Since I missed posting yesterday (sorry, it’s just a really, really busy time), and War Story Wednesday has become pretty popular, I decided to share a war story from my past today, even though it’s Thursday. Hopefully, today’s story illustrates not just the intense competition even off the field, but the way things can be handled when there’s controversy.

This one comes from my days running the 2008 Hula Bowl, which was then the No. 3 all-star contest. It turned out to be the last year the game was played, but at the time, it had a great name and substantial reputation. Still, it was just the No. 3 game. Then, as now, the Senior Bowl was No. 1 and the Shrine Game was No. 2. We were trying to change that, but couldn’t. For that reason, I knew going in that everyone that accepted an invite would leave immediately if they got a Senior Bowl or Shrine Game invite. But I couldn’t be bothered with that; I had a job to do and I did most of my own evaluation.

Back then, the practice of scheduling games by mid-major teams on Tuesdays and Wednesdays was still new, so unless you were looking for a game mid-week, you might not find it unless you happened to come across it while channel-surfing. That’s how I found a game featuring Eastern Michigan against another MAC opponent one night, and it’s how I ‘discovered’ DT Jason Jones. For whatever reason, Jones had not gone into his senior season as a highly touted prospect, and he was not on my radar screen. However, by the end of the game, he definitely was. From his interior line spot, he was disruptive the whole game, stacking up the run and getting consistent penetration on passing plays. He looked like the kind of kid with big ability but limited headlines that I could ‘sneak’ onto the Hula Bowl roster. And I did. As I recall, I reached out to him through Eastern Michigan’s pro liaison coach, and in short order we had his info sheet signed and returned.

Unfortunately, these agreements are not binding, so I had to sweat things out, wondering if he’d ever make it to Honolulu. Everything looked good until we got to December, at which point I got a call from Mike McCartney.

At the time, Mike was still a relatively new agent, but an up-and-comer, and he was with one of the bigger and more reputable firms in the business, Priority Sports in Chicago. We’ve always had a great relationship, and I admire the fact that his father, Bill, founded Promise Keepers, an international Christian organization devoted to making men better fathers and husbands. By the way, Bill McCartney also won a national championship as head coach of the Colorado Buffaloes in 1990.

When Mike called in early December, I figured the news wouldn’t be good, and it wasn’t. He had signed Jones, and Jones would be accepting an invitation to the Senior Bowl. I would have been a fool to make the case that he should also play in the Hula Bowl, and I didn’t, but Mike was very gracious in the way he’d handled it, which I appreciated. Today, Mike and I still have a really good relationship.

Someday, maybe next Wednesday, I’ll discuss the way things are more often handled with another story.

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