20 QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS TO HELP YOU CHOOSE THE RIGHT AGENT
You cannot sign with an agent until your collegiate career has concluded. This can occur after being three years removed from high school or when you have exhausted your NCAA eligibility. NCAA rules are extremely clear and forbid players from receiving anything of value from an agent until then. This kind of violation has the potential to not only hurt the school and player, but the agent who willfully violates these rules, as well. With that said, you should start the process of interviewing and meeting potential agents throughout the years with the goal of narrowing down your search. With Pre-Draft training and all-star games taking place during the month of January, it is in the best interest of the player to have selected an agent prior to these events. This will allow him to remain focused on his preparation for the upcoming NFL Draft.
Currently we have five full time certified agents with over fifty years of collective experience. Harold Lewis is one of the most respected and active agents in the business today with over thirty years of experience as an NFLPA certified agent. The entire NSA team is always there for our players 24/7/365. These services include, but are not limited to: contracts, marketing, and legal assistance, as well as assisting with coordinating travel or other special needs.
The NSA team usually maintains a roster of 30-40 players in the National Football League. By purposely keeping our numbers manageable, it allows us to retain our respect as one of the larger agencies in the industry without losing the personal touch and family appeal that attracts the finest athletes in this service-oriented business.
All agents will lose a player every now and then, as it is an unfortunate reality in this very competitive business. Roughly seven out of ten players will terminate the agent they signed with out of college within the first 3-4 years of their career. I’m proud to say that over the past 30-plus years, you can’t find seven players that we have ever lost! In fact, 50% of our clients have come to NSA on by referral. This is a relationship business and that relationship must continually grow. The easiest thing to do is sign a player that is new to the process whom which may be unable to separate the “pretenders from the contenders”. The hardest thing to do is show him each day that he made the right decision in choosing NSA to handle his business both on and off the field.
Between our five certified agents here at NSA, we strive to reach out to 14-16 players with the hopes of signing half of them. Working with only 7 or 8 drafted players allows us to be available for each player 24/7. In addition, we will always sign a few undrafted free agents that we believe have the ability to play at the next level, but for some reason fell off of the NFL radar. Many times these players turn out to be the steal of the NFL Draft, and in select cases, turn out to be the league’s best and highest paid players! (Ex: Bart Scott – UDFA from Southern Illinois in 2002; $48 million free agent contract with Jets in 2009) These examples are made possible because someone believed in them and took a chance. By working with this select group, it allows us to be there for each of our players from training, through college football all-star games, the combine and every player’s Pro Day.
Ideally, we would like to sign one player at each position; however, this varies on a yearly basis. In doing so, it allows us to separate you from a “cluster of players” at a given position. Exceptions to this rule are often made when recruiting cornerbacks and pass rushers as they have become invaluable in the pass-oriented NFL. Honesty from the start is a must in any successful relationship; thus, we will always inform you of the players we are recruiting or have signed before you join our family here at NSA.
Negotiating a player’s rookie contract is not only one of the simplest parts of our job, but also the most rewarding – marking a new chapter of a player’s career by entering the National Football League. Despite the negotiations surrounding rookie contracts being relatively simplistic, there are factors that can turn a good offer into a great contract. The preparation leading up to the draft is where the real work comes into play and will be one of the many determining factors in where you will be drafted. The countless hours of meeting and speaking with key NFL personnel leading up to the Draft allows NSA to uncover the good, bad, and any concerns teams may have about a given player. Being “pro-active" prior to the draft allows NSA to address all of the teams' concerns, ensuring them that this is the right player for their particular scheme. The goal is always to separate you from the cluster of similarly graded players at your respective position. Together as a team, we will do everything possible to make the road the NFL a road to prosperity.
