For the second part of War Story Wednesday, we continue our conversation with Howard Shatsky (@HowardShatsky), who has a unique perspective on sports representation given his almost three decades in the league. Today, Howard discusses a recent recruiting experience that has become all too common, plus discusses the way money has come to influence the industry in a negative way.
A few years ago I met with a player with a second- or third-round NFL grade and his father. Having spoken with his coaches and many of my NFL contacts, my conclusion was the player would be drafted in the sixth or seventh round, at best. The first thing the player’s father expressed to me was, “Just so you know, we want $15,000 up front from whomever we sign with.
“No disrespect to your 25 years of experience,” the father continued, “but I don’t think that matters. My son is going to be drafted in the second or third round based solely on his talent, and that has nothing to do with you.”
When I gave my assessment of where the player would be drafted, I was told, “You are crazy; all the other agents are telling us different.” He ended up signing with an agent who had very little experience, though he did give the young man the $15,000 he and his father were looking for. The player was not drafted, signed as a free agent, was released before training camp, picked up by another team and than released again. Thus, based on the initial upfront payment and various expenses, on that one player alone, the agent lost approximately $20,000.
I wish I could tell you this was unusual, but in this day and age, the vast majority of players make their agent decision based on how much money an agent is willing to spend to obtain them as a client. In my opinion, this is not a good thing for the industry. Back in the old days, if an agent had two or three first-round picks, that was a great year. The large firms in the industry now routinely sign up to eight first-round picks. Is that because that many players suddenly decided a big agency was what they needed? I don’t think so.
I am often asked how to get into the agent business, and over the years my answer to that question has changed. When I am asked that now, my answer is to have very rich parents, or someone that is willing to loan you a lot of money. One of the issues is, are agents getting value for the money they spend to sign players?
Whenever I am asked about that, I think about the fact that the best player I ever worked with was (former Giants DE) Michael Strahan, and somehow, despite the fact he did not work out with a personal trainer for the combine, he was still able to make the Hall of Fame! In my opinion, when players are selecting an agent, they should not only consider how much the agent is willing to spend on them, but the experience and commitment that person has to his clients.
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 represents coaches for the firm, Coaches, Inc. You can follow Howard on Twitter at @HowardShatsky.