Today, Pro Football Management’s Howard Shatsky, who’s worked with such notable NFL players as Michael Strahan, Brian Westbrook and Mike McCrary, wraps up his thoughts on how to be forthright with a player when his career prospects are dim.
Telling a young man that it’s time to move on from his football dreams is a very difficult conversation to have. I do not want to be the person who crushes a young man’s dream of playing in the NFL. However, I also do not want to be the person who encourages a player to keep trying when there is virtually no chance of success.
One reason why is because, in most cases, the player does not work during this time. Thus, when he finally realizes his NFL dream is over, he is 4-5 years behind his graduating class in terms of work experience. So, what can that player put on a resume? A prospective employer is not impressed by a resume with no work experience. An interview where the former player tells a potential employer that he has not worked for the last few years because he was training to play in the NFL does not usually go well. Thus, by avoiding this talk, I feel the agent is doing his client a disservice.
I recently had to have this difficult conversation with one of my players. I told him I had done everything I could to try and get him an NFL opportunity, but after almost two years of trying, I felt an obligation to be honest with him and tell him I did not think I would be able to get him that NFL opportunity that he so desperately wants. This conversation was particularly difficult because I feel the player does have the ability to play in the NFL.
I told him that if he felt another agent could get him a chance, I would terminate the Standard Representation Agreement (SRA) between us and that he would be free to sign with another agent. I also told him that if he did want to keep trying, I would stick by him and continue to do my best. I suggested he try playing in the CFL, getting some great game film and then trying to come back and play in the NFL. It does happen: Dolphins DE Cameron Wake is a prime example of this, and became one of the NFL’s best defensive lineman after a short stay north of the border. But again, Wake is the exception.
The conversation took place while I was having lunch with my wife. After we hung up, I turned to her and said, ‘you realize I feel like I just ruined that kid’s life and crushed his dream.’ However, is that really what I did? Or did I help my client by encouraging him to write his resume and get a job?
I recall Bill Parcells telling a client of mine that if the day ever came when he was tired of getting hit in the head on a daily basis, that there was no shame in moving on. I believe Bill was correct. In this case, the player is an extremely intelligent person, and as I told him, I felt he could be successful with or without the NFL, and that the NFL was not the end all and be all. As an intelligent young man, I told him I felt he could be very successful in the business world, and that if he did take my advice, I would do whatever I could to help him get his first job outside of football. As of now, I do not know what the player’s decision will be.
What I do know is that by being honest with my client, I had fulfilled the promise I make to every player or coach I represent: that I will never lie to them and always look out for their best interests. The final decision is always the players. Will he decide to take my advice and ‘hang up his cleats?’ That remains to be seen. However, I can sleep well at night knowing that although it was extremely difficult, I did what I had promised: I gave him the best advice I could.