I am very excited that I have signed 5 new players to represent for the 2013 draft. It also means that I will be a busy man between now and the NFL draft which starts April 25th. So if you ever wondered what an agent does between now and draft day, here you go.
Playing the waiting game at the NFL Combine adds to the stress.
Training and Combine preparation: Over 20 years ago, Bruce Allen, an agent and now the GM of the Redskins, pioneered the idea of hiring trainers prior to the NFL Combine to prepare their clients for the physical tests that will affect their draft status. Today, everyone is doing it. If you are an agent, you have to be preparing your clients for their most important audition and interview: the NFL Combine in Indianapolis on February 20th.
The majority of seniors graduate in the fall of their last year. They take enough classes in summer and most have redshirted so they time their graduation for the fall of their senior year. That leaves them with the spring to focus on training. Once we sign a player, it’s standard industry practice to provide a pre-combine workout plan. As a matter a fact, I estimate that agents collectively spend over 8 million dollars in getting over 500 players ready for this year’s draft. The cost can range between $8,000 to $25,000 per player. The cost usually includes food, nutrition guidance, travel, lodging, transportation, massages, equipment, conditioning training and position specific training. We even hire retired coaches, GMs and/or players to counsel/coach our clients.
Most agents just turn their players over to a training facility while others really go out of their way to tailor a unique plan for each of their new clients.
All Star Games: The Senior Bowl, East-West Shrine, Texas vs The Nation, the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, the Casino Del Sol, and the Raycom are games played throughout January where top draftable prospects battle each other in front of scouts. The action doesn’t take place on the game day but during the first three practices. In the first three days of these games the sidelines are loaded with agents, GMs, regional scouts and scouting directors. It’s our job as agents to not only have our clients prepared for the game but also spend time in promoting them to NFL personnel men. During these games we set up interviews with scouts, talk about injuries, off field issues and constantly educate the decision makers about our clients.
Pro Day: Each school has a pro day where each NFL team sends scouts and coaches to get an even a closer look at the players. For those who didn’t garner a Combine invite this day is their only interview. It’s our job to make sure they are ready for this day. Many players return to their university a week or two before their pro day and ramp up training with their strength and conditioning coaches. For those who already performed well at the Combine, they may just focus on their position drills.
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The Media: There is an odd relationship with agents and the media. We tell our clients not to look at the rankings by draftniks on the internet but yet when we see a rating we don’t like, we usually call the draftnik up to present a case for a better grade. Other times there is damage control that has to be done because of false or exaggerated stories that has to do with an off field issue. It’s our job to get the story right or spin it in the direction most beneficial to our client.
There is no hard evidence that exists that draftniks will help or hurt a player’s stock. But we do know the sports media as a whole can help hype a players stock leading up to draft day. Therefore, it doesn’t hurt to get your clients story out there if it’s a good one. If it’s not so good, it’s best to do some damage control. By the way, the media sways more owners than you can imagine.
Off-field opportunities: When we are not talking to NFL personnel men we are making sure our new clients are happy. One way to do so is to provide them with income opportunities such as autograph signings, appearances and/or product endorsements. A player can make anywhere between $10,000 and $1,000,000 prior to the draft, depending on his popularity of course. The RGIII and Cam Newton types will get the big deals. But you would be surprised how much a mid round pick such as a safety or linebacker from a state like Iowa, Kansas or Alabama can make. It’s our job to hustle and create deals for our clients.
In addition to these endorsements it’s a good time to work on a client’s short and long term branding strategy as well.
Finances: Many agents play banker to their new clients and will lend them both small and large sums of monies. Some agents will provide six figure credit lines to be repaid after the player gets his signing bonus (I don’t do this). Other agents will loan a player a few thousand dollars to take care of some miscellaneous issues. Some agents like myself provide education and financial counseling to make sure our clients don’t fall victim to the trappings that help so many players go broke.
Smile and dial: Having been an agent of 25 years I have built up a great network of contacts. Most agents have. Over the course of the next few months I will call someone at each and every team and talk to them about each one of my clients. I want to make sure that they have the correct intelligence on my clients. If they have a negative scouting report I want to find out why and see if there is a way I can combat it. I also want to share some nuances, stories and or unique traits that my client may possess. The other purpose this serves is that I can get a great feel of what the marketplace thinks of my client(s). Thus, I can better prepare my clients expectations come draft day.
Relationship building: The time between signing a new client and draft day creates an opportunity to really get to know our clients. I personally don’t promote any social activities like drinking or going out during training time. However, I will spend as much time as I can with my clients, educating them about the business of the NFL. I do bring my clients to San Diego for a week prior to the draft to set their expectations and garner more face-to-face time in building the relationships. Some agents have a more liberal method of building relationships like taking their clients to the Super Bowl and party for 3 or 4 days. Regardless of the method, we put in a lot of time building the relationship.
Draftees won't show it but the draft process is stressful and promotes insecurity for most of them. A good agent will do lots of hand holding and educating to make sure his client is prepared to live his dream. I do believe most agents do all the right things in helping their new clients. In our industry, all the really hard work is done when nobody is looking.
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This story originally appeared on Nationalfootballpost.com