An Introduction to Being an NFL Agent

I want to introduce myself to the Over The Cap reader, so that I can give you an idea of the perspective I hope to bring to this website. I also want to open myself up to topics brought forth by the reader and I’m always open to exploring an idea that you guys bring up in the comment section or through contacting me through Twitter or e-mail.

There’s so much to learn and explore in the game of football and so often, across all fields, we get zoned into our own way of thinking and don’t look at things from a fresh, new perspective. This is why a guy like Mike Leach transformed the game of football with the spread offense after coming from a background as a lawyer.

In marketing, I’ve learned of a concept called “the curse of knowledge,” which is a cognitive bias that leads better-informed parties to find it extremely difficult to think about problems from the perspective of lesser-informed parties.

It’s a great concept when you think from an entrepreneurial or business perspective. Sometimes, the big corporations are so caught up in doing what’s always worked for them, that they become blind to new opportunities in their industry. Think about the old cable companies that are missing out on the wave of new technologies that will eventually overtake cable. Companies like Netflix and Hulu have capitalized on the areas that the cable company left open. NFL teams have capitalized by doing things in a way that hadn’t been done before as well. Without people approaching football from a different perspective, we’d still be playing the same game we played in the early days of the NFL.

Point being, you all have something to offer those of us who write for Over The Cap and I’d love to hear from you in the comment section for concepts you’d like to see explored or questions you want answered.

Anyway, to give you an idea of what I want to bring to Over The Cap…

I’m currently an MBA student at Rutgers and upon graduation, I’m going to become a partner at Athlete Advocates with Ryan Scarpa and Jeffrey Dobin, two certified NFL agents. I met Scarpa through his representation my good friend and teammate, Matt Hansen from the University of Rhode Island.

Matt Hansen was an undrafted free agent in 2011 and was signed to the Atlanta Falcons practice squad late in the 2011 season and looked like he was on his way to making the 53-man roster in 2012 after a great performance in OTAs. Unfortunately, he tore his patella tendon during that summer and hasn’t been able to make it back into the NFL since.

One thing that always stuck out in my mind was that, throughout the process, was that Matt was always happy with his agents. Many players get frustrated with their agent when they aren’t getting an opportunity to play, they feel like their agent is letting them down, but through it all, Matt knew his agents were doing their best. The kind of loyalty that Ryan displayed to Matt really stuck out to me and was what drew me to working with Athlete Advocates. Even when it began to look like Matt wouldn’t give them the kind of return on investment they had hoped to have, Ryan was always available and positive in his communication with Matt.

So, last fall, during my first semester at Rutgers, I wrote a business plan in my entrepreneurship class for “All American Hustle Sports,” which would be attached to my retail website AllAmericanHustle.com that I’ve had hopes of expanding, something we’ll discuss in later blogs.

During the fall semester, I would spend a lot of time discussing the business plan with my former trainer from when I was playing college football and entrepreneurial mentor, Joe DeFranco of DeFranco’s Gym. We would talk business as he trained my friends Matt Hansen and Jason Foster, who were both staying at my house in hopes of returning to the NFL. While Matt hasn’t been able to get back into the league, Jason found his home playing guard for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

During this time, Joe would tell me how he thinks Ryan is going to be a very successful agent and, seeing how much I already knew about Ryan, I decided to try and join forces with Athlete Advocates rather than start my own firm. So once I finished my business plan, I sent it over to Ryan.

He was impressed by my business plan and realized that I could be an asset to Athlete Advocates. Ever since then, we’ve all been discussing strategies and the future of our business together. Currently, we’re representing Darren Woodard of the St. Louis Rams and Lew Toler of the Pittsburgh Steelers, we also handle some of the marketing deals that Kyle Arrington of the New England Patriots has. We’re a young firm, but I’m confident that we are building a team that will be able to compete with the big boys.

I became intrigued with the prospect of being an NFL agent because my quarterback from Ramapo High School, Andrew Weiss’s father, Art Weiss, was Wayne Cherbet’s agent. Art has been one of the best in the business at finding D1AA talent and getting them an opportunity in the NFL. He’s currently representing Chris Hogan of “7-Eleven” Hard Knock’s fame who also went to Ramapo.

I decided that I wanted to be an NFL agent when I was playing at URI. I saw my good friends Victor Adesanya and Matt Hansen finish playing at URI and try to take their game to the next level after my junior season.

