Post-Draft Stories of Success and Spirit in the ’17 NFL Agent Class

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.


Advice for New NFL Agents: Greg ‘Tripp’ Linton

Last week, I asked Casey Muir of Octagon Football to give me three points for new agents, three big things the people taking the NFLPA exam next month need to know in their first year as a contract advisor. If you missed it, stop and read it now. It was full of good advice and things you probably didn’t learn in sport management class.

It was so good that I decided to make it a series. This week, I asked Greg Linton of HOF Player Representatives to do the same thing. I’m always being asked by major firms to give me 5-10 names of young, rising agents who represent the next wave, and Greg is always one that I recommend (Casey used to be one, as well, in his pre-Octagon days). That made Greg a natural for advice.

Here’s what Greg, known as ‘Tripp’ to his friends, told me.

  • “First thing I tell new agents, and they often don’t understand what I’m saying, is that you have to learn the things you don’t know that you don’t know. For instance, a lot of people say, I live in Texas, so I have all these schools where I can recruit, but they don’t know that at Texas and Texas A&M, the coaches there may be advising their top players to sign with their own agents. (Players at) certain schools are going to do certain things based on who their head coaches are. A lot of (new agents) go after guys and go bankrupt because (the schools or coaches) aren’t honest. They need to talk to people like (Inside the League), other agents willing to give them help, and things like that. It just saves you time and money.
  • “Second thing, I don’t spend other people’s money and I don’t spend money that I don’t have. A lot of guys will get investors and get loans, and they think a guy is gonna go in the third round, and then he goes undrafted. Now (the agent’s) in debt, and their investors are like, ‘you told me we’d make this money and now we aren’t,’ and (the investors) pull out. (Many agents) who had investors are now out of the business. I guess that’s where my economics background comes in. I’m not overspending. My bachelor’s is in economics, with a dual major in finance and marketing, and I have my MBA. That’s an issue. Everything we do at (HOF Player Representatives), I’m the one that’s saying ‘no’ when it doesn’t make sense financially. Most people will pay to sign a draft pick and think they’re gonna keep the guy and make big money, and it does not work that way. Don’t assume that A is going to lead to B. Don’t assume you sign a player and he’s drafted in third round, so it means you’re gonna get the (tackle) next year who’s a first- or second-rounder. (Agents) overspend and get guys because they think they’re gonna get the guy from next year. That doesn’t work either.
  • “Other thing I would say is, I did a four-year study on the draft grades (provided by the two combines, BLESTO and National Football Scouting), but outside of the top 100-150 guys, those grades don’t mean anything. People swear by them, but I’m to the point now where I let (other) people do it. I guess I could say trust your eye, but most agents don’t know football. You have to take into account medicals and workouts, and those are the kinds of things you don’t have in June.

“That’s a start. Those are the three things that would help, in my opinion.”

If you want more advice on the business, and what agents say some important Year 1 lessons are, make sure you’re reading our Friday Wrap. It comes out Friday evenings every week, it’s free, it’s read by thousands of people in the NFL business community, and you can register for it here.

Touching A Nerve in the NFL Agent Community

NFL contract advisors are pretty independent-minded, and it’s not easy to get all 830 of them to agree on anything. However, we found out this week that the NFLPA managed to do just that when, for the first time ever, it asked agents to pass a 25-question ‘continuing education’ exam this month.

In three seminars held at the combine, in New Orleans, and in Baltimore this spring, respectively, agents expressed their frustration toward NFLPA officials. Specifically, they were upset that the players association was asking its dues-paying members to pass a test that could determine their hard-earned professional standing in a high-visibility profession. Some even threatened lawsuits.

Agents complained that the content they’d be tested on was undefined; that failure to pass the first time could jeopardize clients cut in September; and that the NFLPA hadn’t even told them how many of the 25 questions they must answer correctly to pass. Still, the NFLPA held the line, and contract advisors submitted their answers to the web-based exam by midnight on Tuesday of this week. And though they complied, it didn’t mean participants were happy about it. But just how unhappy were they? We decided to find out.

