2019 Personnel Symposium: Takeaways and Thoughts from Year 2

This week, my team and I presented our thoughts on how to get a job as an NFL scout at the second annual Personnel Symposium at the J.W. Marriott in Nashville. Jason Montanez of Catapult Leadership and Blake Beddingfield, former Director of College Scouting for the Titans, joined me as we took turns during ITL’s 30-minute segment.

Of course, though we were happy to share our knowledge at the request of CAA’s Ed Marynowitz, the founder of the event, I came away with new information of my own. Here are three of my personal takeaways from the two-day seminar in the Music City.

  • Don’t forget about the power of media, and specifically, social media: The NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah told the story of his introduction to social media shortly after being let go by the Browns. It was a lot of fun to hear in person, but here it is from a story in The Athletic:(ESPN’s Chris) Mortensen had told him to sign up for Twitter so he did. Jeremiah remembers being on an Alaskan cruise with his family and stopping by the internet cafe to check his email. He had 1,100 new messages.“I go, ‘What the heck?’ It was because I got a new email every time I got a new follower,” he remembers. “I could not figure this out. So I kept scrolling down, finally saw an email from Mort. ‘Hey, I just encouraged people to follow you on Twitter … you might want to tweet something.’ Because I hadn’t even tweeted anything.”
  • Persistence, done right, can be effective: Blake told the story of how he landed with Tennessee, but there’s a twist: it came due to his efforts trying to get a job with a different team. Shortly after graduating from Alabama, he was told by a friend of a vacancy with an NFL team, as well as who would be hiring to fill that vacancy. Blake decided to call that official once weekly, on a Thursday, at precisely 9 a.m., speaking for only one minute. After a time, the official began picking up with the greeting, “Hey, Blake.” Though he didn’t get the job, when the Titans were looking to hire, the official called and strongly endorsed Blake, who was subsequently hired.
  • Network or die: Michigan State Executive Director of Player Personnel and Recruiting Sheldon White was part of an excellent panel Tuesday that focused on hiring and getting a job. Sheldon, who has been in football for more than 30 years as a player, coach and executive on the NFL and college level, said he never interviewed for a job before taking his present position. That’s because he always focused on meeting people and building relationships that he could draw on when it became time to turn the page. He applauded the Inside the League presentation Monday night in which I encouraged everyone in attendance to leave with no fewer than five business cards from new friends/colleagues before returning home. If you went to Nashville, and you didn’t make several new associates in the business, you weren’t trying.

I asked a couple friends what they got out of the conference. Here’s what they told me:

  • “I think Ed Marynowitz and his staff did a very nice job of considering everyone’s feedback from last year’s event.  They listened intently and used the information to produce an even better version of the symposium this go-around. Obviously the panels are a main feature.  I particularly enjoyed hearing some of the more introspective answers from certain speakers – responses that emphasized the need to be adaptive and ever-evolving in this line of work.  We can all bring different talents and skills and ideas to our jobs, but above all, we are stewards of the Head Coach’s vision.  I thought it was great to hear some of those guys really hammer on the need to stay flexible and adapt to the changing landscape.” — Matt Doherty, former Director of Player Personnel at Miami (Fla.)
  • “My biggest takeaway from the speakers at the symposium: having one strong champion is better than having multiple people who know your name but don’t know you. If you can learn, you’ll be fine. People want to know about your character. And the same thing applies to recruiting. The character/off the field traits tend to play a bigger role in determining if you will be successful. Another thing as it relates to recruiting, while ranking guys 1-5 might be good, don’t pass up the number 2 or 3 guy if the top guy is slightly better. Lastly, the biggest thing that was reinforced to me was to trust my eyes when scouting.” — Andrew Liacopoulos, player personnel specialist at Boston College
If you were there this week, you probably have thoughts of your own on what you gained from this event. If you weren’t, and you work in college football (or care about scouting, evaluation and recruiting), we’ll be rounding up and reviewing the event in today’s Friday Wrap, which comes out this evening. It’s free, and you can read last week’s issue here. Sign up for it here.
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2019 Personnel Symposium: Listening to the Hires

As we head toward the 2019 Personnel Symposium in Nashville Monday and Tuesday, we’ve already told you about the people who’ll be on stage Monday afternoon and we’ve given you a profile of the people who got hired as NFL scouting assistants this year. Next up, it probably makes sense to talk to some of the young scouts already in the game to get their insights.

