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How do agents find new clients?

National Football Post

The two questions that agents get asked every single time by someone they just met is “How did you get into to the business?” And, “How do you identify prospective new clients?”

For starters, I only sign about four to five new clients each year. However, I may speak with and present to fifteen draftees to get my five. So what methods do I and other agents use to identify legitimate prospects? Note: this is an article about identifying prospects, not the actual signing pitch.

Being a mid-size, independent agent that I am, with no household name calling-card clients like Tom Brady, Adrian Peterson, or Peyton Manning, I have to find players who aren't looking for that. Although I compete against agents who have those rosters, I first have to identify prospects that will give me a fair chance at representing them. Although I do have a roster of rising stars, pro bowlers, starters, and some of the highest paid at their respective positions; college players don’t follow the NFL like you may think they do. So I have to find players who aren't solely looking for the big, high-profile agencies that represent the biggest names in football. I have to find clients with high character traits, values and high standards. These guys are the best fits for me. Other agents have their best matches as well. 

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Karl Williams
ICONFormer client, Karl "The Truth" Williams, went undrafted. He was quick and sure handed and went on to play 9 years in the NFL.

Can they play at the next level?

Outside of the obvious top ten or fifteen talented well-known college players headed into the draft, there are another two hundred to two-fifty that are great clients to have. However, there are thousands of college players to choose from and a lot of them are just that, great college players. When I was a young agent I fell in love with what I call the “Rocky players”. The overachievers who do nothing except produce and win. I had an ISU Cyclone QB named Bret Oberg. He shredded apart top rated Big 12 defenses and was infectious to watch. “Maybe he’s the next, even taller, Doug Flutie”, I thought to myself. I signed him and got him into the Bucs camp. I quickly learned he didn’t have the arm strength to make all the NFL throws. He was cut with no further options.

Rule one: make sure they have the minimum athletic ability to play the game. That mainly includes speed, height and a certain body type for the position. It especially means speed.

So where and how do we get our intel on players?

Most experienced agents have direct access to area scouts, college directors and even GMs who will willingly share reports and intel on college players. I for one rely heavily on the area scouts. They know more about the players than anyone in the pro system.

So are you wondering why scouts will give away this info? Because they may need help down the road with getting a new job or promotion. Agents can and will help with this process. Secondly, some GMs actually tell their scouts to be accommodating to certain agents. The reason here is that the team may turn the agent on to an undrafted sleeper with the hopes the agent will sign him and then eventually send that player to their team.


Do agents rely on draftniks?

Absolutely they do. Not all agents have a conduit to scouts so they rely on the list from guys like Russ Lande, Mel Kiper or Todd McShay. Although these draftniks do a good job in identifying prospects, they don’t always get the details on work ethic, character, intelligence and social skills until after the all-star games and Combine. Agents need this information prior to a player’s junior or senior year.

Where do college coaches come in?

College coaches are a great source of information on players. Agents who also represent coaches, represent many of them and they are quick to give the agent the good, bad and ugly on their players. A now deceased agent, Gary Wichard, was the master at this. He would represent some college coaches for free if they would recommend and even funnel him players. Of course this was against NCAA rules but was rampant throughout college football. The incident at North Carolina has greatly curbed this practice.

The Combine list

Each and every year the National Football Scouting Combine (NFS) hits every campus in the country to get height, weight, speed and other measurables on all prospective seniors. They watch film and gather medical information about players. They give players a grade based on the impact they can potentially make in the NFL. Each sheet on a player will include both on and off field incidents, background on the parents, progress made, or not made in school, wonderlic scores and even phone numbers. This list used to be like gold to an agent. However, the list is harder to get as the NFS has done everything in their power to limit the access to it now in order to try to prevent personal information about the player hitting the streets, and protect proprietary information. In addition, some head college coaches got wise to this problem years ago and instructed their players not to list their phone numbers on the NFS info data sheet they were asked to fill out. 

Do your current clients help?

Absolutely! They can be a great help as an introducing reference. I use current clients to find out personal things about their former teammates. All agents rely on help from their clients. It’s a good natural referral source.

Matching your personality

I personally do very well with the blue-collar type, mid-west kid whose parents are involved in the process. I stay away from the SEC because its too far away and the area is littered with aggressive agents. I really press scouts for intel on a players’ work ethic, character, intelligence and his football instincts. Of course we all want high draft picks but at times, I will happily pursue a guy who may be a little shorter than the desired height (Pat Angerer, Tim Dwight), or went to a small school and is off the radar (Jermane Mayberry, Al Harris), or who is projected as a mid to late rounder or even a free agent (Mat McBriar, Tyler Sash, Ricky Stanzi) but has the potential to blossom into an all pro player or even a house hold name.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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