On Thursday, we sent out a brief, four-question survey to all 830 contract advisors. In it, we asked the following:

  • Having attended one of the three NFLPA seminars this year, how would you describe the Players Association’s explanation of and reasoning for the continuing education exam?
  • Having taken the continuing education exam, which best describes it?
  • How would you characterize taking a test without knowing how many answers you must get right to pass?
  • In the event, remote as it is, you are told you didn’t pass the exam, what do you plan to do?

We gave 3-4 options on each question, trying our best to avoid leading the responses and working to be even-handed. It was something we hoped would at least earn the attention of a pretty critical segment of the NFL business population. Given that it’s summer, there was no fanfare, and our window was pretty tight (we sent it out before noon CT on Thursday and asked for responses before 11 p.m. CT), we’d hoped to get about 30 responses.

We got a lot more than that, with more than 10 percent of the agent class (95) responding despite work schedules, summer vacations and spam filters. We also solicited comments, and we got plenty of those, too. Some were quite fiery.

We’ll have a complete breakdown of the responses today in the Friday Wrap. Most of our respondents were united in their answers to each of the questions, with a clear majority selecting one option on three of the four questions. Based on the feedback from our highly un-scientific poll, agents are angry; they question the NFLPA’s motives; and they are uncertain about what the future holds.

Make sure to get the full rundown on the results by checking out today’s Friday Wrap, which will be out at 6:30 p.m. CT. You can register for it here.

Octagon’s Casey Muir on How to Achieve NFL Agent Success

Earlier this week, Philadelphia-based Casey Muir of Octagon Football texted me this: “Btw, if you ever need an agent to give advice to new agents on Succeed in Football, just lmk.” If this was just a throwaway line that he expected me to forget, big mistake. I immediately commissioned a blog post from him on how to succeed in football as an independent contract advisor.

There are few people more qualified to write this. Casey is with Octagon now, but he wasn’t always with a big firm. I remember the early years with Casey. He became an ITL client in his first year as a contract advisor, and there are so many stories of his long-ago trials that I can remember.

Now we can laugh about them. In an incredibly short period (he was certified in 2012), he’s gone from eager but youthful to seasoned and respected. I’ve recommended him to multiple big-name firms in the past 3-4 years before, ironically, he finally did land with an established agency with no help from me. In his first year as Director of Football at Octagon, the firm got back into the first round (UCLA OT Kolton Miller went 1/15 to the Raiders) for the first time since 2014, and had four draftees. The firm had just one draftee, a third-rounder, in 2017.

This time of year, with so many aspiring contract advisors prepping for next month’s NFLPA exam in Washington, D.C. – many of them using our study guide and/or practice test – I thought it would be a great time to get some sage advice from a person who’s made it where they hope to be. With that said, I’ll turn it over to Casey.


So, you want to succeed in football as a NFL agent? Get ready for an uphill battle.

Like the overwhelming majority of new agents, I wasn’t fortunate enough to start my career at a major agency. I think most people enter this business simply because it seems like a fun way to make a living and they jump right in, with zero contacts, no clue what it really takes and, worst of all, no plan.

So what does it really take to succeed? I think it’s important to point out that everyone’s definition of success is different. My personal definition of success is always evolving and I am constantly pushing that bar higher and higher, so if I ever finally get there, I’ll let you know. For now, the best I can do is tell you what I’ve experienced and give you a few thoughts on what it may take you to achieve your definition of success in this business.

  • First, have a plan. My plan was always longevity. I’ve seen countless agents who started at the same time as me, and many who started after, leave the business because they made too many bad business decisions. My thought was always, ‘live to fight another day.’ In my mind, the longer you stay in this business, the more time you have to work on your craft and the greater chance you have of finally breaking through. With that in mind, never forget this is a business. There are only so many hours in the day and so much money in your bank account. You have to make sound business decisions on which players you spend time recruiting and which players you spend your training budget on. If you don’t truly believe a player has a legitimate shot at the next level, don’t waste significant time/money on the player just so you can “play” agent. Live to fight another day.
  • Second, remember that like most things in life, this business is ‘Relationship and Sales 101.’ How can you connect with each individual player? What can you do to differentiate yourself from every other agent a player meets with? Additional legal services? Marketing expertise? Tax services? Personal attention? Whatever it may be that helps you connect and sets you apart, figure it out, package it and drive that point home.
  • The best and final piece of advice I can give you is this: You have to want it. I mean really WANT it. The road to success in this business is a long and winding one, and it will not happen overnight. In the beginning, there will be an overwhelming amount of failure and rejection. So much so that you may begin to hear the word ‘no’ in your sleep. You also likely won’t make much money in this business for at least a few years. You will question yourself. Your family and friends will wonder aloud if you’re wasting your time. There will be plenty of times when you want to quit. Do you want it bad enough to fight through the rejection? Are you self-aware enough to learn from the many mistakes you will inevitably make? Do you want it bad enough to work a full-time job, while also spending full-time hours as an agent? Are you willing to put in the early mornings and late nights? Are you willing to give up weekend fun with friends and family? Do you want it bad enough to not quit, despite all the signs clearly pointing you toward the exit?