We spoke to about a half-dozen young people who are area scouts or seasoned scouting assistants over the past week, and their responses were excellent. Obviously, they talked about the value of hard work, of proving yourself to the right people, and of how their passion gave them a persistence others didn’t possess. However, some made points I hadn’t thought of, and these are the ones I wanted to focus on today. Here are a few selected quotes.

  • “Always be available. I was given opportunities early on simple because I was always around and always in the building. I was able to build a rapport with my bosses quicker than my counterparts.” The importance of being a ‘gym rat’ kinda gets lost sometimes, and I feel there’s a temptation to exhale once you get to a certain level. For those people who are willing to make their job their hobby, as well, there are certain rewards.
  • “It is vitally important to have mentors and champions in the field.  It could be a GM, a director, or an area scout and most likely it will be a combination of all the above. Being able to trust and bounce things off people is vitally important to keep you moving forward!” The idea of having a mentor is something that seems old-school, almost passe’, to a lot of people these days, but I still think it’s essential. At ITL, we have been humbled to serve in a semi-mentor capacity with plenty of people in the game. I’ve also benefited from being a mentee, which I’ve discussed in this space. It’s a valuable relationship.
  • “You’d be surprised stories you hear about people that say they desperately want to get in, and have had chances, but then when their name gets brought up you hear that they’re lazy or they didn’t put in the extra work to stand out when they got their shot.” In such an intensely competitive environment where everyone is watching, you’d expect that there would be few people slacking off, but it happens. So many in this game think they’ve made it when they secure a college personnel job, an internship or a scouting assistant position, but that’s not true. You can never take your foot off the gas in this game.

There’s a lot more to tell, and a lot more to talk about. We’ll have more details about Monday and Tuesday in Nashville in our Friday Wrap, which comes out tomorrow afternoon (you can register for it here). We’ll also have final details about our post-presentation plans Monday night; we’re still working everything out and nailing down a few final details. Stay tuned!

2019 Personnel Symposium: Who Do NFL Teams Want?

On Monday, the ITL team will be speaking to hundreds of college football personnel professionals at the 2019 Personnel Symposium. We’ll be talking about how to climb the ladder in the football personnel business, and specifically, how to get a scouting job in the NFL, for a half-hour, starting at 4:45 p.m. CT.

On Tuesday in this space, we wrote about the experts we’ll bring to the J.W. Marriott. I’m confident they’ll make points, tell stories and bring experiences that any aspiring NFL scout will find beneficial. Still, before a person begins seeking out a new job, it’s important to know what people are getting those jobs. That’s why we looked at the nine scouting assistants who were hired by NFL teams this summer, pulled from our list of all the scouting changes this spring and summer, to get a sense of what and who teams are seeking. Here’s what we found.

Do teams want former NFL players?: Not necessarily, or at least, it’s not a deal-breaker if a candidate hasn’t been a pro player. We counted four of the nine that had played NFL football, and most of them were strictly camp invitees. Based on our research, NFL playing experience was strictly a bonus.

Do teams want former college players?: The answer sure does appear to be ‘yes.’ Eight out of nine scouting assistants hired this term played in college, though it’s certainly not mandatory that it be at the Power 5 level. I’d estimate that at least half of those who played came out of FCS football or lower.

Do teams want people with college personnel experience?: Surprisingly, the answer is no. Though the growing college personnel departments seem like the perfect “farm team” for hires, two-thirds of this year’s hires had never worked in personnel at either the college or pro level. Maybe that’s just a one-year blip, maybe it’s a trend.

Do teams want people with NFL personnel experience?: Again, the answer is no. Six of the nine hires has never worked for an NFL team before.