.jobs

Going into that season, I had just earned a scholarship, which had stoked my aspirations of maybe playing in Canada once I graduated, but an ankle injury had rendered me basically useless during my junior year as I couldn’t cut on the ligaments and tendons that I had torn during spring ball, but had gone undiagnosed and untreated due to our shoddy training staff at URI. I got a surgery after the season, so I was rehabbing while I was watching my friends try to go to the NFL and it made me realize that I could get involved in a career path that would still keep me involved in football.

And that’s led me to where I am now.

(I want to make a quick comment on the training staff at URI. I had three undiagnosed injuries during my time at URI. I tore ligaments in my ankle, to which their medical advice was to ice and stretch it. After I herniated two disks in a spring game, something I wouldn’t find out until an MRI years later because their only advice was to stretch my neck…seriously, that’s all they told me to do on a neck injury. Then, I had a broken bone in the ball of my foot for the entirety of my college football career, which instead of getting an MRI or x-ray on, we just put padding in my cleat. I say this because this is a major issue across the country, we have college training staffs that do not take care of players to the best of their ability because they are either uninspired and/or incompetent or they do not have the funding to do their jobs correctly. As an agent, this is an issue that I will focus on and campaign for. There are hundreds of kids being untreated with far more debilitating issues than mine and the NCAA owes it to these kids to make sure they’re taken care of. I’m in favor of some kind of medical fund that allows former athletes to treat college injuries, but that’s an issue for another day.)

I tell you all this because I find a lot of other young people trying to break into this industry and I hope to impart some of the things I’ve learned so far and continue to share more knowledge as we go along.

Personally, I decided to get an MBA because I saw an opportunity in the industry as most agents have law degrees and player representation is changing, in football specifically. This was confirmed to me at the three Sports Law Symposiums I went to this spring as guys like Darren Heitner from the Sports Agent Blog noted that the future of representation is going to be in marketing, endorsements and business deals.

This is largely because of the rookie wage scale put forth in the 2011 CBA, which makes agents less valuable because of the lack of negotiations. Where an agent now needs to prove his worth is in providing players with good training facilities to prepare for the NFL combine and everything that goes along with that, endorsement deals, business experience and entrepreneurial expertise, knowledge of the NFL marketplace and player value, marketing opportunities and brand management. The player needs an agent for his negotiating skills in later contracts as well.

When I decided upon getting my MBA, I also knew that my good friend, Will Gattoni (an avid Over The Cap reader), would be getting his law degree from St. John’s and we’ve always spoken about working together, something we still hope to do, but my attitude was, I’ll become the best business minded agent I can be and find partners with law degrees. Thankfully, that’s worked out well.

Over the last year, I’ve been putting together the things I need to be the best agent in the NFL. I don’t say that out of arrogance, I say that because this is simply too fun to half ass and you’ll get eaten alive if you’re not trying to be the best. This industry is in the stage of consolidation, everyone is merging into a few big firms like CAA, Rosenhaus Sports, and Relativity Sports, so if you want to compete, you have to find your niche, build your network and work your ass off.

So, to give other young agents out there an idea of how to get into this business and everything it entails, I am going to go into detail this week on how I’ve approached it and what we’re going to do over at Athlete Advocates.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more information coming this week. As always, feel free to tweet me if you have any questions or comments.

Zack Moore
@ZackMooreNFL
www.AllAmericanHustle.com
Supplements: Onnit

 


 

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.
  • Dan Kunze

    Good post, these will be interesting reads. I have a few questions. Most players (I believe the current rate is about 80%) go bankrupt just a few years out of football. I assume that the vast majority have either useless degrees, or didn’t graduate, etc. so they really don’t have too many options post football. Does the agent ever try to have conversations with the players to get them to save money or to have some sort of plan for the future? Do agents have to bring players back to reality a lot? Outside of the rookie deals, I imagine that when vets go to re-sign that many of them feel that they are worth a lot more than they are, in reality. What are those conversations like? Approximately what percentage of players would give up salary to be on a winning team (in other words, to fit in a better teams cap structure)? Do players in general understand the mechanics of the cap? Thanks in advance for the answers.

