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At ITL, we take our job of helping new football agents very seriously. In the football business as in life, it’s one thing to think you know about a topic, but until you actually dive in and try to swim with the sharks, your eyes haven’t truly been opened.

This is especially true for contract advisors. Sometimes when we reach out to folks registered to take the NFLPA exam, they’re full of pluck and confidence, even cocky. Sometimes they’re a little nervous. Very often they’re somewhere in-between. But one thing is always true: after their first year, they have a dramatically different take on things.

For the last two summers, we’ve interviewed our clients after the conclusion of their first year certified by the NFLPA. Their thoughts go into our newsletter aimed at those aspiring to one day be agents. We only interview the ones who actually have players on NFL rosters, which is a fraction of the entire class. In other words, this is a select group that has at least experienced some measure of success. The last question we always ask is, ‘What’s the lesson you learned that you wish you’d known a year ago?’ Their answers are always insightful and interesting, but we have to edit them so they’ll fit the restraints of our daily email. We thought we’d pass a few along in long form.

Chicago-based Ronke Champion, who represents Giants FS Kyle Sebetic: “You need to do your homework on a player before you agree (to represent someone). Being a new agent, you want to just represent somebody, but it’s a lot of work to represent a player who’s not going anywhere. When it’s all said and done, the kid who I was doing a favor to his parents was the one who gave me the most trouble. My business got really busy then and I didn’t think I could do it. As a new agent, we just want to represent people, but those longshot kids are the ones that call the most and have unrealistic expectations. When his mom accused me of being a woman and not knowing what I was doing (because I was a woman), I said, you have my permission to go find another agent. I said, ‘You need to talk to me and tell me how you get that feeling. I have another kid getting calls every day, and your son isn’t getting any calls, and that’s not my fault.’ My advice is, don’t sign a kid — help them but don’t sign them — if they don’t have any chance.”

Slidell, La.-based Dr. James Gilmore, who represents Jets TE Terrence Miller: Don’t assume that just because you’re getting to know a player that they’re going to sign with you. They aren’t yours until they sign the SRA. I traveled to the Cotton Bowl to hang out with (a player’s) family, and was about to go to one of the all-star games, and said, ‘You go on your own, and enjoy yourself,’ and he called me from the bowl game, and he told me he put (my) name on the list as his agent, and I was assuming things were well, and when he got home from his bowl game, he called and said he was going with someone he met at the bowl game. After two months of really good courtship, at the end of the day, his parents made him go with someone who had been doing it longer. He said his dad made him go with experience, and the other agent came to his house. Never assume. If I was smarter, I could have signed him at the Cotton Bowl, but being new to this, I was like, ‘take your time.’ It was like a new friendship, but it’s a business relationship that’s not filed until they sign the contract. Until the SRA is signed, they’re not yours.”