In order to understand the reason behind why rookie contract are slotted, you can look back to the renegotiated Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”) that took place during the lockout in summer 2011. The newly established rookie pay scale was developed with the idea of rewarding those who have earned it, such as veterans. With that said, each rookie deal is currently slotted, pick-to-pick, throughout the entire NFL Draft. Therefore, the “best” overall player, the first overall pick, will receive the most lucrative contract – salary, signing bonus, and other bonuses allocated throughout the life of the contract. Each subsequent pick receives slightly less than the player selected before him, culminating with “Mr. Irrlevant”. (NSA Clients: Lonnie Ballentine & Kalan Reed) This sliding scale does not include undrafted free agents in which there is an allotted amount for them separate of drafted players.
The key relationships mentioned above will help grow you as a player throughout the Pre-Draft process. NSA will open up doors that other agencies simply cannot, placing you in the best position possible come the NFL Draft. For those players that are not fortunate enough to be drafted, NSA’s expertise in dealing with your situation will be unique – we ensure a detailed plan on how to best market you to teams that may have overlook you and your talents. With over 50 years of collective experience, there is no situation NSA is unequipped to handle leading up to the most important time in your life: the NFL Draft.
This is without a doubt the most important time of a player’s journey to the NFL. If you and your agent don’t have a sense of urgency, you will not like what takes place in the weeks leading up to the Draft. Thousands of college players are looking to showcase their talents in the hopes of getting drafted ahead of you. They come from both big and small schools across the country and have one thing in common; they want your money! Whether or not you are a combine invite, determines how quickly we need to get you prepared - either for the Combine in February or your school’s Pro Day in March. Regardless, NSA will prepare and train each player unlike ever before. In between training, we strive to secure an invite for all players to participate in one of the college football all-star games in the month of January. If participating, we join you throughout the week of practices as your performance in these if more important than the game itself. While there, you can be assured that NSA will be meeting with ALL 32 NFL teams, uncovering perceived strengths and weaknesses. Finding said weaknesses allows us to address them well before the combine or Pro Day. Being “pro-active” rather than reactive will only help you come Draft day. Specific to the combine, NSA will prepare you for individual interviews, both formal and informal, that you will have with coaches, scouts, and NFL decision makers. Combine performance will largely determine what drills you will participate in at Pro Day. If your school allows agents to be in attendance, one of our agents will be there. After Pro Days have finished, teams will meet for the weeks leading up to the Draft, evaluating players they feel will be welcomed additions to their rosters. During these evaluations, teams construct their draft boards. While these draft boards are being developed, your agent should be relentless in his pursuit to enhance your status with each team. While all this is going on, our marketing department will be constantly procuring opportunities, including but not limited to: trading card deals, autograph signings, public appearances, as well as shoe and apparel contracts. After the Draft is when the real fun begins as we together, enter the world of the NFL.
Marketing begins immediately following a player’s collegiate career and extends throughout his professional career and beyond. While many factors determine a given player’s marketability, there are countless dollars out there for all players IF properly pursued. Trading card deals are usually the first of many opportunities for rookie players. The grade and position of the player, will determine his marketability prior to the draft. Of course, the higher the player is rated, the more likely he will excel in the world of marketing and endorsement. Skill position players such as QB's, RB's, WR's, and TE's, are the trading card companies top priorities, but such companies can be easily persuaded to sign other positions as well. In addition, a strong rookie campaign will certainly open up doors to endless marketing and endorsement opportunities. We are committed to making sure that every player we represent, regardless of their position or role on their team, has some form of marketing opportunity.
