Today, with the draft little more than a week away, I thought I’d tell a story about a young player whose father I worked with through last year’s draft process. It’s a bit of a cautionary tale for agents and parents alike.
The player went into his senior season as a solid end-of-draft/undrafted free agent at a mid-sized BCS school in the south. By the end of the year, he was about the same status, and he signed with an agent that was new but who had deep pockets. It looked like he had a fighting chance to at least go to camp and maybe even make the team.
Though he didn’t receive a combine invite, he took care of business at his pro day and set himself up to be a legitimate camp possibility. Unfortunately, I don’t think this was good enough for his agent, who had sunk a good amount of training money into several players that held undrafted free agent grades. The father, the player and the agent had a long talk going into the draft, and according to the father, the agent set a bottom number for the bonus he’d be willing to accept for the young man. I never got to find out from the father how much influence the player had had in that conversation.
When draft day came, the seven rounds predictably came and went, and the UFA process began in earnest. Unfortunately, there weren’t many suitors for the young defensive back. In fact, there was only one call that came in, and the agent fielded it. As the father told the story, the team was offering a $5,000 bonus, and that’s not what the agent had in mind, so he passed.
No other calls came in. For reasons I never learned, the agent wasn’t able to find the young man a tryout, either, perhaps because he was not in the metro area of any NFL team and not quite interesting enough to rate a plane ticket.
The father told me all of this about a month after the draft. The young man had waited four weeks after the draft, hoping that something would come in. I don’t know if this was at the agent’s urging, or if it was just the young man’s way of exhausting every NFL avenue. When his father called, he was composed, of course, but there was sadness and regret in his voice as he told me the young man was going to go ahead with his non-football life pursuits.
If you’re a young man or his parent reading this, make sure you tell your agent not to negotiate over a thousand dollars, or even a couple hundred dollars. If you’re an agent, make sure you don’t blow your client’s chances because you want to call a team’s bluff. If you’re an aspiring football professional, realize how tenuous a place on an NFL roster is.