I had something happen to me last week that has only occurred a few times in my career as an agent. The head coach of a Big Ten team called and thanked me for representing his player and pledged his availability and cooperation in helping me any way he could.
Although I have personal and professional relationships with many coaches around the country, this was rare because he’s a busy Big Ten coach whom I had never met. And in general, coaches historically have had little to do with agents, even though they may depend on one themselves. Actually, many schools close their pro days to agents and ask them to stay off campus. The reason is to keep them away from underclassman and out of the way of the scouts. Cal, USC and other universities have an open policy with agents, while Penn State and Iowa have strict closed-door policies.
Agents like to attend pro days to support and gain additional knowledge about their clients. Besides, you never want to be the only agent not to show up for your client’s pro day. Others will be sure to ask your player, “Why isn’t your agent here?” It’s usually followed by an expression that says, “You may want to think twice about your selection.” So a lot of agents are there to protect their turf.
I’ve noticed a trend of more communication between agents and college coaches. Coaches know the benefits their players will receive from having a good agent. Additionally, they want to see their players taken care of properly. So the smoother things go and the higher the player gets drafted, the better it is for the school.
Leigh Steinberg used to make it mandatory for his clients to give back to the football program in the amount of their scholarship benefit. This was genius by Leigh; he had the player donate money, he took the credit for having him do so, and football programs loved him for it.
I recently worked with a head coach, another experienced agent and the team pro liaison in switching a pro day date that was better suited to the players. The cooperation was great, and everybody involved wanted what was best for the players.
Another interesting dynamic affecting coaches’ opinion of agents is how and where we train their players. Many schools’ strength coaches encourage their draftees to stay on campus to prepare for the NFL Combine. However, most agents facilitate and endorse going to a combine training program located in a warm climate. When some players stay and others decide to train elsewhere, there may some animosity directed toward the player and the agent since leaving the program to train can be taken personally. If the player doesn’t perform well or gets hurt while training elsewhere, the agent will definitely be held accountable in the future. On the other hand, a lot of programs don’t have the time or resources to train players, so a lot of coaches are thankful for the investment an agent makes in their player.
In the end, head coaches and reputable agents want the same thing -- for their players (and our clients) to test well, get drafted high and make a successful transition into the NFL.
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