First, on your new book. What possessed you to write NFL Brawler: A Player-Turned-Agent’s Forty Years In the National Football League – what were you trying to relay to readers that they didn’t know before?
I had some entertaining stories from my years of working in the NFL – using a pro wrestler in a negotiation, nearly fighting Jimmy Johnson, getting into a drinking contest with an NFL owner, etc. The book arose simply from a desire to collect all those stories and share them. I thought other people might enjoy my stories.
Most importantly though, I wanted it to be a book of thanks-to let people to know that I was grateful for all that I experienced. I was blessed with people who helped me from day one, from close family members to little league coaches, clients, and family members. I wasn’t one of those people looking to sling mud at the NFL or football in general. The game has greatly enriched my life.
You played for four-years in the NFL. What did you learn most about those four NFL seasons that influenced your work most as an agent? And how?
My knees were wrecked by the time I arrived in the NFL, but I survived a number of years, just by learning how to do the little things right – mastering the playbook, playing special teams, helping the coaches where I could and staying the hell out of the way. I always made a point to pass on those things to my clients.
The book is very direct about the “dirty play” and underhandedness of agents you saw in the 90’s. Have you had any retaliation/objections from agents after the book came out – and what were some of the dirty actions then that really bothered you most then?
I haven’t had any agents express displeasure to me about what I wrote. If they do, let them know I have a number they can call. The cash payments, prostitutes, and mob influence that I referenced in the book is what bothered me the most. But now, I lecture and teach if they want to learn.
How did teams deal with those agent issues – and what should they have done, from your perspective?
Every team, coach, and personnel executive were different. I don’t know if it’s the team’s responsibility to regulate the agents, I’m sure the teams would say it’s not.
You speak at times about player arrogance in today’s NFL – how do you contend with that as an agent and how does it impact who you work with and how you do so? Any good examples to share?
I tried to pick the right guys to begin with and turned down clients that I didn’t want to be associated with. I was fortunate to work with the players I did. Just look at the names you know and that says it all. Stand up guys.
How can teams diffuse this in players – and who does that well – and how?
I don’t know the answer-never learned it and never wanted to. It takes a special kind of coach to deal with bandit players-really, they are the bandit coaches who will do anything.
You need a certain amount of arrogance in this business. The game is essentially controlled violence. You want guys that have no fear. That being said, you want to make the players realize it’s not all about them, it’s about the team.
Which teams do you currently enjoy working with the most and least – and why?
I’ve always had a good relationship with the Steelers even though I’ve battled them hard over the years, including making it known that they had an unauthorized practice that injured a client. That cost the Steelers a fine and a draft pick-the first of two 3rd round draft choices I cost them. I fought them, but in the end there was, and is, a mutual respect. I always enjoyed dealing with the Giants, and the old 49ers as well.
What are the biggest mistakes agents make today when working with teams?
Not being ethical-honest. Once a team knows your word is no good, you’re not trusted and your client is adversely affected. As far as recruiting and reputation, you put yourself in a class to only get certain types of guys.
You speak about the ability to be selective as an agent – to work with clients you really liked and respected and to have a good “bullshit detector”. What about you enabled you to read through that bullshit and understand clients well enough to make the right decision for yourself?
I grew up with them. Saw and heard how many operate. Playing football is not the same as being in the Boy Scouts. You’re supposed to smack the other guy in the head and to make him bleed or take him out with a clean hit. How I thought about the game is a result of the people around me growing up. Avella, Pennsylvania was a blue-collar, work boots kind of town, where people kept their word and were too busy getting food onto the table to worry about impressing others. If you tried to show off too much, you’d catch a backhand pretty quickly. So later on in life, it was pretty easy to spot people who didn’t operate the same way.
Ever get it wrong? What were some of your bigger mistakes and what made them so?
We all lose in this business. We all get conned. It’s a part of the business. It’s like my old coach Bum Phillips said, “There’s two kind of coaches, them that’s fired and them that’s gonna be fired”. Same thing with agents. But it’s another reason why I wrote the book. I had Mark May as my first big client and he’s still not only a client, but a best friend.
From your perspective, what are the biggest issues facing the NFL in the next 5-10 years? And in your opinion, how should those issues be handled?
The concussion issue is real. I faced it with Trev Alberts and the Indianapolis Colts long before it was in the national news and the movie theater. I commissioned studies of NCAA players back in the 1990s that touched on many topics, including concussions. I don’t see the current litigation as a money grab, it’s a way to ensure that players receive the medical attention they deserve. I worry about how I’m going to function in the future so I’m always memorizing poems and speeches trying to keep my brain active. Who knows if it will help.
Did you ever get offers to work for the NFL/NFPLA? And what’s next for you now? Any thoughts on working more closely with the NFL/NFLPA at some point?
I was asked early on to become involved on the team side. I only had my wife’s ass to kiss and I didn’t want to change that to include an owner. I still work with the NFLPA when needed concerning my two remaining NFL clients. I have two kids and two granddaughters on the West Coast that I love spending time with. I’m pretty content with my life right now.