Based on what we found out, it seems like who a candidate knows is more valuable than what he’s done in his career. Though that might not make much sense to the casual observer, it jibes with what we’ve always believed, and it’s one reason that we’ll talk about networking, relationship-building, and turning an acquaintance into a contact Monday night in Nashville.

I hope you can join us and hear our speakers. You can register here. However, if you can’t, maybe you can join us afterward for a drink. More details on that Thursday.

 

 

2019 Personnel Symposium: Meet Our Speakers

Next week in Nashville, I’ll be joining two friends to speak at the second annual Personnel Symposium at the J.W. Marriott Aug. 5-6. I’m honored to be part of this year’s festivities, and flattered that Ed Marynowitz, the former college (Alabama) and pro (Eagles) administrator and scout, asked me to contribute. My team and I are looking forward to meeting the 200-or-so scouting professionals who’ll be in attendance.

This week, in this space, I’ll be talking about our presentation in the Music City. That means I’m going to presume that, if you’re reading, it’s your desire to become an NFL scout someday. Over the next four days, we’ll talk about who will be speaking for us; what people who hire NFL scouting assistants are looking for; who’s getting hired, i.e., what are the characteristics of the people who are becoming scouting assistants; and what qualities young scouts say were important reasons why they got hired. In other words, we’re going to look at all sides of what it takes to get a job in the NFL.

Let’s start by talking about the two men who’ll share the floor with me for 30 minutes, all told, next week. They’re both good friends, but more than that, they’ve got a lot to say about the subject we’ll be discussing.

Jason Montanez of Catapult Leadership: Jason was a fullback in the early ’00s at Buffalo after spending his high school days playing in a suburb of New York City. Though Jason is still a young man, he’s quickly gained respect as a leadership guru and sales expert who’s in demand by corporations and business leaders. He’s also authored two books, I’ve Got 99 Things to Quit and Giving Up Is One and Lead, Sell, Care as Easy as 1, 2, 3. Jason’s energy level is infectious, and he’s as knowledgeable as he is convicting. Everyone who knows Jason gets a boost from his attitude, his delivery and his style, but you won’t like Jason (solely) because of his personality. He’s got a lot to say about how to get ahead in business. Especially the football business. You can follow Jason on Twitter here.

Blake Beddingfield, former Director of College Scouting, Titans: Blake is no stranger to any of last year’s attendees, as he represented ITL at the 2018 symposium. Blake spent almost three decades with the Titans and did almost everything in their scouting department, so he’s the voice of experience. What makes Blake so valuable is not only that he has had a front-row seat for the hiring process and development of most members of Tennessee’s scouting staff, but he also was around for the career of the late C.O. Brocato, one of the true “warriors” of the scouting profession. Blake not only knows today’s hiring trends, but he knows what creates longevity in a career. He’s also funny and engaging, a really great guy who’s willing to help others. You can follow him on Twitter here.

We’ll talk about what young scouts say about why they got the job tomorrow.

2019 NFL Agent Exam: The Wrap-up

As promised, we’re back to share a few last thoughts after a whirlwind week in Washington, D.C. Based on conversations and comments from dozens of test-takers — many of which were shared in last week’s Friday Wrap — here’s what we learned.

The General Licensing Agreement question was tricky: Here’s how one agent hopeful framed it: “The GLA question was absurdly construed the way it was asked. I understood everything having to do with the GLAs, but that question was the hardest for me to answer just because of how it was worded.” If you are one of those people taking the exam next year (or possibly re-taking it), watch out for that question.

We’re pretty sure former NFL great Marshall Faulk took the exam: More than one test-taker claimed he saw the former Rams rusher in the exam room. “I did see Marshall Faulk about five minutes before the test was about to begin and still had second thoughts as to whether it was him or not. Very interested to see what his plans are; glad that other people saw him, too.”

Don’t rely too much on the pre-test seminar: This is something we constantly preach. Very often, test-takers roll into D.C. thinking they can learn everything the day before the test, but this is risky at best. “The NFLPA seminar was really good and informative,” said one. “However, prospective agents should not rely on the seminar to provide them with the data they will need to pass the test (it doesn’t take the place of rigorous studying).”

