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Blake Lawrence always had a passion for both marketing and football. It just took several blows to the head for him to make a living combining the two.

After one too many concussions while playing linebacker for the Huskers, Lawrence hung up his shoulder pads, giving him free time he hadn't known since he was a child.

"My entire life I played football. I was from sunup to sundown a football player. When the concussions hit, my identity was gone."

Lawrence put his time into work on a marketing degree at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and eventually an internship in 2010 with an electronic management company called FileBound, where he coordinated the company's social media.

During his summer there, FileBound generated $200,000 in new business.

That fall, Adi Kunalic was approaching his final season as a kicker for NU.

"Adi and I sat down and had some beers and said 'Let's do something,'" Lawrence said.

Hurrdat Social Media was born in summer 2010, and landed FileBound as its first client in August of that year.

"We're always looking for innovative ways of reaching not only our business partners, but a lot of customers as well," FileBound founder and CEO Rex Lamb said. "We knew social media was an effective way of doing that, but we didn't know how to go about it."

Lamb, an entrepreneur himself, gave Hurrdat not only his business, but office space, web access and phone lines to jump-start the former Huskers' company.

"I think the sky's the limit on what they can do," Lamb said. "There's so many businesses out there that haven't started using social media as a way of marketing and communicating to customers and prospective customers."

Last spring, some of Lawrence and Kunalic's former teammates began preparing for the NFL Draft. Knowing they'd have marketable social media pages, Kunalic and Lawrence tried charging pro athletes a monthly rate for Twitter and Facebook management.

"That's not how it works for athletes," Lawrence said recently, seated at his handcrafted desk, with more knick-knacks and Scooter's coffee cups than pens.

"They don't like to pay for anything," Kunalic said with a grin.

Lawrence and Kunalic settled on buying the marketing rights of Twitter pages, beginning by marketing the tweets of their friends and former Husker teammates.

"It's been a perfect market for us," Lawrence said. "Nebraska with their fan base and Adi and I, as former Huskers, gives us an in for all areas of our business. If we weren't former athletes, I don't think it would be possible. It's a very tight-knit market."

The market is particularly perfect for Kunalic, who is still trying to become one of the NFL's 32 kickers. After getting cut at the end of training camp, the Carolina Panthers re-signed him in mid-December.

But social media is always at his fingertips, so he can always do his job, and potential clients surround him.

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Hurrdat's first athletic client came through Husker football -- former teammate and current New York Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara.

"(Lawrence) told me he had this company, for like social media, and I didn't really take him seriously," Amukamara said. "I didn't think nothing of it."

The next time Lawrence pitched Hurrdat, he recommended Amukamara start a Twitter account that Lawrence would manage that could be profitable when he entered the NFL Draft. This time Amukamara bit, and now boasts more than 35,000 followers on Twitter, as well as promotional deals with businesses in Lincoln and New York. He's even brought Giants teammate Tyler Sash, a rookie safety from Iowa, to Hurrdat.

"Everything is gradually becoming like social media, like watching ESPN, watching CNN, or getting updated on their Twitter," Amukamara said. "I think if Blake and Adi play their cards right, they can go as far as they want."

After entering the professional-athlete market with former teammates, Hurrdat has amassed a clientele of 105 professional athletes to go along with 44 non-athlete clients. With a little help from Amukamara, Hurrdat signed more than 30 clients of France AllPro Athlete Management.

After establishing a name among athletic agencies, Hurrdat brand manager Austin Brown said, acquiring clients was easy. Within months, Hurrdat's clientele expanded beyond former Huskers to such NFL players as Golden Tate, Le'Ron McClain, Ray Rice and Vernon Davis.

"(Kansas City Chiefs safety) Eric Berry's agent said this was a no-brainer," Brown said.

Including businesses, Hurrdat has clients from Dallas to the United Kingdom to Australia. Lawrence and Kunalic plan to expand the business until the popularity of social media subsides, something they don't foresee in the near future.

"Everyone should be doing what we're doing," Kunalic said.

Grant Muessel is a junior journalism major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln from Omaha.


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