SBJ/January 21 - 27, 2002/Labor Agents

Adviser’s blitz to find agent for Peppers started with hands-off warning

Carl Carey, mentor to star University of North Carolina football player Julius Peppers, knew early last August that there was going to be a problem.

"Right before the two-a-day practices, we started noticing a lot of strange things happening," said Carey, associate academic adviser to student athletes at UNC. "My office was staked out frequently because people knew that Julius was in my office frequently. There were a lot of characters who started to surround him."

The characters, Carey said, were NFL agents and "runners who worked for agents" who knew already that Peppers had a shot at being the top 2002 NFL draft pick and wanted to get close to him.

"I saw all this madness surrounding him and I said, 'Julius, you have tons of things that need to be handled, what in the world are you going to do with this?'" Carey said. "He said, 'I'm going to let you handle it.'"

After an exhaustive process that included Internet research and more than 300 phone calls to agents, NFL general managers and NFL players, done by Carey, Peppers chose agents Marvin Demoff and Sean Jones to represent him in April's NFL draft. Peppers has at times been ranked the No. 1 pick by espn.com draft prognosticator Mel Kiper Jr.

"Marvin is his primary agent and Sean Jones will help him transition to the NFL," Carey said, noting that Jones is a former NFL defensive end.

Carey said he and Peppers are happy with the choice, but Carey had no idea of the work involved when he first signed up to take care of the agent situation.

The first thing Carey did, early on, was change Peppers' phone number. The second thing was to contact all the agencies whose agents and runners had called the defensive end or approached him at his apartment or at a practice or game.

"I told them if there was one more phone call, one more unannounced visit to his apartment, one more contact, they were out," Carey said. "Then it stopped."

Carey then began his research by finding out the names of agents who had represented players chosen in the top 10 of the last three NFL drafts. "I wanted him to have somebody who had represented a top-10 pick and had done those deals well," Carey said.

He started with an initial list of about 18, he said. He then researched the contracts negotiated by those agencies and narrowed the list down.

"I met with several agencies face to face and listened to their spiel, and usually those meetings were two to three hours," Carey said. Finally, Carey narrowed the list to four agencies for Peppers to meet.

"My goal was to bring him four groups and he could have chosen any one of the four and still be well-represented," Carey said. "All four were exceptional groups who had extremely happy clients and were all very well respected in the NFL."

The four groups were headed up by David Dunn of Athletes First, Eugene Parker of Assante Sports Management, Jim Steiner of SFX Football and Demoff. All were invited to a Jan. 6 meeting, but Steiner voluntarily removed himself because he was close to signing another top NFL draft prospect and felt representing Peppers and the other player would be a potential conflict of interest. (The other player is Bryant McKinnie, see item below.)

In the end, Peppers chose Demoff because "in the short time he met with Julius, he presented himself as a man that could be trusted," Carey said. Carey said he was impressed with Demoff because of all the dozens of agents he talked to, "he was the only agent I had to initiate calls to," Carey said.

Demoff and Jones' work with defensive ends picked in the first round of the last three drafts, including 2000 NFL draft No. 1 Courtney Brown, also was a factor, Carey said.

SFX SIGNS McKINNIE: SFX football agents Jim Steiner and Ben Dogra have signed top NFL draft prospect and Miami offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie for representation.

Steiner said that McKinnie has an excellent chance of being the No. 1 pick and that "we are going to work very hard to help make that happen."

Steiner said the other potential No. 1 picks are Peppers and quarterbacks Joey Harrington and David Carr. Harrington is represented by Dunn and Carr by agent Frank Bauer.

CSMG SIGNS "THE BEAST": CSMG International has signed Sean "The Beast" Fister, winner of the 2001 Re/Max World Long Drive championship, for representation.

Kevin Canning, CSMG's golf marketing executive, and CSMG President Tom Kang will handle Fister's management, including additional development of his Web site, longdriving.com.

CSMG, a Chicago-based sports agency, represents about 200 athletes, including Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb and Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Randy Johnson.

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

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