The goal is to do everything in our power so that ALL of our player’s hear their names called on Draft day. Unfortunately, that is not always the case as many players slip through the Draft. This can happen for a variety of reasons, some of which can be controlled while others cannot. A failed drug test, bad test score, or disappointing combine or Pro Day are all circumstances that can be controlled by you. Conversely, a failed physical or lack of scheme fit, are factors outside your control. If a player has a strong grade and was not selected, it is often due to team needs rather than player skillets. Of course EVERYONE wants to be drafted, but if not, your future in the NFL remains bright. A high-priority undrafted free agent may be in a better position than a later round draft pick in making a team. Throughout the later rounds and immediately following the draft, you will be hearing from both position coaches and personnel executives from many teams trying to sell you on joining their team as a free agent. If you thought college and agent recruiting was tough, wait until you experience this. The good news is that YOU will be picking the team with the greatest need that best fits your style of play. By having multiple teams trying to buy your services, your signing bonus has the potential to equal that of players selected in the latter half of the 7th round. Additionally, while drafted players are locked in to at least a 4-year contract, undrafted players only sign 3-year contracts, creating an opportunity for you to hit the lucrative world of FREE AGENCY a year before drafted players! With the average NFL career lasting only 3.3 years, the extra year could translate into millions of dollars in your pocket. In answering the question of whether or not an undrafted player will get the same attention as a drafted player, the answer is NO; he will get more! After a player is selected, there isn’t much more to do on his behalf other than negotiate his contract in the weeks ahead. The undrafted player not only must make a quick decision, but a smart decision on where the best chance is to make a given team. It doesn’t matter when you were selected, but what you do when you get there. Tony Romo, Arian Foster, and Bart Scott (see above) among many others were not drafted, but have become some of the highest paid players at their positions and the games’ greatest ambassadors.
NSA, as an agency, has had the benefit of building and sustaining key relationships with all 32 NFL teams over the past 30 years, with a collective 50 years of experience between our five certified agents. A distinct quality that separates NSA from other agencies is the straightforward honest approach we take with each player we choose to represent. Whether that player is the first overall draft choice or one that is struggling to make a practice squad, NSA is equipped, and has experience in dealing with every situation that may arise. NSA will not overlook you. We will formulate a specific game plan tailored to your strengths and weaknesses. What good is it to have an agency representing you during the most important phase of your career calling 32 teams and not receiving any calls in return? Let NSA show you what quality representation looks like; we look forward to making you part of our ever growing family.
Negotiating the rookie contract is about the smallest of things we do for our players. Getting them to the “finish line” is what is the full-time job. The other services that NSA provides include but are not limited to:
*Notes that this is a referral based service.
Absolutely! As rewarding as it is to play professional football, it is still nothing more than a JOB. This job may last only 1 year, if you are fortunate, 5 years, or potentially 15 years. One thing is for certain; your playing career in the NFL eventually ends. It is extremely important to build relationships and grow your network throughout your time as a professional athlete. The contacts you can and will make along the way will be integral when planning for life after football. Taking just a few minutes out of your busy life and getting to meet people, could be the difference in what lies ahead for your future career. Giving back more than you take from the community will certainly lead to great beginnings. For example, volunteering to speak to the students of a school may not only change the lives of certain students, but may just open up a door for you in life after football. Sharing stories of athletes that were more talented than you growing up, but never got the chance to further their careers whether due to bad grades or poor decisions, might just help change some child’s life. Maybe one of their parents is the head of a major corporation and was so impressed with what you said and did, that they give you an opportunity to join their team after your playing days are over? The bottom line is, the more you can do for others, the more will come your way as doors open up all around you. With that said, each player has the opportunity to enter into the NFL and become their own “brand”, establishing a platform for themselves others can only imagine. Not only will NSA assess your goals for life after football prior to entering the league, but will ensure that each of your goals are met with mentors in the field of your desired profession. Whether you wish to be the next great broadcaster, film or music producer, or better yet, further your education after football, NSA will strive to make these goals reality. NSA’s approach is simply: “The best on the field deserve the best off the field.” With respect to time, life after football is much longer than your days in the NFL; thus, it is important to remain in tune with what will sustain you well beyond your playing days.
The answer is, it depends on the size, nature, and relative need for the loan. NSA has and will continue to assist our clients with personal loans administered through our company, which are interest free to the player. NSA would have a player receiving this type of interest free loan sign a promissory note, of which binds him to repayment of the loan once he receives his signing bonus from the team he is drafted to. In the event that a player is either not drafted or his signing bonus money does not cover the amount due on the loan, then that player would be obligated to pay back his loan obligation once his season starts and he begins to earn his salary through his weekly or bi-weekly paychecks.