I can’t give you the exact roadmap to success because there isn’t one. Success in the agent business takes patience, passion, perseverance, mental toughness, self-confidence and a work ethic that won’t quit. Based on my experience, if you can handle everything I mentioned above, then you can find a way to make it. Above all else, always remember, recruit, recruit, recruit,  because when you aren’t, I am. Good luck.

NFL Scouts’ Thoughts For People Taking the ’18 NFLPA Exam

We’re about six weeks from the 2018 NFLPA Contract Advisor exam, which means everyone headed to D.C. in July is (or should be) studying like a busy bee and doing everything possible to learn the CBA. And they should be. Many of them are already using the ITL practice agent exam to get ready; by the way, in about 10 days, we’ll have a second exam for aspiring agents to use.

Anyway, once we get past the test, there are a few things to know. For example, scouts are a big part of the game and always play a role in an agent’s success.

With that in mind, we reached out to several active NFL scouts (18, to be exact) and asked them this question: With a new agent class getting ready to take the exam next month, what’s one thing about new agents that makes your job harder? Is it a belief that their client is entitled to a workout/place on an NFL team? Is it the bombarding emails? Is it continually having to explain basic aspects of the draft process? Is it handling their intrusions at pro days? Is it their general lack of understanding of your job?

We got 15 responses, an incredibly high return on such a question. Obviously, we touched a nerve, though not all scouts had a negative reaction. Here are a few of their responses:

  • “The toughest aspects are (that) guys not adjusting to the fact we have access to much more information, much earlier than in times past (so, yes, emails with fabricated or exaggerated 40 times, shuttles, etc. are annoying); integrity (and) doing what you say you’re going to in all areas (this ties in with their lack of ability to educate and manage their clients’ careers); and transparency (this likely can be an issue on the personnel side as well). Just being upfront about one, what the client wants or needs, and two, divulging information on the front end before things get out of hand, (is important).”
  • “Surprisingly, the new agents are easier to work with than the old agents. The old agents think they know everything and they tend to push boundaries. The new agents generally are nervous and tend to ask more questions about the process and are willing to listen when they ask about one of their clients. They tend to be a little more passive at first so they can build relationships. . . that has been my experience with them.”
  • “It would be the emails and the inability to understand that sometimes their guy just isn’t good and there’s no place on the roster for him. Sometimes they pound the table for the same guys for months and they’ll lose the scout.”
  • “I deal with agents on the pro side. The guys I like dealing with the most are the ones who don’t bombard you with emails (I actually got an email from an agent the other day with a follow-up email stating he used the wrong template on the previous email and sent the wrong info on the wrong player). Accessibility and quick responses to phone calls are always appreciated, but don’t blow me up with texts and emails. I know they are working on behalf of their guys but I think there is a fine line between providing info and going too far and becoming annoying.  I respect what they do but I don’t need to be on an auto email list that sends me your available clients every day!”

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Besides their general unhappiness with the volume of emails new (really, most) agents send, there are other good points scouts made about what to do and not do to in dealing with teams, especially if you’re a new agent. Some even had positive things to say about new contract advisors, which I found refreshing.

You can check it out in our Friday Wrap, which comes out in about three hours. It’s totally free, and you can register for it here. If you’re getting ready for this summer’s big exam, it’s must reading. But really, if you are in any part of the football business, we recommend you register for our weekly newsletter. We don’t think you’ll be sorry.


