Cracking the agent business

There are approximately 750 agents registered with the NFL Players Association. Fewer than 100 agents have five or more active clients. About 400 of them will have no clients on an NFL active roster after the last cut of the 2009 season. They will have no income either, but lots of expenses in marketing themselves and their clients.

From the recruiting stories I hear from the guys I’m lucky enough to sign, it’s difficult not to be entertained by some of the efforts and gimmicks people use to sign players.

My motivation in writing about these agents is not to make fun of them or belittle their efforts. It’s to help them out a little because I really do feel sorry for them -- just a little.

Since I started writing this column, I’ve been contacted by more than 100 individuals looking to get sports internships, particularly in football or with my firm, JB Sports. I actually appreciate the effort of this mostly young and ambitious group. This is the best way to break into the sports agency business. Stay persistent and it will pay off (as an aside, I once interviewed and hired an intern after he sent me a hand-written letter every day for 26 consecutive days; his name was Joe Fortenbaugh).

I also have been contacted by several people seeking my help in launching their agent careers. Some of these aspiring agents are already registered but have no clients. Others are just finishing up law school and/or want to change professions because, they say, they “always dreamed of working in sports.” I get emails with questions that go something like this:

Hi Jack,

First of all, I really enjoy your articles. As someone who's been intrigued with the agent biz for 10+ years, it's very insightful. I plan on getting my NFL certification next year and am curious about a few things.

1. Do all/most players get pre-draft training paid for by their agents? (to the best of my knowledge, it seems the agent would actually lose money on any player drafted 3rd round or later)

2. Approx how many agents recruit the late round/undrafted free agent types? (Just curious to know how much comp I’m gonna be up against)

3. Like you, I'm only wanting to rep low maintenance/good character guys. Who might I get 'character references' from on players I'm interested in? Compliance directors? Coaches? Other?

That's it for now. I greatly appreciate your help and advice!</p>

Or this:

Mr. Bechta,

Hi! My name is --- and I am an aspiring NFL agent. I love every aspect of sports, especially pro football and have recently become a certified NFL agent.

I have contacted many potential draftees over the past two years and I seem to get off on the right foot with them. However, once the more experienced agents or firms get a hold of them, my potential client seems to vaporize. Therefore, as the established agent that you are, can you please share some guidance as to how I can get over the hump and get my first client? I would greatly appreciate your help in getting my career off the ground. I know that with your help I can land my first few clients and be on my way to being a top NFL sports agent.

I look forward to hearing from you. I enjoy reading your articles.

Believe it or not, I usually answer a lot of these inquiries. I’m not in the business of helping aspiring agents become competitors, but I have no problem sharing my experiences and answering some questions.

Here are my answers to the first email: 1) Yes! Yes! 2) A lot! 3) Regional scouts and coaches.

The second email: “Although I don’t have the time to launch your career, I would advise you to keep at it and maybe focus on undrafted rated players at first. There have been many players that have given agents like yourself a chance at representing them. Keep banging away.”

Personally, I’m all for competition and don’t care how many registered agents there are. I know there are some very competent individuals in this industry who are in for the right reasons and do great jobs for their clients. I also know there are some real egomaniacs who are in it for the wrong reasons and make a living telling their clients what they want to hear and not what they need to hear. The bottom line is, there’s room for smart, hard-working professionals who want to work for the best interests of their clients.

A large portion of new agents are simply na

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