Our prep materials will give anyone taking the exam an edge: At the risk of sounding arrogant, we feel really good about the services we offer, and we’re confident that no one else can match what we provide. “Neil, I just wanted to drop a quick note and let you know that I would not have been able to navigate studying for the exam without your notes and outline,” said one very kind client. “A tremendous help.”

For now, we’re playing the waiting game with the numerous people we worked with over the last several weeks. We’re expecting results in a month to six weeks. In the meantime, consider signing up for our Friday Wrap. Thousands of people across the industry use it for a regular review of the business, and we think you should, too.

 

2019 NFL Agent Exam: One Last Shot

As I write this, we are exactly 24 hours away from the apex of Agent Week 2019, the exam itself. By most estimates, around 200 people will take the test tomorrow afternoon.

Statistically, the ones who’ve used our study materials will do best, passing at better than a two-thirds rate. Those who don’t will fail more than half the time.

Here are a few unsolicited testimonials from people who are in the room today.

  • “Definitely ready to take this exam on Friday thanks to you!”
  • “Thank you for all the support throughout the prep process. The newsletters have been very insightful as well.”
  • “It’s goin’ great! I really appreciate (the study guide)! I’m studying it hard as ever!”
  • “Thanks to you I’m feeling more than confident!”
  • Practice exam 2 was extremely helpful.”
  • “I can’t thank you enough for your help and especially the (study guide). It’s incredible; I’d be completely screwed without it.”
  • “I really appreciate you! And the tests you have are a big help!”
  • “Man, so far that study guide has been spot on.”
  • “Thank God I have your (study guide).”
  • I’m feeling very good about it because of your practice exam so I’m really glad I signed up. Your service was a lifesaver. . . Thank you so much again, your help will truly be the reason I pass!

If you’re sitting alongside these people today, best of luck, and I really hope you pass the exam. But if you’re feeling even a little bit unsure of what’s ahead, and your chances tomorrow, please give us a shot.

2019 NFL Agent Exam: Prices and Perspective

It’s Agent Week 2019! If you’re one of those people getting on a plane today, ready to head to Washington, D.C., for the 2019 NFLPA Exam, I know you’re excited, and I bid you safe travels.

Hopefully, you’ve spent the last several weeks preparing for the exam. Maybe you’ve been too busy to do that, and your first exposure to the CBA will take place on the flight in. Either way, you’re probably wondering what it’s going to cost to achieve your dream of becoming a successful NFL agent. In other words, how much money will it take to actually build a network, represent active NFL players, and make money doing it? Here’s a quick overview in round numbers.

  • Let’s say you pass the exam, which we hope you do. It will cost about $5,000 to register for the exam, pay first-year dues, and buy liability insurance. By the time you fly to D.C., pay for a room for a couple days, and eat, you’re looking at another $1,000 or so. Let’s say it’s $6,000 simply to take the exam and become a contract advisor.
  • Depending on where you decide to recruit, it’s going to cost you at least another couple hundred dollars, and more commonly a couple thousand, just to register with the respective states. Of course, you might choose not to register, but if you’re an attorney, you are probably loathe to risk a censure or disciplinary action, so you probably will (and if you’re recruiting Texas, you better). Let’s say $1,000, just to choose a round number, though that’s the floor if you recruit anywhere that has real prospects.
  • Let’s skip to January, and you are fortunate enough to sign 2-3 players that are worthy of the attention of NFL scouts (thought that’s probably a long shot, as a rookie agent). Keep in mind that, in 2019, every player of any import knows his worth. At a minimum, you are looking at $20,000 to train three players. You will spend probably another $3,000 on various expenses related solely to players — buying them a plane flight home mid-training; buying them workout clothes; renting them a car — and that’s a very conservative number. But let’s say $23,000, so we’re at around $30,000.
  • Travel, lodging and food are a big expense when you’re recruiting. Over the course of December, January and February, when you are fighting to sign players, then traveling to all-star games and the combine for the annual seminar, often buying flights late and renting hotel rooms in out-of-the-way places, I’d say you’ll spend another $5,000-$7,000, and again, that’s pretty conservative.
  • You’re going to spend another $2,000 to $3,000 somewhere along the way. Maybe it’s on a draft-day party, a stray rental payment for a player’s girlfriend, tickets to an NBA game, whatever. It adds up.

