Click here to read Part 1 of Josh Elkin’s interview with NFL agent Howard Shatsky.
By Josh Elkin
I asked Howard whether he will recruit a player that may be in it only for money.
“If word on the street is they are just looking who’s going to pay for the most stuff, then I’m probably not the guy for them. Players learn from teammates that have gone pro before them what agents are willing to pay for and how much is available to them. There was one players’ father I met with on the first meeting that wanted $15,000 no matter who he signed with. He argued his son would be drafted based on his talent in the second round and an agent had very little negotiating power in a rookie contract. I knew from my sources in the league that he was a 6th or 7th round talent at best. The player signed with an agent that paid him but had very little talent. He went undrafted and signed with a team that was loaded with talent at his position and was released before training camp even started.”
For any small agent, it’s clear that a $15,000 investment was a huge mistake and could run someone out of business. Another mistake players make when deciding on an agent to sign with is looking at their client list.
“Players assume that if they have a lot of star players, then they MUST be a good agent because they rep good players. That isn’t always the case. The same goes for financial planners; I don’t want guys that solely work with athletes. I’m much more impressed with a financial planner who represents intelligent businessmen and high networth individuals.
With the average NFL career only lasting 3 seasons, it is essential for players to save their money. For most of us we can work until we’re 60, but for players that have such short careers they must save enough for the rest of their lives.
He then added “I don’t think the tactics have changed much since I started my career as an agent. It’s just as prevalent now as it used to be. Agents still give players or the family of players’ money while they’re playing to keep relationships ongoing. It’s just become more technical with runners and inappropriate relationships.”
Another major change from the start of Howard’s career is the intense scrutiny players come under in their every day lives.
“A guy could get in trouble years ago and nobody would find out about it. Nowadays, everybody has a cell phone with a camera trying to play TMZ. If a player does something wrong now, 5 minutes later it’s on Twitter. I actually feel bad for reporters, because their job never ends now. If news breaks at 10pm and you wait until the next morning to write about it – it’s already old news. Players must be careful about what they write on social media because they are all followed by important people in the industry. ‘I was hacked’ isn’t an acceptable excuse anymore when a player says something inappropriate on his social media. I always advise my players to always be careful what they tweet or say. Having a direct voice to fans is a double edged sword.”
I asked Howard what advice he would give to someone aspiring to be an agent.
“The advice I always give to my law school students and others who ask is that you will not get a job in the sports industry by taking certain classes or reading a textbook. It will be the things they do outside the classroom that will get them in the industry. The best advice I can give to someone interested in the sports field is to attend functions where industry people are speaking and in general just touch base with as many people in the industry as you can. Don’t hesitate to intern on the minor league level. This is one industry where who you know is more important than what you know.”
There’s a lot more involved in the life a sports agent that most realize. The expenses involved in being an agent are astronomical. There isn’t much loyalty from the players to their agents and other people are constantly trying to steal your clients. An agent’s lifestyle is far from glamorous, isn’t it? Do you still want to be one? I do.
Howard Shatsky has been representing players since 1989 and has worked with many Pro Bowl players such as Michael Strahan and Brian Westbrook. Howard is also an adjunct Sports Law Professor at American University. He owns Professional Football Management which is a firm that represents both players and coaches. You can follow Howard and interact with him on Twitter: @HowardShatsky
Follow Josh Elkin on Twitter @JoshElkin