The fact that Audie Attar has landed in Irvine, also known as America's Safest City, is more than just a little ironic considering where he's come from, where he's been.
He's just 30 years old, but he's been around the world and back, both literally and figuratively. Born in Baghdad, Iraq, Attar has called Irvine home for about five years now, where he continues to evolve as a person and a businessman.
His passion now is Paridigm Sports Management, which he founded in 2009 after six years working as a sports agent for All Pro Sports and Entertainment, Inc. Paradigm is gaining some momentum, now representing six NFL players, a handful of MMA fighters and is working on adding players from Major League Baseball.
Attar is outgoing and determined, motivated by his past with every step he takes in life. He received his MBA from Pepperdine Graziado School of Business and a Masters Certificate in Dispute Resolution from Pepperdine Law School, which came on the heels of a successful athletic career.
Attar, listed as 6-feet, 205 pounds in college, was a linebacker for UCLA 10 years ago, coming off a stellar high school career at Claremont High, which inducted him into the school's Hall of Fame last month.
"All pro athletes, or athletes that reach a certain level of success at the Division I level, go through post-dramatic stress, to find that post-athletic identity," Attar said. "I'm no exception. I went through depression, sadness, I was unsure. But the persistence and resilience I showed as an athlete, and some of the things I went through, allowed me to stay the course."
Attar was born in Baghdad in 1980 but moved with his family to the United States when he was 2 years old.
"My dad (Al) had come here in the '50s," Attar said. "It was the same story you always hear. He had $300 to his name and he didn't speak a lick of English. But he learned the language and earned two undergraduate degrees and two Masters degrees. He went back to the Middle East to start a business."
But with the family growing, Al Attar moved to back to the U.S., to Pasadena. Attar returned to Iraq occasionally over the next few years to visit relatives, and was there when the first Gulf War started in 1991 when Attar was just a fifth grader.
They were stuck in Iraq for a short while because flights out of the country were temporarily halted, but eventually returned to the U.S.
Attar has never been back, but his parents have returned to help rebuild post-Saddam Iraq, Al working as an engineer.
The family moved to Claremont just before Attar's freshman year of high school, and during his sophomore year at Claremont, Attar's life took another sudden and dramatic turn.
Attar came home from school one day and found his older brother Edward's dead body.
"It's one of those things in life that could break a person," Attar said. "Especially when it's someone you hold in such high regard. It softened me up, it made me wear my emotions on my sleeve. But it also toughened me up. I wanted to achieve not only my goals, but his goals. I needed to live my life for more than just myself."
Attar said being involved in athletics helped him through the tough time.
"My team and my coach were so supportive," he said. "I found a safe haven on the field and in the film room and spending time with my teammates. Without them, I don't know what would have happened."
Attar went on to an impressive high school career, being named Baseline League Defensive MVP and then getting the opportunity to play at UCLA, where he was part of the 1998 Pac-10 championship team as a red-shirt freshman.
But in 2001, he faced more adversity. After 9/11, Attar's heritage became an issue, and he had to deal with the prejudices related to being a young Arab male.
"I had to deal with some ignorant people," Attar said. "But it taught me to turn the other cheek. People have pre-conceived notions when they see someone of Middle Eastern decent, but I've tried to build bridges. The only way you can do that is to be proactive and be involved. Fortunately I like to talk.
"I used to be angry at the world, but now I channel my frustration to yield positive results. … I'm grateful every day that I'm an American. I'm a proud American just as much as the next guy."
And it was at UCLA where Attar found what would become his professional calling. Attar was called upon to host some of the school's top recruits and had success.
"Everyone would always tell me, 'You're going to be an agent, you're going to be an agent,'" he said. "I was always hosting the top recruits. I don't know my conversion rate, but a lot of the guys went to UCLA and we ended up having one of the top recruiting classes.
"So I said, OK, I'll keep an open mind. And when I got into business, I realized that although you might have natural ability, you have to push yourself like you do as an athlete."
It's onward and upward for Attar, but wherever he ends up, he won't forgot where he's been, and who helped get him there.
"I have a wonderful family and fiancé who I've been with for eight years," he said. "I've had great mentors in my life and I was blessed to meet most of them through football. I'm a sponge. I love to learn and love to grow. When you meet so many people you need to be intuitive to pick things up."