When you talk to a contract advisor about his draft class, you rarely hear him refer to them as anything other than ‘his kids.’ It’s a little strange to hear of 21- and 22-year-old men who could lift a car as ‘kids’ regularly, but that’s part of the game.

Now, if one of an agent’s clients is known to have had a series of legal missteps, or was suspended several times, or was kicked out of several schools, or is known to be less than admired by coaches on staff, expect to hear what a ‘great kid’ he is. The agent will usually go on and on about how the player was misunderstood, or how the coach(es) didn’t like him, or how he was a victim of terrible circumstances. I guess I’d do the same thing were I in their shoes, but it gets a little old.

Last year was a prime example. I had a marketing associate who had signed a player known as a big bag of trouble. I mean, even the most casual fan knew this ‘kid’ was bad news, but my friend insisted that the young man had seen the light. He didn’t run away from the young man’s troubles, to his credit — usually, an agent is well-rehearsed in dismissing any bad stories about a client — but he was adamant that it was all in the past.

Within the next week, the (a) marketing professional’s agency had spent a lot of money flying the player around and putting him up in fancy accommodations, (b) had set him up in top-rate (i.e., expensive) training, and (c) had seen him arrested on a drug offense, the most recent of several. Within another week or so, the agency had been fired by ‘the kid.’ I wish I could say I was surprised.

What I’m about to say is going to sound very cold and dismissive, but in this game, you can’t save the world. You’ll come across a lot of broken people who are phenomenal athletes in this business, and the idea of working with them can be tantalizing, but most of the time, they aren’t going to change.

By the time an extraordinary athlete has reached his 20s, he’s established a comfort zone, a behavior template that has never been corrected adequately (and that has probably been enabled everywhere he’s played). If you think you can turn that around, you’re crazy.

If you’re reading this blog because you want to be in the football business, I’m here to help, and I want you to succeed. But I also want you to have a happy life, and no one has time to beg to help someone. It’s OK to want to help, but set a boundary, and understand that you need to be able to walk when a line gets crossed.

 

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