Rounding Up the ’18 NFL Scouting Changes

Welcome to June, and the unofficial end of NFL scout and executive hiring (and firing) season. Though it started a little slow, it was an exciting month of May, filled with intrigue and projection, much like the month of April.

As of the latest move we reported today, we’ve tracked 112 moves (promotions, reassignments, hirings and firings). About a hundred is the over/under for most springs.

Now that the National Football Scouting and BLESTO meetings are over, we can take a fuller look at the teams that reconfigured their scouting departments and make a few observations (most of them prompted by recent GM hires). Hopefully you joined Orlando Alzugaray and myself on SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Radio last weekend as we ran everything down. But if you didn’t, here’s a quick overview.

Team Changes GM movement
Browns Hired Alonzo Highsmith & Eliot Wolf (Packers); used Scot McCloughan (Redskins) as consultant; hired Steve Malin (Saints); hired 4 from Chiefs Hired John Dorsey as GM Dec. 2017
Chiefs Hired Michael Bradway (Eagles); lost 4 to Browns; hired new scouting coordinator (Saints); promoted 6 Fired Dorsey as GM, hired Brett Veach summer of ’17
Eagles Hired Shawn Heinlen (Bills), Patrick Stewart (Patriots); lost Bradway (Chiefs) and Tom Hayden (Texans); promoted 5 Restored Howie Roseman as GM Jan. 2016
Jets Hired Jon Carr (Texans); lost Matt Bazirgan (Texans); hired 1 from Packers, 1 from Bills, promoted 1; fired 2 Hired Mike Maccagnan as GM Jan ’15
Packers Hired Patrick Moore (Browns); promoted 9 Hired Brian Gutekunst as GM Jan. ’18
Texans Hired Matt Bazirgan as DPP (Jets); hired James Liipfert as college director (Patriots); also hired scouts from Cardinals, Saints, Vikings; promoted 2; fired 4 Hired Brian Gaine as GM Jan. ’18
Titans Promoted Ryan Cowden to VP personnel; promoted 4 Hired Jon Robinson as GM Jan. ’16

A few things to add:

  • The biggest story-that-turned-out-to-be-a-non-story was in Oakland, where we heard since before the draft that the arrival of Jon Gruden meant a lot of rancor and unrest in the front office. A month later, however, everyone is still in place. It’s possible this is because all scouts are still under contract and owner Mark Davis didn’t want to write a bunch of checks. We’ll continue to monitor things there.
  • Also, as ESPN’s Jordan Raanan pointed out on Twitter Thursday, the Giants have a few assignment shifts and moves they’ll be announcing soon, maybe today. New GM Dave Gettleman mostly went status quo in Year 1 back in New York, though several scouts were given one-year, prove-it deals, and may not be back to see the 2020 draft.
  • There are still a few teams making lesser moves, mainly replacing combine scouts and scouting assistants. They include the Chargers and 49ers, though there may be a couple more (here’s one of the Chargers moves, announced today). However, we don’t anticipate any true headline-grabbing hires.

To check out the most comprehensive listing of who went where on the Internet, including moves (sometimes) still to be reported, check out the 2018 ITL Scouting Changes Grid. To check out the movement every year since 2014, the first year we started tracking things comprehensively, click here.

Also, for a look at how quickly some teams turned things around after a GM change or a major front office hire, take a look at today’s report on ITL. We’ll also analyze this year’s moves further and put them in the context of recent turnover in today’s Friday Wrap. It will be out this evening, and you can register for it here.

Who’s the Master of the Mock Draft? Talking to Drew Boylhart of The Huddle Report

Today in our Friday Wrap (you can register for it here), we talk to Drew Boylhart of The Huddle Report. Drew and the site’s founder, Rob Esch, do an incredible job of tracking the accuracy of mock drafts and Top 100 lists across the web every year.

In our newsletter, which will be out in less than three hours, we talk to Drew about how the site got started, how the rankings are set up, and who really rocks at predicting who’s going where. As for the Top 100 lists, Boylhart said Bob McGinn, a veteran of Wisconsin newspapers who launched his own site in 2017, excels.

