These days at ITL, we’re re trafficking a lot of information about the postseason all-star games that are a key to getting ‘discovered’ by NFL scouts. I get a lot of calls about agents and/or players getting ‘screwed’ by all-star games that claim a player is not good enough to play in a game, or that they’re full at the player’s position. Well, sometimes it’s the player (or his agent) that does the screwing.
Here’s a good illustration. When I ran the 2008 Hula Bowl, we were the No. 3 game, but we had challenges (as I’ve recounted in the past) related to getting players to commit. These challenges were related to our place on the schedule (players arrived during bowl season) as well as the fact that getting to Hawaii is no easy task. That’s why I was really excited when we got a commitment from a Big Ten linebacker who figured to go in the fifth or sixth round.
As I recall, I had been in regular contact with the school’s head coach, working with him in an attempt to get 3-4 of his players into the game. I already knew the drill; he would encourage a couple of his late-rounders to participate in the Hula Bowl if I would take 1-2 of his ‘program’ guys, i.e., players who had no realistic shot of even going to an NFL camp, but who had been loyal soldiers for the coach.
Unfortunately, the coach was having the same conversations with his own agent, and had worked out a similar deal with him. This agent was an old-school guy, and never one to be an ITL client. Therefore, I had no relationship with him, and he had no interest in my lobbying or evangelizing for my game. It was clear he was going to try to get the linebacker into a ‘real’ game, and the Hula Bowl did not qualify.
Still, I didn’t know that when I was trying to schedule the player’s travel the week before the school’s bowl game. Like many colleges, the town where he had gone to school was quite remote, and we’d have to fly him out of Chicago. Though the head coach had been quite enthusiastic about him playing, I didn’t get the same vibe.
“I gotta fly out of my college town,” he insisted, and wouldn’t budge.
I tried and tried to convince him to fly out of a bigger airport, but he wouldn’t. So I went back to my scouting contacts to get a better handle on his pro prospects; each was adamant that he was a late draftee. So I eventually relented and booked him out of a tiny airport local to his college town. The price of the ticket exceeded $1,000, which was probably 3-4 percent of our entire travel budget.
That’s why I was furious when his agent called about a week later, just days before the player was scheduled to arrive, and told us he wouldn’t be coming. He didn’t have a reason why, but it didn’t matter, because no reason would have been good enough. Now I had to replace the player, finding a flight just days before our players were set to arrive, and spend money on top of the $1,000 I’d already spent. But here’s the kicker: there was no way I could get the money back or the ticket back once his name was on it.
In other words, not only had I been royally gamed by this young man, but I’d just handed him a $1,000 travel voucher. And there was nothing I could do about it.
He wound up skipping the all-star process altogether, and missed out on an attempt to solidify his standing in the ’08 draft. Perhaps as a result, he fell completely out of the draft, and had a brief cup of coffee in the league before his pro gridiron career ended.
I hate to take any pleasure in a player’s misfortune, but I have to admit it was hard not to smile when the last pick was announced that spring and his hadn’t been called. Meanwhile, I’ve never spoken to his agent since.