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Agents? Who needs 'em

Catching up with the agent for Venus and Serena Williams

Chat Day: Interact with top agents and Arli$$ producer Robert Wuhl

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Chat wrap: No Limit Sports agent Leland Hardy

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Agent Drew Rosenhaus makes his pitch to Team Edgerrin.
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 Rosenhaus offers to tone down his act if James picks him.
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 Drew Rosenhaus explains why he recruited Edgerrin James so heavily.
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This four-part online series is a companion to the Outside the Lines television show.

April 22, 1999
Rosenhaus: Here to stay

Players spurning agents and hiring lawyers on a hourly basis to negotiate contracts is a temporary and overblown phenomenon, said Drew Rosenhaus, agent to 40 NFL players.

In a chat session with ESPN.com users as part of an Outside the Lines series on agents, Rosenhaus said that agents will always have a place in sports, despite several recent cases of players going without them in negotiations.

If you missed the wide-ranging chat session on April 22, here is an edited transcript:

Rosenhaus bio
Author of the 1998 biography "A Shark Never Sleeps," Drew Rosenhaus has built a reputation as one of the most aggressive agents in the NFL. In less than a decade, he has come to define the public's image of an agent -- as a fast-talking, quick-moving advocate for his athlete clients. He is one of the models for the Tom Cruise movie "Jerry Maguire."

Along the way, he's built an impressive client list. He represents about 40 NFL players, including Warren Sapp, Jessie Armstead and Zack Thomas. With only one prospect taken in this year's draft -- Johndale Carty, Atlanta's fourth-round pick -- Rosenhaus is heavily recuiting University of Miami running back Edgerrin James, who was taken with the fourth pick overall by Indianapolis. James is the only first-rounder currently without an agent.

Brian Eddy: As a current law student interesting in become a sports agent, what does it take enter your field or obtain a position in one of the firms? I've been told its a very saturated market, and just getting into the field is the most difficult part. What did you do to get started and where should someone look if they are interested in pursuing this line of work?

Drew Rosenhaus: This is one of the most competitive businesses in the world. It is extremely difficult to break into this business unless you're Master P or Johnnie Cochran. My advice is to get a good education at a good athletic school, and frankly, get to know the athletes. Make contacts with the athletes, so when you break into the business you can introduce them to agents you then can get to know.

I was at the University of Miami and Duke at great times, not just academically but athletically. I knew the athletes. My key ingredient to breaking into the business is working with an experienced agent, but you have to bring something to the table, and that means contacts with potential clients. That would make you attractive to a current agent.

Dolfan#1: Do you think Yatil Green will be able to comeback to the Dolphins and play as well as he could before the injury last year?

Drew Rosenhaus: I'm fully confident that Yatil will definitely make it back from his two knee injuries. He will participate in the minicamp tomorrow; he's been given the green light and is 100 percent. He will validate the first-round pick that was spent on him in 1997. He has recovered his strength, speed and muscularity; the only thing that's left is taking the hits and the mental part. And I'm confident that he'll pass that with flying colors.

It will be monumental if he makes it back. I've never seen anyone come back from two knee injuries like he's had on one knee.

Asad: How did you get Indy to pick Edgerrin James instead of Ricky Williams. Did you convince them in any way or was that just their choice?

Drew Rosenhaus: I had absolutely nothing to do with Edgerrin being the fourth pick to the Indianapolis Colts, other than being a big fan of his who has recruited him. He did that on his own, at the combine, in the workouts, on the field with Miami, on the field with his magnificent workout. I take my hat off to Edgerrin for being not only a superior athlete and person, but give credit to his advisors for the great job they have done. Although they are not agents, they have done an exceptional job advising Edgerrin. I could not have done a better job myself.

Hopefully he will hire an agent and I'll be the guy. At this point, I have to take my hat off to the way Team Edgerrin has handled his affairs. From what I've been told, he has not made a decision about whether to hire an agent or who it would be. I believe that, fortunately, I'm still in the hunt. I'll pursue him as aggressively as I can in conjuction with his advisors in the hopes of working with all of them.

