Confessions of ... a sports agent

As told to's Darren Rovell

It's Week 6 of the NFL season, and I'm sitting on the edge of my couch watching the Redskins-Eagles game. Our client, Washington running back Stephen Davis, has scored his team's only touchdown as they trail 14-7 early in the fourth quarter.

David Canter, Stephen Davis
Agent David Canter, left, recently helped negotiate a new deal for Redskins tailback Stephen Davis.
I'm watching Stephen, but it's pretty hard to take my eyes off the screen now as Redskins kicker Michael Husted sets up for a 42-yard field goal. Husted has missed four of his first seven attempts since replacing Brett Conway and flubbed a 33-yarder earlier the game. Why do I care? Because I know that one of our clients, kicker Jaret Holmes, needs a job.

I had been talking to my partner, Steve Weinberg, throughout the game. He said to me, "If Husted misses this kick, you know what to do."

Husted hooks it. I spring from my couch. I dial up Melvin Bratton in the Redskins' pro personnel department. He's not in his office. I try his cell. It's ringing. He answers. "Hey, Mel," I say. Recognizing my voice immediately, he stops me. "Yeah, yeah. I know," he says. "Jaret will be on a plane first thing in the morning to try out for the job."

As it turned out, Jaret got the job with the Giants that week, instead. But that's what knowing the right people is all about. That's watching a situation, knowing where teams are and when they are going to need someone. That's getting on the phone and not waiting until Monday morning. That's being a good sports agent.

What does it take to be an agent? Sometimes it's watching seven games at a time on Sunday. Sometimes it's speaking to our clients a couple of times a week, and sometimes it's just calling general managers so they'll hear my voice again. Remember, the best in the business on the team side do their part as well. They'll call you at anytime. They're always looking for a trade and always looking to pick up a different guy off the waiver wire.

Being an NFL agent is a 24-hour, 365-day-a-year job. On a typical day, I'm in on 300 to 500 phone calls -- up to 300 outgoing, 200 incoming.

My cell phone is always on. I sleep with it at night. I'm never surprised when the phone rings at 3 a.m. Sometimes it's a call from clients, sometimes it's from clients' wives, sometimes it's from clients' girlfriends asking where their boyfriends are.

Agent David Canter lists his favorite restaurants for entertaining clients:

  • St. Elmo's, Indianapolis. Every year at the NFL scouting combine, we go to this steakhouse, and it's dynamite.

  • Tantra, South Beach, Fla. My clients really like Tantra. When you walk up, there's grass on the floor and incense in the air, it kind of makes you have this heightened sense of awareness.

  • Asia de Cuba, New York. Don't even look at the menu. Just ask for the Bay of Pigs and ask no more.

  • Reign, Los Angeles. Even though there's not an NFL team in L.A., my clients like Keyshawn Johnson's restaurant. The wine list is great and the way the server presents the food is top-notch.
  • For a young sports agent like myself, it's hard to find the balance between work and having a real life -- friendships, relationships, girlfriends and staying tight with your family. I don't have children. I don't have a wife, and my extended family is the players I represent. In order to be successful, I've had to sacrifice a lot.

    My workout routine definitely suffers -- especially in December, January and February when I'm recruiting, watching bowl games and playoff games. I'm on the road every day. I do somehow maintain my weight thanks to protein bars and shakes.

    I very rarely have a chance to listen to music, and that upsets me a little bit. When I do, it's everything from hip-hop to R&B to soul and reggae -- basically it's anything but country.

    I'm driving all the time -- to and from the office, to and from the airport or hotel or meeting -- and I'm always on the phone.

    I have about 7,000 phone numbers in my Palm Pilot. Those are numbers of players, coaches, scouts, general managers, NFL security, NFL Properties, college coaches, athletic departments and directors. Then there are corporate contacts that call to find out if my athlete fits into their plans.

    I look at anywhere from 30 to 100 proposals a week. What company is best for a client's image? I have to know before I can listen to what they expect the player to be for them.