    • http://www.allamericanhustle.com Zack Moore

      I’ll check on that rate, but yes, that’s a major issue. Jason wrote a great article on the topic of the lifecycle of an NFL draft pick (http://overthecap.com/the-football-lifecycle-of-an-nfl-draft-pick/) and he discusses the fact that an agent’s job from day 1 is to make sure that their client is ready for life after football. This has been a major point of emphasis in recent years with the increase in knowledge of these situations. Our firm will stress the importance of this by making it the foundation of our agency. We want to know what all of our client’s passions are outside of football and use my experience business planning, and a network of entrepreneurs, to come in and help these guys prepare for life after football. This is something that will be covered in the upcoming articles this week.

      The conversation always has to be had with your clients on how to save money. I know one player whose parent’s keep a close tab on his finances and he’s been in the years for about five years. It’s great to have these checks and balances in place like a strong family structure. I do know a story of one former first round quarterback who went broke because…37 people had access to his checking account.

      I can’t speak for most players yet because, since I’m still in graduate school, I haven’t represented many yet. I have secured AFL deals for players, but nothing at the NFL level yet as I am not certified yet. Of the players I do know, they don’t understand the metrics of the cap in the same manner a reader of Over the Cap might, but they understand the basic budgeting that a team needs to do to manage themselves.

      And as for the comment on useless degrees and such, that is something I would strongly agree with. My communications degree from Rhode Island was not as useful as the lessons I learned through a combination of that, my business minor, my entrepreneurial ventures and football. You get out what you put into these things, especially in college because you can skate by on most majors, but especially if you’re a high level athlete. The unfortunate thing I noticed in college was that the education I received at my suburban public school was not the same education that my teammates from the cities received. This is a problem that we hope to address through charities with our athletes. We have already started a backpack program where we give good students in the inner cities backpacks filled with books because they don’t have backpacks. The lack of education that many players have in important fields of business is something we definitely hope to address as an agency, and something I’ll address in later blogs this week.

      Lastly, the number of players who would give up salary to be on a winning team is a concept that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately because from the standpoint of brand management, it’s better for the player to be on a good team. If you want to be a legend, you’ve gotta get some Super Bowl rings. So while we see many guys look to win a Super Bowl at the end of their career and they’re willing to take a discount to do so, how many guys are willing to do it at a younger age? I’m really not sure I can give you an answer on that, but still a very good concept that I too want to explore.

      • Dan Kunze

        Fantastic info, thanks for the reply. Very much looking forward to your upcoming columns.

        • http://www.allamericanhustle.com Zack Moore

          Thank you sir, more coming soon.

      • sunrise089

        Good stuff Zack.

        Some of my work/research has been in entrepreneurship, and I think it’s great that you’re taking that kind of training to the agent world.

        That said, I suspect that offering guidance about entrepreneurial opportunities for post-game life of NFL players would be far from the most useful life skills guidance you can provide, and may even on balance be harmful. My sense from reading research and case studies on pro athlete finances is that the largest drivers of financial difficulty are 1) expenses out of proportion to income, particularly post-career; 2) lack of savings/investments; and 3) dubious choices when investments are made, such as opening restaurants or bars versus funding IRAs. From what I’ve read, players would be well served by reducing/eliminating/avoiding monetary commitments their friends (entourage/’advisers’), extended family, and non-household children; basing their savings planning on a much shorter playing career than they may optimistically hope for; and avoiding investments in high-visibility risky and/or quickly depreciating assets versus less flashy but safer alternatives. Whether this is an attainable goal of course is a separate question.

        • http://www.allamericanhustle.com Zack Moore

          Well, yes, I do know of those issues that players have that create the financial difficulties they face post-career. Our goal isn’t to just thrust them into owning a business, we want to see where their passions lie and then begin the process of helping educate them on how to be successful in that line of work. And, if a player does want to open a restaurant or something like that, we want to find mentors who can help them along.

          It’s going to be a multi-faceted approach that includes savings, investments, marketing, and entrepreneurship, stay tuned for the blogs coming this week!

  • Dan Kunze

    Just thinking out loud here, if your agency offered the NFL players a (basic!) class on the cap, I imagine you would get more than a few takers, just so they could have a general understanding of the hows and whys of the offers they are getting from the teams. You may be able to charge for the class and make a bit of money on the side, as well as gain more than a few clients since I highly doubt that many of the bigger agencies are offering this. Or maybe I am wrong?

    • http://www.allamericanhustle.com Zack Moore

      Well, that’s not something out of the question. What we’re doing here is hopefully going to gain us clients as they’ll see the knowledge and passion that I have for this along with an understanding of what we will do for them.