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The time and money factor

Without a college structure, some prospects lose their way. Jack Bechta

Print This March 22, 2010, 01:55 PM EST

One question that needs to be asked about every draftee is, “What will they do when they have two things they never had before, time and money?” NFL team executives and scouts project this scenario with every player on their board. As an agent, I encourage my clients to take up healthy interests in their spare time. Time and money, if not managed correctly, can and have been the downfall of many players.

I once represented a nice guy and good player from an SEC school who made it with the Bucs as an undrafted free-agent OLB. He actually got to play in his rookie year and looked like he could become a starter and have a promising career. After his first season, the only beef the club had about him was his weight. He was fined constantly because of it and had to do extra work under the watchful eye of the team’s strength coach. I would call and talk to him about the importance of managing his diet, time and money. He was always receptive, but when he hung up the phone, he simply slept, ate and drank way too much.

When I saw that he struggled to manage his time, I flew him to San Diego to work with Mike Douglass, a health and nutrition guru and former Packers linebacker. Mike worked him hard and tailored a nutrition plan for him. He lost a few pounds, but I figured he could, at minimum, adopt a lifestyle. After a few weeks, I picked him up at his hotel to take him to the airport. When I went in the room to help him with his bags, I saw several empty pizza boxes and a lot of empty beer cans. I realized then that he was his own worst enemy. He was cut the following year and never played again.

When a player goes to college, he has several people watching over him. The entire football staff keeps track of players’ class attendance, their weight, their habits and even where they spend their free time. In addition, football programs usually provide structured year-round environments. Rarely do players spend summers at home anymore. After their last college game, that structure disappears.

Agents can be helpful, although some are hurtful, when it comes to providing a continued structure. We can provide top-notch trainers for two to five months, a nutritionist, financial and accounting education, life-skills training and even some charitable volunteer work. On the flip side, I see some agents as enablers. They provide clients with $100,000 to $250,000 in loans or marketing advances, a plush pad, a new $75,000-plus vehicle, and they get them on the social circuit. When you’re 22 or 23 years old and have these types of assets, it might be hard to find the motivation to continue the hard work.

I have to say that I’ve been very lucky with the guys I typically represent. They make good use of their time and have healthy ambitions outside of football that keep them busy.

A part of the scouting process that you won’t hear much about is how teams project the “time and money” factor for each player. But it’s an important element.

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