I wouldn’t trade my career of being an NFL agent for anything. The relationships I made and the experiences I’ve had and have are priceless. However, there are several miserable components to the job that the movie Jerry Maguire has made somewhat glamorous.
1) Client poaching and lack of loyalty - You work hard securing a new client. You invest over twenty to thirty thousand dollars in recruiting him and preparing him. You make all the right decisions for him, get him a great rookie contract and provide first-rate honest service for him for four years. However, you lose him on the doorstep of his second big contract to one of the usual firms who typically make a living on client poaching. Some agencies will work hard to convince your clients they have to make a move to secure a better contract and more endorsements. The sad part is that capable agents can do just as good of a job as the more well known agents but either ego or insecurity can motivate a player to make a switch. I personally have been very lucky not to have lost many clients over the years. I think the values of the type of guys I represent don’t let them fall prey to it. But many agents lose their best clients to outlandish promises of some higher profile agents. It’s a tough part of the business.
2) Being on call 24/7 – I once walked into a restaurant and my girlfriend asked me not to take any calls before or during dinner. Sure enough just as we were walking in the phone rang and it was one of my biggest clients. I of course picked it up, while getting the big disapproving eye roll from the girlfriend. I asked my client “if it was anything that could wait till tomorrow?” He said, “I need you now!” I could tell in his voice he was shaken up about something. So I spent the next 30 minutes talking him off a ledge (figuratively of course) while my girlfriend waited for me building up steam with every passing minute at the bar. Upon sitting down for dinner, I reminded my girlfriend that it’s because of my clients that I can afford to take her to nice restaurants.
I, like all agents, can never go completely off the grid. My phone stays on next to the bed, I have chargers all over the house and office and in my briefcase. Agents can go on vacations but their phone will always be close by and we better be ready to handle any client situation that arises at any time. There are maybe a few weeks in May and June where things slow down for us. However, the switch is always “ON”, that’s what they pay us for.
3) Recruiting - The love/hate of recruiting is not meeting with new prospective clients or their families. It’s putting your heart, soul, energy and resources into wanting to help a young man live his dream. Only to lose out to competition that offered an inducement or made a promise or promises that is/are unrealistic but plays on the hopes and fears of a draftee. I never mind losing out to another quality agent who out hustled me or just had a better rapport with the player. It does suck when the player is being misled and just signs with an agent because their clienteles may be better known. Any agent will tell you that the recruiting war is the toughest part of the business because the courting process can last about 9 months to a year. An agent may visit up to 20 prospects multiple times to sign just three or four of them. During the recruiting period agents are at their worst and will do anything to get clients. For those working hard with integrity and doing it by the book and then losing out to those who are less scrupulous can suck the life out an agent.
4) Travel – In my younger days and before 9/11, I loved traveling to see clients and prospects. I still do, but only once I actually get to where I am going. Being an agent can be a lonely and costly business. We may travel 3 days to just shake hands with a parent or prospect after a game. Its typical for me to travel to a college campus on a Friday morning, attend the game on a Saturday afternoon and then fly to an NFL city that same evening or the next morning, attend the NFL game and stay in the NFL city until Tuesday to make sure I spend quality time with all client(s). So it’s typical to spend 4 days on the road for just a few hours of face time with a prospect and/or a client. Repeat the same for 12 to 14 weeks. Then there are the all-star games in January, the Combine and workout facilities in February, and the pro days in March. One perk, lots of frequent flyer miles.
5) Seeing your client’s career come to a premature end - Agents and players can become very close. You won’t believe how much they confide in us and how the relationship can grow. I have vacationed with several different clients. Many have parked at my house for weeks or months. I’ve been to countless weddings and even funerals. Running a smaller to midsize practice allows me to spend more time with my clients and get invested into their dream. It also allows me to get know them on a very personal level.
To watch my guys physically deteriorate, blow out a knee, receive multiple concussions and to have their dreams cut short is painful. Even when a player gets cut and he can still play or never got a fair chance is gut wrenching to be a part of. Especially when they are depending on me, the agent, to make it all right. I have lost thousands of sleepless nights agonizing over my clients’ well-being and sharing in their misery.
Now don’t get me wrong, the good far outweighs the bad and I am very fortunate to be a small but important part of the professional business of football. My profession keeps me close to the game I love and respect.