Bottom line, if you really do this, pursuing legitimate prospects and going for it, you’re looking at around $35,000.

On the other hand, maybe you don’t recruit at all, signing only players that call you. You don’t register in any states, waiting to sign a player late and only registering in the state from which he came. You manage to convince your clients to train at school, or on their own, and they relent because they don’t have any choice. Your clients don’t get into all-star games or the combine, so you don’t have to travel so much. You’re still gonna wind up spending around $7,000-$8,000, even if you go the super-cheap route. And you still get to live your dream. You’re an NFL agent, even if you’re not exactly living large.

This weekend is about realizing a lifelong goal. Be smart about spending your money, but don’t pretend you don’t have to spend any money. That’s one reason we strongly recommend you don’t try to save a couple hundred dollars studying solely on your own, especially when we have proven, reliable materials that will drive up your chance of succeeding Friday. Isn’t it worth it to spend a little more to make sure you pass? We think so.

Of course, whatever you choose, we wish you good luck this weekend, and we look forward to working with you. Welcome to the biz!

2019 NFL Agent Exam: After the Exam

We’ve done a lot of talking about the NFLPA exam which is slated for next week, and, of course, we’ve touted our test materials. However, the exam is just step one in any agent’s career, with many important steps to follow.

While the exam is tough, actually being an agent is tougher. There’s a reason why, by my estimates, only about 10-15 percent of any agent class last five years or more. It’s because so many contract advisors don’t understand what they face entering the league and never adapt to what they should do to make it in the business.

Here’s my advice.

  • Know what success looks like: So, so many agents are rightly excited when they sign their first client. I get it. But honestly, that’s not so hard to do. If you look hard enough, and answer all the calls and emails from desperate draft-eligible players, you’ll sign someone. What most agents don’t realize is that signing the wrong person becomes a real albatross. Just signing someone, at the end of the day, means nothing.
  • Know when to spend money: I’d say spending money poorly is the No. 1 reason why agents fail. So many agents stumble through the fall in Year 1, then, in December or January, spend thousands on training for a player who didn’t get an all-star invite, isn’t going to the combine, and really isn’t a prospect at all.
  • Know when to be an agent, and when to be a human being: One of the classic mistakes many new agents make is that they unwisely think their most important quality is their ability to negotiate, which often pushes them to be skeptical and negative. This is especially true of the young agents who come out of the bigger sport management programs; for four years, they’re given misconceptions about the business. But I digress. The bottom line is, if you’re a first-year, independent agent, you’re going to a gunfight with a pillow. You have no horsepower. Rather than trying to bluff your way to success, or bully people, or whatever, try being fair, professional and friendly. I promise no one will take this as weakness, or at least, more people won’t than will. Plus, you don’t really have any other options. I’ve seen ’em come and I’ve seen ’em go in this business, and more often than not, the know-it-all guys have the least success.

Those are a few quick thoughts. In the meantime, in my humble opinion, spending $29.95/mo to become an ITL subscriber is the best investment a new agent can make, because we can steer new agents through the first-year maze. But first things first. If you’re a new agent, and you’ve been trying to decide whether it’s worth it to pay for study aids, I highly recommend you take a look at what we offer.

Here’s a full explanation of our study guide and both practice exams. If you’re still not sold, at least sign up for our free Friday Wrap, which will give you a much better idea of what we do, and at no cost. Here’s a look at last week’s edition.

2019 NFL Agent Exam: How to Pass

At Inside the League, we get a lot of questions on how you work in football, and particularly, how you become an agent. Obviously, to become an NFLPA-licensed contract advisor, you must first pass a test. This year’s exam will be administered in less than two weeks. So how do you pass the exam? Based on our work with agent hopefuls over the last eight years, here’s what we think.