I have no problem with working with his advisors. It's actually quite common to have family members involved in the process; this one has just received a lot of notoriety.

Dukeman: Drew, I read your book this past weekend. The Duke girls are geeks? True. What do you think about the trend of players hiring lawyers to negotiate their contracts as opposed to agents?

Drew Rosenhaus: Well, No. 1, the Duke women were not geeks. I was just spoiled from the University of Miami!

On a more serious note, I do not believe there is a trend for athletes to hire lawyers as opposed to agents. The percentage is still 99.9 of athletes who have agents. That's not going to change. There may be an exception once every blue moon, like Ray Allen. But I'm secure in my contributions and my industry as a whole.

  Without agents much of the sports world would fall apart.  ”
—  Drew Rosenhaus
Recently, athlete agents have received a lot of notoriety but we are no different from agents who represent entertainers, artists, journalists, authors. A lot is made of our fees, but at 3 percent in the NFL it's miniscule compared to the 15-20 percent that I had to pay to my agent for my book. I don't think there will be a trend away from agents; our significance is well established and I'm supremely confident that we will continue to make contributions to sports.

In fact, I believe that without agents much of the sports world would fall apart. We are an essential part of a complex system and serve a valuable role -- not just as negotiators but as financial advisors, friends, risk avoidance and go-betweens. We often are the bad guys with the media, with the organizations so that our clients can be the good guys. I have taken a lot of heat in my career on behalf of my clients and I will gladly continue to do so, because that's my job. And I would challenge any athlete to prove to me that I'm not worth my percentage and then some. I will make sure that my clients make so much more money from my negotiating talent that it would far exceed the amount of money they pay me with respect to my fees.

For example, if an athlete is responsible for paying me $25,000 in fees, I would make sure that I bring at least five times that amount more to the table, with my negotiating skill and experience.

Jordan Rosenhaus: Hey Cuz, do you think I could beat Edgerrin in a foot race? I've been working on my shuttle run.

Drew Rosenhaus: Jordan -- You couldn't beat Edgerrin in your dreams. I know you think you're a great athlete, but you're not in this guy's class. You have no chance in me representing you, but you're still my boy!

Gil: Drew, do you think Abdul-Jabbar is gone now that the Dolphins have 13 RB's in camp?

Drew Rosenhaus: I think Karim is fighting for his professional life with the Dolphins. He is facing an uphill battle from some very talented contenders, namely second-round picks J.J. Johnson from Miss State and Rob Conrad from Syracuse. Jimmy Johnson will hang onto Karim as an insurance policy in the event these rookies do not live up to expectations. However, since Karim is a veteran making nearly $1 million this year, he makes great trade bait. He's very talented but the Dolphins are looking for more size and speed. But don't count him out. The Dolphins have added some stud offensive linemen and that might be the difference in Karim's game.

Let's not forget about last year's No. 1 pick, John Avery, as well. He is a lock to make the team as a return man and change-of-pace back at the very least.

Ryan: Why aren't there more black agents?

Drew Rosenhaus: I think there has been a tremendous development of black agents in the industry. Many of the top agents are black. I don't believe there is a shortage. There's been a tremendous progression since I've been in the business the last decade. Many of the top picks in this year's draft have African American agents and they have a dominant role. They're some of my greatest competitors and agents I respect.

I won't name names though. No pub for the competition!

Donwick: What do you think about the way the NFLPA is meddling in the negiations between Edgerrin James and the Colts?

Drew Rosenhaus: There's been some controversy over his advisors working out an injury protection agreement, and the NFLPA is looking into it. The NFLPA wants to know if this is an agreement that was worked out by a non-agent. But I have absolutely no problem with the role that Edgerrin's advisors have played up to this point in Edgerrin's negotiations. Obviously, I would like to see Edgerrin hire an agent to work in close conjunction with his advisors. But they have done an outstanding job so far and I don't see any reason for the NFLPA to be involved in this affair.

