SBJ/January 15 - 21, 2001/Labor Agents

Condon, IMG look strong in NFL draft after raft of big signings

For weeks now, the talk in NFL agent circles has been that IMG could take a dominant position in representing first-round picks in the 2001 draft.

Based on the early weeks of signing college players, Tom Condon, who leads the agency's football division, could be on his way to a big year.

IMG has signed Michigan offensive linemen Steve Hutchinson and Maurice Williams, Syracuse cornerback Will Allen and TCU running back LaDainian Tomlinson.

Condon, who has represented former No. 1 draft picks Peyton Manning and Tim Couch, also received a commitment from Purdue quarterback Drew Brees.

Speculation has been that IMG has been recruiting college players this year as never before, but Condon scoffed at rumors that IMG has been going after as many as 30 to 40 draft prospects.

"I would like to think we would have a good year this year," Condon said. "I think we have signed some very high-quality players who are also excellent character guys, and we are talking to three or four other players."

Condon did not name the players, but two of them are said to be Heisman Trophy winner and Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke and Mississippi running back Deuce McAllister.

"The important thing is that we do a good job for players," Condon said. "I think to a certain extent the success we have had with contract negotiations and the training facility has helped to generate more business for us."

IMG sends its football draft prospects to its Bollettieri training center in Bradenton, Fla., where it has hired a number of former NFL coaches to help players prepare for the draft.

VICK MEETS WITH AGENTS: Virginia Tech quarterback and would-be, could-be No. 1 NFL draft pick Michael Vick met with a number of top football agents earlier this month, including Leigh Steinberg.

Steinberg said Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer invited him to speak to Vick in Newport News, Va., about what Vick could experience if he did decide to declare for this year's draft.

"The purpose of the meeting was to talk about the draft process and scouting and how NFL contracts work," Steinberg said. "There was no advocacy at all on whether he should stay or come out."

Steinberg added that he was not the only agent who was invited. "Coach Beamer told me I was one of a number of agent interviews he was doing," he said.

Steinberg said he brought his longtime client and recently retired quarterback Warren Moon with him because "I felt that in terms of a young quarterback thinking about a career, he would provide a valuable resource for Michael to talk to."

Steinberg client and Redskins defensive end Bruce Smith dropped Steinberg and Moon off at the meeting because Smith lives in the area, he said.

PROS INC. BECOMES OCTAGON GOLF: Pros Inc. will officially be known as the golf division of sports agency Octagon effective today.

The Richmond, Va.-based firm has been a part of Octagon since the agency bought it in March 1999, but it has kept its old name.

The company represents 25 golfers, including Justin Leonard, Davis Love III, Brad Faxon, Tom Kite, Meg Mallon and Beth Daniel.

Giff Breed, a former partner in Pros Inc. and current chief operating officer of Octagon Golf, noted that there was a lot of equity in the Pros Inc. name, since that company was founded 27 years ago.

"To walk away from that right away would have been a mistake," Breed said. "But people now understand that we are a part of Octagon and can take advantage of what being part of Octagon can bring."

Those advantages include a major marketing division, a worldwide presence and agents specializing in all the major U.S. team sports, Breed said. In the last several months, Octagon has acquired player representation practices in baseball, hockey and football.

Breed said agents from the different practices are talking and learning from each other. For example, last week, the company had scheduled a conference call with agents specializing in golf, football, baseball, basketball and hockey to talk about ways to develop regional marketing plans for the company's clients.

SCHAFFER SIGNS TWO: NFL agent Peter Schaffer signed USC linebacker Zeke Moreno and Minnesota center Ben Hamilton.

WOOLF TAKES ON SANCHEZ'S MARKETING: Philadelphia 76ers guard Pepe Sanchez, the first-ever Argentine to play in the NBA, has signed with Woolf Associates for marketing and endorsement work.

Bell Management International will continue to represent Sanchez, 23, in contract negotiations.

Liz Mullen can be reached at lmullen@amcity.com.

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