbury. President Gerald Ford invited him to speak at the White House.

Retiring as a player in 1980, Rote moved to Memphis in 1981 to develop an upstart soccer team. After a three-year stint as the general manager of the Memphis Americans, Rote and his associates sold the team and it was moved to Las Vegas, Nevada. Rote stayed in Memphis, and with Don Kessinger, a former star infielder for the Chicago Cubs, he started Athletic Resource Management (ARM), a company that manages star athletes in baseball, football, and basketball. Two years later Kessinger moved on and Jimmie Sexton became the company's vice president and then the president; Rote became the chief executive officer. In May 1995 ARM became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Memphis-based Morgan Keegan, Inc.

Rote also became a member of the National Basketball Association (NBA) agents committee. In a business known for shady deals, Rote's company became recognized not only for its size, but its integrity. Rote negotiated player contracts, handled the marketing deals, arranged product endorsements, and was a mentor to his clients, many of whom wanted money-management advice in addition to career advice.

He was also a mentor in other ways. A devout Christian since the age of sixteen, Rote seriously considered entering the ministry during his college years. At the end of the 1974 soccer season, the pressures of being a professional soccer player, plus personal health problems in his family, made him decide to channel his strong religious beliefs into other avenues. In 1980 he took a year off to work with Mother Teresa in a hunger relief mission in India and Southeast Asia. Back in Memphis in the 1980s, he became the chairperson of the Mile-O-Dimes Christmas fund drive. He and his wife also became deeply involved in the sponsorship of sports clubs and camps for underprivileged children.

The best source of information on Rote's playing career is his autobiography, with Ronald Patterson, Beyond the Goal (1975). A good article also appears at the Decatur Sports Page online at http://www.decatursports.com/articles/soc/kyle_rote_jr_interview.htm.

Robert Pollock

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