“This year, Bob McGinn got 86,” Boylhart said. “He’s won it three times, and has an 82.8 average. He was in the 13th spot this year with his five-year average, and was in the top five with his board this year. He’s won it the most, three times. He’s able to call contacts and get names. McGinn has a tremendous amount of contacts and he can call them up and get into, just like Gosselin.

“Rob has had lunch a couple times with (Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News, who also excels at predicting picks and players), and McGinn is the same way. They really are interested in what they’re doing and they interact with scouts and GMs, and they keep secrets so they can interact with them.”

Though some are better than others, Boylhart said there’s a fair amount of randomness to the mock draft process.

“Rob himself won it one year,” he said. “It’s like the lottery. Anyone can win. You don’t have to be in the system to win. My 94-year-old mother could win.

Evan Silva (of Rotoworld) did the best this year. 10 matches, which is highly unusual. He got 28 of 32 players in the first round. He did a really good job this year. But many, many times, you’ll do great one year and bottom of the barrel next year. It’s a real crapshoot.”

Tracking consistency has become difficult because so many sites don’t last long.

“The funny thing about them is, these sites go in and out so fast,” said Boylhart, 66. “These guys are dropping off like crazy. Seems like every 3-5 years, they’ll start a site, and most of these guys are kids, and they think an NFL team is gonna notice them, and their friend who went to college with them is an intern someplace, but they get discouraged after five years.

“It’s a lot of work. Most of them have jobs and want to be successful at their jobs, and after three years, its’ not fun.”

He said it’s also hard dealing with the abuse, particularly on Twitter.

“I can’t tell you the stuff they say to me,” said Boylhart of the controversy his profiles have generated. “I had one person tell me I should have been pulled from the womb of my mother because he didn’t like the profile I did. I had a parent call me at midnight, drunk as a skunk. Twitter is a beast. The stuff they say on Twitter, it’s incredible.”

Boylhart said the key to The Huddle Report’s longevity is that he and his partner take things in stride.

“We’re entertainment,” he said. “I have no agenda, I don’t think I’m gonna be hired by a team. I don’t break down film, and I’m not gonna suggest I’m a scout. I’m probably the furthest thing from a scout. I’m a profiler. I try to profile players on whether they’re gonna be successful or not.”

For more from Drew, make sure you register for our newsletter here.

Examining NFL Hiring and Firing Trends In Scouting

There are still a few teams — the Saints, Patriots, Chargers and possibly Browns come to mind — that have openings in their respective scouting departments. At the same time, Memorial Day weekend signals the traditional end of hiring and firing season in NFL personnel departments.

With that in mind, we thought we’d take a look at the trends for 2018, and compare this year’s post-draft period to last year and previous seasons. All our information is culled from the Scouting Changes Grid we compile each season. This year’s grid is here. You can find all of the grids we’ve compiled since 2014 here.

  • With new full-time GMs in New York, Charlotte, Cleveland, Houston and Green Bay, it was expected that this would be an incredibly busy offseason. So far, not so. Last year, we tracked a whopping 170 moves — hirings and firings, promotions and reassignments — and 126 in 2016. To date, we’ve tracked 89 moves.
  • For a while, it looked like colleges would become the logical landing spot for ex-scouts, but we’ve only tracked two such hires (Tampa Bay’s Pat Perles to Kansas as an analyst and Atlanta’s Kevin Simon to Tennessee in a player development role) this offseason. Why? A new rule allowing a 10th coach on the field in college football is credited with pulling money away from the personnel side and into the coaching side.
  • It’s getting harder and harder to get back into the league. We counted 30 members of scouting and personnel who got let go between the end of the ’16 season and start of the ’17 season, most of them last spring. Of that 30, only 10 are back in football as of this week. And only eight of them are back in the NFL (former Chiefs exec Will Lewis and ex-Titans scout Tim Ruskell are now GMs in the Alliance of American Football).
  • Area scouts seem as disposable as ever, and maybe more so. Nine area scouts were let go after the ’17 draft. Only one — former Bills scout Shawn Heinlen, who was hired by the Eagles — is back in the league.
  • The reason is that teams seem to be elevating their own people. We counted 11 area scouts hired this spring (though they have various specific titles), and of the 11, five — about half — were in-house hires as either promotions or reassignments.
  • Staying in-house is actually part of a larger trend. Sixty people got hired to new jobs this spring. Of those 60, 24 didn’t have to change addresses. Again, almost half.
  • At the same time that it’s hard to get a second job in scouting, loyalty isn’t always valued, either. Of the 23 scouts and executives dumped this offseason, eight had never worked for another team.
  • Looking over the course of the last five years we’ve been tracking scouting changes, about 20 men get fired every year and don’t return. Those scouts vary in experience, time with team, and success of the team firing them. With about 250 jobs across the league in scouting and evaluation, that’s around 10 percent.

