The best time of the year for me, professionally, is definitely January. It’s the time when I get to go on the road and hit four of the five major all-star games (College Gridiron Showcase, Tropical Bowl, Shrine Game and Senior Bowl) and really get out into the football world. It allows me to not only meet new people, but to have lengthy, more insightful, more detailed conversations with the people I know and trust in the game. It always give me new things to think about.

Here are a few nuggets from the road so far this year.

  • I spoke to a financial advisor this week who’s a longtime friend, and we talked about the times when it’s hardest to do his job. He said it’s normally as hard or harder to deal with parents than the players themselves. He discussed one time when he caught a parent writing checks to herself and signing her son’s name to them, and another time when a parent declared she was “tired of this piecemeal (stuff)” when she was unsatisfied with the amount of money being doled out to her. The worst thing is, when such incidents occur, the player is trapped. “It’s my mother,” he says. “What can I do?”
  • The departure of Gen. James Mattis as Secretary of Defense might be bad for the country, but it may be good for any players at service academies that aspire to play in the NFL. I learned from talking to an agent who regularly represents players at Army, Navy and Air Force that Mattis was a hard-liner when it came to players going right to the pros. That could change when a new Secretary of Defense is named, though it would be surprising if there’s a new policy in time for the 2019 NFL draft.
  • I was approached by a scout this week who actually thanked me for listing his exit from a previous team a couple years ago on my Twitter account. He told me it actually helped him find another opportunity. It’s never easy to bring the news of changes in scouting departments to cyberspace, but it’s pretty rewarding when it helps open another door.
  • Incidentally, I learned of two scouts who, after being relieved of their duties by one team, continued right on scouting. One of them found a new team to scout for and did just that, providing his reports and opinions for free for a full year. Another scout went back out on the road and stopped in with selected schools as if he never left. Eventually, both found new jobs. It’s just another reminder of (a) the passion of people in the industry and (b) the pure, unadulterated will you have to show to remain in it.
  • If there’s one concern that unites all agencies, it’s the rising cost of doing business. Two of the bigger agencies in the business, both of them based in Southern California (Rep1 Sports and Athletes First) have actually brought their training in-house, developing their own combine prep academies. However, there’s a new one on the scene this year. Capital Sports Advisors, a multi-agency firm that has advisors spread across the country, is sending its clients to South Florida to work one on one with some of the bigger names in the business. They include former Bears and Miami (Fla.) head coach Dave Wannstedt; former NFL linebacker Bryan Cox; former Steelers and Vikings offensive coordinator Ray Sherman; and former Bears, Browns and Packers defensive coordinator Bob Slowik. I personally spoke to one of their clients in the ’19 draft class who specifically cited CSA Academy as the reason he signed with the firm. It’s an innovative idea and one that might quickly gain traction.
  • If there’s one shortage in the NFL, it’s not at quarterback. It’s offensive linemen, and specifically tackles. I’ve been chewing on ideas on how to use the resources available today — elite training facilities, legitimate alternative leagues, and loads of tall, athletic players not quite good enough to play in the NBA — to turn players that would be on the street into NFL prospects. This week, I took a few more baby steps toward making that happen. I’ll keep you posted in this space as we progress.

That’s not my only wild idea. In today’s Friday Wrap, we’ll be introducing a modest proposal that might turn the all-star game model on its head (and make it a lot more interesting for all involved). You can register for the Friday Wrap here, and check out last week’s edition here.