Deacon: How many hours per week do you spend doing this job?

Drew Rosenhaus: I work on average seven days a week. I can't remember the last time that I took a true vacation in which I didn't work. And on average, I work about 18 hours a day in some form or fashion.

I don't consider it work; it's a labor of love, and the time flies. It's a shame, though, that I'm not paid on an hourly basis or I'd be the wealthiest agent in the business! Three percent is chump change compared to what I put into this job. To me, a vacation is going to a football game.

RD Halz: Is Ricky Williams going to be tough to sign with Master P as his agent?

  To me, a vacation is going to a football game. ”
—  Drew Rosenhaus
Drew Rosenhaus:
I really expect the Ricky Williams negotiations to go smoothly. I have much respect for Terry O'Neill, the (Saints') salary cap guru and contract negotiator. He'll get this deal done. There are no other rookies. There's a definite salary cap number. This deal should be a no-brainer. If I were his agent I would sign a 7-year contract with a maximum signing bonus, minimum-base salaries, void the contract after three years, and work in performance escalators. If Master P follows that formula, he should walk away with an outstanding virgin contract.

Jake: How long did it take you to represent your own clients after getting into the business? How many does it take to keep you above water in the early years?

Drew Rosenhaus: I started while I was in law school with one client when I was 22. His name was Robert Massey, and that was really enough with me since I was a young man in law school with no dependents and no overhead.

I gradually worked my way up to a dozen clients within two years, but as an agent, I think 3-4 quality clients can allow you to make a legitimate living. But as you get experience, you bring in more employees, you have more overhead, and you need to develop a good clientele.

Damian Miller: How do you feel about agents that prey on talent still in college and unsure about leaving early?

Drew Rosenhaus: I would never encourage an athlete to leave school early unless he is a sure-fire first-round pick in his respective sport. I think it's a monumental mistake for him to leave early unless he's an immediate millionare.

I've represented many underclassmen, including Warren Sapp and Kevin Williams, just to name a few. Each one of those guys was a top pick. I'd never represent a junior coming out early unless I am utterly convinced that he would be a top pick. I am vehemently opposed to agents who encourage players to come out early and have no chance to be drafted, like Rufus French of Mississippi, who really was not ready for the pros and went undrafted this year.

These agents, I'd like to strangle because they give our business a black eye and have injured college football and the institutions that they have left. This is a very serious problem in the world of college football. Many times the finger can be pointed to an uneducated and unscrupulous agent. I absolutely applaud a player like Peter Warrick of FSU, who undoubtedly will be one of the first picks last year despite dozens of agents encouraging him to come out.

You must be very selective in whether to come out. Edgerrin James? That was a phenomenal decision. Rufus French? Obviously not, since he wasn't drafted. But there aren't too many guys like Edgerrin.

CaneFan: It is interesting that you have represented the top pick out of the University of Miami for quite some time now. Many people believe you have accomplished this by offering incentives to players long before they have completed their eligibility with UM. What do you have to say to defend yourself from the critics who believe you to be the "dirtiest" agent in the business?

Drew Rosenhaus: All I can say is that I've never offered any incentive to any athlete at any institution. It's immoral, unethical and illegal and I would never -- nor have I -- participated in such conduct. That type of conduct is a disgrace to the industry and I would never ever be affiliated with that behavior.

My success at the University of Miami is totally predicated on my track record with those clients from there that I have represented. I get them from clients' recommendations. I was able to sign Duane Starks last year because I was recommended to him by my client and his teammate, Yatil Green. Warren Sapp also recommends me.

The same holds true with the Dolphins. The reason I've signed players like Zach Thomas and so many Dolphins is because of my track record and recommendations. Hopefully Edgerrin James and his advisors will take note of my successful experiences with University of Miami alums.

To conclude this chat session, I would very much like to thank ESPN for their outstanding piece shedding light on the agent industry. I would like to thank all participants in this chat as well. Anyone that would like to resume this conversation, feel free to contact me at anytime. Take care.

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