    I wouldn't be a good agent if I didn't know a lot about everything. I know the cars that our clients want to buy like the Mercedes CL 600 or Bentley Azure. I know the Motorola Timeport (a two-way pager) and the V-Tech cell phone that they're all asking for.

    Getting the right information is the key to this business, and that's why new technology is so important. I certainly don't think driving the right car or wearing an expensive watch have anything to do with being a successful sports agent. I do, however, think that having the creme-de-la-creme of cell phones, speaker phones, computers and PDA's will help you be the best sports agent.

    Do my clients know that we have all of this stuff? Probably not. But what matters to them is that when they need to get in touch with us, we're here. We don't take vacations in this business.

    I didn't know all that when I first dreamed of becoming a sports agent. My exposure to the sports world was as good as it could get. My mother was a Miami Dolphins season ticket holder, and my father had connections with the Oakland Raiders. I babysat for the children of Dolphins players like Fulton Walker and hung out with Mark Clayton and A.J. Duhe. When I was 11, my neck was cocked back all the way as I shook hands with the Raiders -- guys like Ray Guy, Marcus Allen, Howie Long and even Al Davis and George Anderson.

    David Canter, Tiger Woods
    Canter often rubs elbows with celebrities like Tiger Woods.
    I was pretty good at sports when I was younger. In college, I played Division III football at Ithaca College, where I graduated with a degree in sports management in 1995. Then, I made my way to the University of Miami Law School to get my law degree.

    I knew I was on my way to being a sports agent when I ran into former University of Miami wide receiver and current Dolphins player Lamar Thomas at a Shell station in 1995. I had just gotten pulled over by a cop because my front right signal light was broken. So I'm in the gas station changing the light when I notice Lamar pull up in his green Range Rover. We had a 30-minute conversation, and I took his cell phone number. Next thing I knew, I was doing some of his marketing deals, and he was the first client for my company, TEAAM (Total Entertainer and Athlete Management).

    When I tell people I'm an agent, I get two reactions. The first is, and I'm not kidding here, "What's that?" There are people out there who don't know what an agent does. The second reaction is, "Oh, like Jerry Maguire and ARLI$$."

    While we're on that, here's the deal on both of those guys. Jerry Maguire is a fairly Hollywood-ized, inaccurate portrayal of what it is to be a sports agent. It was accurate enough in showing how cutthroat the business is, when you saw Jerry fighting for his clients and Bob Sugar trying to steal his clients. But you have to understand that Jerry Maguire only had one client. ARLI$$ is more right on about the hectic nature of the sports business.

    I'm not always dressed in three-piece suits. In fact, most of the time I'm just as comfortable in polo shorts and a V-neck sweater. Shoes are one of the most important parts of an agent's dress. I'm always on my feet. So, putting on the wrong shoes for a 20-hour day is not a good thing.

    It's hectic even when it's slow in this business, where simply taking a client out to dinner is a chore. Stephen Davis, his wife, myself, plus my partner, Steve, and other people from our company wanted to have dinner at Morton's in Washington D.C. We walked into this elegant steakhouse and all of sudden the place became Romper Room -- all these people looking all googly-eyed and having conversations between themselves and whispering, "There's Stephen Davis."

    That's why I often tell restaurants that we have some celebrities and ask for a private room.

    While it's fun to go to all the hip restaurants, a lot of my clients would be just as happy eating at a fast-food restaurant. When they were younger, just eating outside of the house was a treat for the family.

    After Travis Taylor was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens, we hugged and I congratulated him on the great effort it took for him and his family to get to this point. I said "Travis, I'll take you and your family to any restaurant in Jacksonville."

    He looked at me and said, "Dave, we're going to McDonald's."

    So, we're at the drive-in, and Travis orders the No. 1 value meal. I looked at him and said, "Travis, you were just the 10th overall pick in the NFL draft, you're starting with a signing bonus in the neighborhood of $5 million -- supersize it."

    Part 2 of "Confessions Of ... A Sports Agent" will run next week on's Page 2. TEAAM clients also include Lance Schulters, Mike Peterson, Doug Evans and more than 50 others.

    Confessions of a sports agent, part 2

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