I wish I knew what to make of these numbers, but it’s hard to find trends, and our research and scope are still limited (five years and counting). At the end of the day, the only things to know are that it’s a volatile business; loyalty and personal relationships are critical; and once you get in, work as hard as you can not to get out.

Combine Prep for Beginners: A Conversation with Brian Martin

Brian Martin, CSCS, has been a friend of mine for over 10 years as he’s worked with some of the top training facilities in the business, playing a key role with training titans like TEST Football Academy and Parabolic Performance and Rehab, two New Jersey-based services. But he’s also had a hand in successful training services in California and Florida, giving him a resume that’s more varied and diverse than most in the business.

But Brian’s more than a trainer. He’s an entrepreneur, and having recognized the growing trend in combine prep, he’s putting his expertise to work with upstart services looking to expand their work with young athletes. With the number of players he’s trained and relationships he’s built over almost three decades, I can’t think of anyone more qualified to do this.

With that in mind, I spoke with Brian about his emerging business, B. Martin Sports, as well as a few tips for rising trainers in the combine prep space.

Tell us more about working with others to create elite-level football and sports performance destinations.

BRIAN: “Having been in the industry for 26 years (since 1992), I felt that it was time to lend my experience to up-and-coming sports performance coaches and facilities. Also, many ex-(NFL) players are opening facilities and I’m trying to help them navigate the waters on how to set up a facility. I had received hundreds of inquiries over the years asking how I got started in the NFL training business and how we were able to grow the business in cold-weather New Jersey as well as more ideal warmer-weather climates like South Florida and Southern California.”

What kind of volume of players in combine prep were you dealing with at your peak?

BRIAN: “In peak years, between combine prep and NFL offseason athletes, we would work with over 100 athletes in multiple locations in the winter months and dozens over the summer. This process took a lot of time, effort, and strategic planning. We had to make sure we had the proper facility (indoor and outdoor), strategic equipment and layout selection to optimize training.”

That’s a lot to take on. How did you break it down to the basics?

BRIAN: “It all starts with the 4 Ps. They are:

People: You have to know who you’re dealing with and value them, from owners (many of them former NFL players or other business leaders), to sports performance directors and coaches, medical staff, massage professionals, nutritionists, etc.

Program: You’ve got to focus on programming and periodization and have a well-thought-out coach-to-player ratio and sequence. This is all based on medical history, position played, and a movement screen; they’re all key factors. You must be sure to match your equipment selection and layout of facility to your training methodology.

Place: Facility location and proper space are critical to success. Equipment layout and selection are monumental so you can be efficient with use of space and to achieve optimal results. In 2018, I signed a deal with EnerG Wellness Solutions in Baltimore because they are the very best in the industry in facility layout; selecting ideal equipment from multiple vendors (and not just one or two companies because facility has a sponsor deal); and meeting the demands of your clients and customers.

Promotion: Once you are locked and loaded with a great staff (people) and have amazing (programs) in the right space (place), be sure to be strategic in your sales/recruiting and marketing approach. Working with groups like Inside the League is a great starting point, and then be very diligent in your media, print and marketing approach by aligning with strategic partners who specialize in this area.”

What would you tell a young sports performance coach is the most important element of getting started in the NFL training business?

BRIAN: “I would suggest mastering the 4 P’s above before trying to jump right into the business. There is a lot of competition in the NFL training space so be sure to align with the right people. That includes aligning with people in FOOTBALL-specific training (sports performance AND positional); with current and former pros to help with program design and recruiting; with the right medical and physical therapy staff, massage professionals, nutritionists and meal prep companies, sports psychologists, hotels and housing; and aligning with NFL agents, coaches and players. Most importantly, ask a lot of questions!”

