While the movie Jerry Maguire helped to glorify our business, Leigh Steinberg gave us a White Knight image in the 80’s and 90’s before falling from grace, and huge free agent contracts made us part of the media story, there is a lot of tireless work that goes on behind the scenes.
While the main function of the NFL agent’s existence is to negotiate maximum value deals for our clients and enforce those contracts, we spend the majority of our time servicing the many needs of our clients by doing countless tasks the public has little knowledge about.
Here’s an example of the other duties that most competent and conscientious agents perform on a yearly basis for their clients:
Endorsements: If you took a count of how many NFL players are getting national endorsements it would only take you two hands to do so. However, there is what I call micro opportunities available to players in their local markets. Players do have a hard time understanding why they don’t get more endorsements whether it is locally or nationally. As an agent, if you are not procuring endorsements and appearances and driving off field revenue for your clients you will risk losing them. Therefore, many agents and agencies have to work hard to keep their clients happy in this category. Players love getting boxes of free clothing, supplements and or merchandise coming to the locker room. We have guys sponsoring companies that sell hunting bows to altitude chambers to watches.
Bob Sugar relied more on concierge services than contract skills.
Garnering these endorsements and appearances is actually time consuming. Many companies are skeptical of using athletes in fear that if they have a social slip up their brand can get a black eye. You want your client to be the one getting the product boxes, not the one sitting in the next locker wondering why his agent isn’t setting up deals like his teammate is getting. There are some forms of opportunities out there for all players. It is the agent’s job to dig deep, find out what their clients really like in every category and get after those opportunities like it is a national deal. Even further, an agent should continually assist his players in building their brand to add value as a potential partner during and even after their playing days.
Injury management: One of the most intense jobs of an agent is negotiating injury settlements and enforcing contractual/CBA injury protocol with teams. When a player gets hurt, especially a player who is fighting to make the team or is on the bottom half of the roster, most teams like to cut ties with player as soon as they are hurt. It’s the agents’ job to make sure that team takes full responsibility for the injury, gives them the very best medical treatment and rehabilitation options available, regardless of his star power or lack thereof. Unfortunately, there is a lot of arbitrary and abstract opinions from the team as to the seriousness of the injury and as what should be done with the player. Believe it or not, sometimes we have to push teams to just give a player an MRI, get a second opinion, and even pay the medical bills. I still have one NFC team I have to badger to pay my client's medical bills from when he got hurt playing for them. Team trainers are so busy running the weekly M*A*S*H unit that once a player leaves the building or team he may be quickly forgotten about.
We also will set up second opinions, explore workman’s compensation options/filings, surgeries, do research on treatments and rehab specialists, and at times even manage the entire process from start to finish. The Vikings did an impressive job with rehabbing Adrian Petersen but not all players get that type of attention from their team. It’s our job to see that they do.
Combine Training and off season workouts: A good agent will have his rookie clients prepared for the biggest auditions (All Star games, the Combine and Pro day) of his football life. We spend countless hours making sure everything runs smoothly for our rookie class. We have to orchestrate their housing options, travel, meals, nutrition, training, interview prep and make sure they have a stress-free and structured environment to excel both mentally and physically.
For our veteran clients we arrange off-season workout options and advise them on where may be the best places to train. Some players take this into their own hands and some agents don’t offer these services. If I learned one thing in this business, it is to make sure that all our clients have a year round structured environment to continue physical development and not have large gaps of idol time.
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Counsellor and advisor: I, along with other agents spend the majority of our time talking to clients. Although I personally have one of the lowest maintenance, high character clienteles in the industry, I am still on the phone talking about many different subjects with my players. It could be about new a contract, where to live, buying vs. renting, job security or lack thereof, problems with coaches, what to say to the media, pros and cons of skipping the team’s offseason workout to train elsewhere, getting married, getting a prenuptial, hiring/firing a financial advisor or accountant, managing an injury and what to do about it, desire to move on to a new team or even something like where/when to vacation in the off-season. A good agent will be in tuned to each and every one of their clients and be direct in telling them what they need to hear and not what they want to hear. A lot of time can also be spent talking to wives and parents.
Those agents with high maintenance clients spend a lot time putting out fires and cleaning up their messes and keeping it out of the public’s eye.
Concierge services: Sometimes a player just doesn’t know who to call to get what he wants. So they usually call the agent. Some agents are legendary in their off field services to their clients and will get them whatever they want even if it's not in their best interests. We help our clients with travel, research, major purchases and even help remind them of their anniversary. If you want to be successful in the agent business you better have a full time person dedicated to client needs. Unfortunately, some agents look the other way when the need is actually detrimental to a player’s social development and fiscal responsibilities and perform the task anyway.
Getting a client work: When an agent has a player or players on the street during the season, we really have to work hard in getting them workouts and keeping them on a team’s radar. When a player gets cut he needs his agent the most. Sometimes we really have to harass and sell teams in getting workouts and even calling in chips to do so. Every Monday morning I have my staff scan the wires and web to find out which players/positions were hurt and or performed poorly. I then contact those teams and sell them hard on taking a look at my player at the same position. This is doing the needed work when nobody is looking.
Preparing for life after football: This is a part of the job that no one wants to talk about but everyone must endure. An agent should always be doing the little things to help his client prepare for the future off the field in conjunction with working to give his older players a few extra years. Whether it’s researching and providing info or contacts to a post-career aspiration a player may have, or assisting with the paperwork and logistics of retirement benefits that need to be kept track of, an agent’s job is never done once a player retires. Even if it is just reminding them that a playing career could be cut short and to always be developing the next career. I continue to work with my retired clients in any aspect they need, introduce them to anyone I can in their field of interest, and even filter my active clients information about programs and training for post-playing careers.
We as agents may only do two or three contracts for a client in their entire career but believe me; there is a lot of tireless and not so glamorous work going on behind the curtain.
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This story originally appeared on Nationalfootballpost.com