MIAMI -- As the television camera showed an anxious Willis
McGahee waiting to be taken during the first round of the draft,
his agent phoned him and told him to pretend he was talking to an
The agent, Drew Rosenhaus, was sitting next to McGahee at the
"I didn't want it to make it look like our phones weren't
ringing,'' Rosenhaus said Sunday. "Willis and I had a little chat
to create the perception that we weren't waiting for teams to call
Rosenhaus believes such gamesmanship helped McGahee become a
first-round choice despite a knee injury that was once considered
career-threatening. The Buffalo Bills took the former Miami
Hurricanes running back Saturday with the 23rd pick.
The Bills dispute that Rosenhaus influenced their decision.
"I've known Drew Rosenhaus for 20 years, and Drew does a great
job for his clients,'' Bills president Tom Donahoe said. "He says
a lot of things ... and as good as Drew does his job as an agent,
he doesn't do our job.
"There's nothing that he said that had any influence on our
decision. We made our decision based on the ability of Willis
McGahee and the medical information that we had. Nothing else.''
McGahee's recovery was widely heralded as miraculous, even
though it's still in progress, and Rosenhaus said he manipulated
"The media were a huge help,'' Rosenhaus said. "The Bills were
not going to draft a player based on the media, but it helps a team
if the player they take has a lot of popularity and notoriety, and
in Willis' case, it's a sensational story.
"I was trying to create a scenario where Willis was a popular
pick because he was the No. 1 story in the NFL draft. That's my
job. Mission accomplished.''
McGahee became a big story even though no one knows yet whether
he'll be able to play this year, or whether he'll regain the skills
that helped him score 28 touchdowns and rush for 1,686 yards last
The Bills deny they were duped.
"Our doctors personally examined McGahee two different times,''
Donahoe said. "We had the MRIs, we had the notes from the surgery.
We had all the information we felt that we needed to make the
decision on him.''
Rosenhaus has long been one of the better-known agents in pro
football. Detractors call him unscrupulous, but clients consider
him shrewd, and he's quick to point out that he puts his players
That was the case with McGahee, who tore three ligaments in his
left knee in Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State. Rosenhaus, who said in
February that McGahee would be a first-round pick despite the
injury, now concedes the prediction was an attempt to help his
"I was the only one on the planet who said it, other than
Willis,'' Rosenhaus said. "That caused a stir, and people became
more interested. We gained a lot of momentum.''
As the buzz built, the story was easy for Rosenhaus to sell
because McGahee was a sympathetic figure. His speedy recovery also
helped, beginning when he walked with only a slight limp at the NFL
scouting combine six weeks after surgery.
McGahee's therapist described the recovery as "remarkable.''
Rosenhaus spread the news.
"The trick,'' Rosenhaus said, "was to change the debate from
whether he was going to play again to whether he was going to be a
first-round pick, and from whether he was going to play this year
to whether he was going to play at the start of the year. The
perception was manipulated to help Willis as much as I could.''