How can people ask you further questions about the process?

BRIAN: “I am happy to help those looking to get into or grow in this business with advice on all of the above, with a particular focus on facility layout and design and equipment selection as well as advice and guidance on programming, logistics, and connections to NFL agents and coaches/scouts in various markets.”

Readers can also follow Brian on Instagram and Twitter at @Bmartinsports, and Brian welcomes questions or comments via DM.



Who’s Next at the Senior Bowl? Here Are A Few Names

This week, the pro and college football world was stunned by Senior Bowl Executive Director Phil Savage’s resignation. Angus R. Cooper II, the Chairman of the Mobile Arts and Sports Association, immediately launched a search committee and is actively engaged in accepting applications and seeking to fill the vacancy.

Savage was an inspired hire. Not only had he been an NFL GM (with Cleveland 2005-08), but he is a Mobile native and Alabama grad. Since assuming the reins of the game in May 2012, he’s consistently kept the number of draftees at around 90 players while introducing innovations like adding underclassmen and bringing the game’s production and promotion into the 21st century. He had other ideas, like a Junior Showcase, that looked promising and exciting but never came to fruition, unfortunately.

Savage will be a hard act to follow. Though we don’t yet know who’s shown, or will show, interest, let’s have a little fun and look at some names that might make sense (in no certain order).

  • Ozzie Newsome, GM, Ravens: Newsome is in his final season in Baltimore, and this might be his golden opportunity to return to Alabama (he’s from Muscle Shoals) and stay involved in a more relaxed role. As a former Tide player (and a member of the Senior Bowl Hall of Fame, Class of ’89, as well as Savage’s former boss in Baltimore, he checks all the boxes. He’s respected, connected and proven. The only negative is that he wouldn’t be able to assume the reins until after Baltimore’s season ends.
  • Tony Softli, Executive Director, NFLPA Collegiate Bowl: Tony has one of the things Savage had when he arrived: plenty of NFL experience, including 15 years spent with the Rams and Panthers (four of those as the Rams’ Director of Player Personnel). He also has something Savage didn’t have: extensive all-star game experience. Though the 2018 roster wasn’t the best of his five-year run, Tony has given the game stability and a sharp eye for talent since he arrived on the scene in 2013.
  • Marc Ross, former V.P., Player Evaluation, for the Giants: Like Tony, Ross has an impressive NFL pedigree, having worked for the Bills and Eagles along with the Giants. He’s also Ivy League-educated as a Princeton grad. At 45, he’s plenty young enough to continue Savage’s innovations and expand them. Energy shouldn’t be a problem. And speaking of Ross, his former boss, ex-Giants GM Jerry Reese, wouldn’t be such a bad candidate, either, though we expect to see him in an NFL front office role again soon.
  • Jeff Foster, President, National Football Scouting: This would probably be a step down in station and money for Jeff, but the job might involve less pressure and  almost as much football. He’s done a great job at National, though with the NFL threatening to start moving the combine from its Indy home, maybe it’s a good time for him to look around.
  • Ryan Grigson, former GM, Colts: Though he doesn’t have Southeast roots, this might be the right opportunity. He’s coming off a tough tenure with the Colts, followed by a short stint with the Browns, so the Senior Bowl could restore momentum to his career. And like Ross, he’s between jobs right now, so he could start immediately.
  • Blake Beddingfield, former Director of College Scouting, Titans: An Alabama grad and native of Huntsville, Beddingfield would be coming home. He’s well-regarded across the league and highly organized, and he knows talent. He’s also well-liked and polished. Blake is another one who might not be as sexy as other candidates, but he could be an excellent pick who sticks around for a long time in Mobile.
  • Doug Whaley, former GM, Bills: Like other ex-GMs on this list, Whaley has football connections by the bushel, knows evaluation and is highly regarded. The only negative would be his lack of ties to the area and his possible reluctance to relocate to South Alabama.

Do these names make sense? Want a few more? In today’s Friday Wrap, we’ll look at some candidates that might be home-run hires if the powers that be (and the candidates themselves) are willing to take a few risks. It comes out this evening (6:30 p.m. CT), it’s totally free, and you can register here. And if there are any we’re missing, let us know on Twitter.