This year was special for us at ITL because I got to see another former intern, Jared Leigh, not only get certified and pass the exam on his first try, but also land a player on a 90-man roster in his first year certified. I know that sounds like a no-big-deal proposition, but it’s actually quite a big deal. After tracking this annually, I’d estimate that only about 20 percent of independent rookie agents get a player drafted or signed as an undrafted free agent in their first year in the business.

Jared worked for us for two years, proving to be reliable, talented and capable. He even went to the Senior Bowl the year before getting certified just to get the lay of the land and make contacts. It’s no surprise to me that he’s well on his way to making it big.

Here are two other great stories I’ve heard from talking to the 19 first-year agents in the ITL family that already have players in the league. I found them inspirational and I hope you do, too.

1.In 2014, Sam Spina was new to South Florida, but knew he wanted to be involved in pro football. So he called poured all his efforts into volunteering with former Dolphins DE Jason Taylor’s foundation, which happened to share an office with Neostar Sports, a marketing agency that represents former Dolphins great Dan Marino. Sam volunteered at Marino’s appearances before finally telling Neostar owner Ralph Stringer that he wanted to work for him. This is where the story gets good.

When told there were no vacancies, Sam was undaunted. Instead of shrugging his shoulders and shuffling off to salve his wounded ego, he returned early the next day and moved all his stuff into Neostar’s offices anyway. When Stringer arrived, Sam was answering phones and taking messages. That led to a job with Neostar that opened enough doors that, after completing law school at St. Thomas, he took the NFLPA exam, passing on the first try last summer. This is the kind of confidence mixed with audacity that you must have to succeed in this industry.

2. Sometimes the difference between having a client in the NFL and not having one is hustle. West Coast-based agent Chris Chapman didn’t have anyone drafted, but he felt like one of his clients, Houston DE Nick Thurman, was a legitimate UDFA. So he called around for a rookie minicamp tryout on the first weekend and landed one with the Raiders, but he still wasn’t satisfied.

That’s when he called the Texans near the end of Saturday of draft weekend and was fortunate enough to get a scout on the phone. After hearing Chris make his case for Thurman, the scout promised Chris he’d add him to Houston’s tryout list on Sunday. But that’s not where the story ends.

The next day, Chris sees our tweet that the scout is one of four the Texans let go the day after the draft. Chris scrambled to find a phone number for the Texans’ offices, and after tracking down a team exec, pleads his case on Thurman’s behalf. That official actually calls the fired scout, who confirms that Thurman was to be added, though only on a tryout basis.

Thurman, after not winning a spot with Oakland, comes to Houston the following weekend and beats the odds by landing a coveted UDFA slot. Had Chris not followed ITL on Twitter, he’d not have known that the scout who promised Thurman a tryout was no longer in the building. Had he not reached out to the team immediately, Thurman would probably be on the street now instead of preparing to go to Houston for training camp in July.

These stories just scratch the surface of the amazing feats of 19 rookie agents we worked with in 2017-18, their first year in the business. If you’re getting ready to take the exam next month, make sure to let us know and we’ll add you to the list.

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