Yes. We pick up 100% of all the cost of training and beyond. Besides the actual cost of the trainer, we pick up everything possible to give that player a tunneled vision approach with absolutely no distractions. While training he will stay in a beautiful 1 bedroom apartment by himself and receive the following: car rental, gas money, a meal plan, all supplements, massage therapy, rehabbing, teaching for the Wonderlic test and interviewing process, position coach training, all workout gear and shoes, and a monthly stipend while training to enjoy a movie or shopping whenever time allows. All this is our investment in you in helping you reach or exceed your highest goals and personal bests on all that you will be tested for. No question with the high cost of training, we have to be absolutely sure we have the right player both on and off the field. If so, then the cost is just an insurance of what lies ahead for both of us in the NFL.
At least one, if not all of us will be there for each player throughout the Pre-Draft process. From training, to college all-star games, to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis and Pro Days, there is no time more important than the days leading up to the NFL Draft.
Not only would we provide you their contact information, we encourage it. There is NO better way to find out what your potential agent is really like than to speak to the players and their families of whom he represents. Anyone can claim they are the best, but as is often the case, such assertions are merely words in hopes of recruiting a potential player. We will gladly provide you with a list of both current and past players and their contact information for you to reach out to. Additionally, because we encourage this to be a family decision, we will also provide you the contact information of parents, as well.
The rules are simple regarding the commissions/fees that we are allowed to collect as agents for our services. An agent can not collect any fees until the player has actually earned his income. If an agent has billed you for your base salary that has yet to be earned or even signing bonus dollars that has yet to be received due to a deferred future payment, then he would face serious problems under the NFLPA guidelines concerning agent conduct and regulations. In addition, an agent can never charge you for weekly pay during OTA’s (organized team activities), Mini Camp, Pre Season and Post Season Games, or even Practice Roster pay. An agent should only be charging you for all items that he/she negotiated on your NFL contract. That includes all base pay, bonuses of any forms, and incentives that were negotiated and added to your team contract. It does not include incentives that a player may earn from a “Player Performance Pool” paid out to each player at the end of the season by each of the 32 NFL teams. These incentive bonuses are determined on both the players on field play and his performance plus his play time over that season. This scenario described above also has a lot to do with the players current base salary and depth on his team's roster. What this basically means is if a back-up player contributes to the team by more playing time or production then expected, then he would be entitled to a very aggressive bonus from this “player performance pool” of dollars paid in February following the end of the previous season. ALL players that are active and contribute in anyway are almost certain to receive bonus dollars and owe their agents no commission on these bonus checks.
That truly depends on both the player and the policy. If the player is projected as a high draft pick, then more than likely that player should have taken out a disability policy prior to the start of his third-year sophomore, junior or senior season. Even if his school’s college football season has concluded, there is still a lot to be concerned about from combine training, college All-Star Bowl Games, the Combine in Indianapolis, and even his school’s Pro Day. IF this is the route you choose, PLEASE be diligent in ensuring that the policy covers ALL forms of disability. Far too often players buy a policy that only covers permanent disability and not loss of value coverage. A permanent disability policy for example will not cover a torn ACL, as the medical technology today can get you back on the field in 6-8 months. Such an injury will likely result in a drop in your draft round which could mean millions out of your pocket. However, if your policy included a loss of value clause, then you would be compensated for all lost revenues from both the signing bonus and base contract. The only other time that a disability policy makes sense would be when a player is going into the last year of their contract prior to becoming a very sought-after free agent.
Having represented athletes for over 30 years, I’m proud to say, NEVER! When building any successful business, you are only as good as the people that surround you. If you go to bed with dogs, you will get flees! Surrounding yourself with good people, who are as committed, focused, and dedicated as you are, can only lead to a winning formula and success for all. Come join our family and see for yourself.