  • Take the test seriously. Here’s a quote from one of our clients who emailed me immediately after taking it last year: “Like you predicted, there were several people in the lobby (seconds before the exam) seemingly reviewing materials for the first time and highlighting! All I could do was chuckle!” This happens every year, even though there’s a 55 percent chance of failing it. And oh, by the way, don’t misunderstand this tweet and think the passage rate is near 100 percent. The tweet refers to a continuing education exam veteran contract advisors were required to take last year.
  • Know what accrued season, credited season and benefit credit language are. Atlanta-based agent Spencer Charles, who took the exam last summer, called them the “three pillars” that are “indirectly or directly . . . encoded in 60 to 75 percent of the exam.” I think he’s right.
  • Put tabs on your notes, your copy of the CBA, and the ITL study guide (you can buy it here) before you go into the exam. Even though it’s an open-book test, seconds count. Really. You’ll thank me later.
  • Use our materials. I know that sounds like a shameless plug, but I would say this even if they weren’t ours. Read about the successes of our clients, and why our materials are best, in last week’s Friday Wrap, which is here. For about $400 (if you’re not an ITL client), and about $300 (if you are), you can have the best resources on the market to get ready for the test. You’ll need them, and really, why would you take a risk? For more details on what we offer, click here.
  • Read our daily newsletters aimed directly at the people taking the exam this summer. You can start by reading dozens of success stories from last year here. We’ve got a new edition from our series that hits the inboxes of agent hopefuls every morning at 6 a.m. CT, Monday through Thursday. If you order any of our materials, you’ll be added.

We’ll be back this week with more advice, more ideas, and more counsel on the business. In the meantime, if we can be of service, or if you have any questions, be sure to contact us.

2019 NFL Agent Exam: Lessons Learned

Monday, we published the Year 1 fears of several people who’ll be taking the NFLPA exam later this month (July 18, to be exact). It sparked a reaction on Twitter from a veteran contract advisor, with a handful of other agents “liking” his tweet. Members of the NFL business community are passionate about the business; they have to be if they want to succeed in such a competitive environment.

So what were the lessons learned by first-year agents over the past 12 months? We asked several of the clients we worked with this year. Here were some of the lessons they said they learned.

Don’t go in expecting a daily party: “Being an agent is not all glitz and glamour. . .  This is not a job where you are hanging out with players all day, every day,” said Peter Ariz of First-Round Management. Peter was the only rookie agent from 2018 who co-repped a first-rounder, Texans OT Tytus Howard of Alabama State.

Scouts are not your friends: “The difficulty of making connections on the scouting side” is one of the hardest parts of the business according to Austin Pfenninger of Pfenninger Management Group, who had two players sign UDFA deals.

Save money for combine prep: “Have more information on the training process for clients,” cautioned Sean Russi, whose first-year success landed him a role as director of AG Sports. “Training fees can cost around $20,000 for pre-draft training at high-end training facilities.”

Don’t count your chickens . . . . : “Just because you have multiple conversations with potential clients doesn’t guarantee anything,” said Anthony LaRubbio of JL Sports, who had a draftee and two UDFAs in his first year in the biz. “These athletes are 21, 22, 23 years old, and have a lot of people in their ears. Things can change in an instant.”

Film counts, not numbers: “(Don’t) get too bogged down on stats,” said Chad Berger of Enter-Sports. “A player’s film speaks more to NFL decision-makers than what the stats say on paper.”

For more reactions from first-year agents, check out our full spate of interviews here. We wrote extensively about expectations and lessons in last week’s Friday Wrap. You can register for the Friday Wrap — it’s free, and everyone in the football business reads it — here.

Of course, you can’t learn the lessons of being an agent until you are one. The exam is just about two weeks away. If you’re one of those people who’s getting set to take the exam, make sure you check out our study guide and two practice exams, the leading aids on the market. You can read more about them here.