Today, for War Story Wednesday, I turn the blog over to Howard Shatsky of Pro Football Management (@HowardShatsky), who’s been a successful NFL agent for decades. He’s represented a number of pro football luminaries including former Giants DE Michael Strahan, who has transcended football and is now as known in Hollywood circles as he is in football circles.

Howard has a unique perspective on things, having seen the representation side of the game go through several mutations. I asked him to discuss the transition to the modern age of athlete representation with me, and it resulted in this blog post, as well as the one we’ll publish tomorrow.

Today, Howard, discusses recruiting. Tomorrow, he talks more about anecdotes from his time in the game to illustrate his points.

Recently you may have read a post by Neil Stratton talking about the expenses an agent must incur in order to sign a prospective late-round draft choice. This post led to a discussion between Neil and I about how the industry has changed.

My first year representing NFL players was 1989 and that year I signed a second-round pick from Penn State. Although we had been speaking by telephone, the first time we actually met in person was at the Senior Bowl, and he did not end up signing with the firm I was working for until after the NFL Combine. I signed a few other players and did not have my first conversation with any of them until sometime around December.

The recruiting aspect of the industry has changed dramatically since that time. The majority of recruiting now takes place the summer prior to the player’s senior season. By the end of the season most college players have already narrowed down their list of potential agents, if they have not already decided on who they will sign with. Many players even sign within a few hours of their last college game.

There is a very simple reason for this: personal trainers and combine prep. When I first started representing players, agents did not pay for personal trainers. Players worked out at their respective schools with their strength coaches. The only expense involved in signing a draft choice was occasionally giving the player a few hundred dollars to pay for gas and groceries. My, how the game has changed.

Now, players want to sign with an agent very close to the end of the season so they can fly to a training facility and start working out for the combine. Most prospective top-round picks want to train at a known facility. The expense for this alone can be in the neighborhood of $25,000. This does not include monthly cash stipends, workout gear, food, rental cars and numerous other things players expect an agent to now pay for. Trainers are well aware that in order to sign these players, an agent has to pay for a trainer, so be prepared to pay a lot more than the going rate for an athletic trainer. In most recruit meetings, the first question I am asked is, what are you going to pay for? Even players who have free agent NFL grades expect an agent to pay for their trainer. If you are able to sign a top-round pick, plan on budgeting a minimum of $50,000.

Howard Shatsky started his career at the NFLPA and has been working with NFL players since 1989. Howard currently represents NFL players for his own firm Professional Football Management and Coaches for the firm Coaches, Inc. You can follow Howard on Twitter at @HowardShatsky.