SBJ/20090907/Labor & Agents

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  • Client’s death, controversies create rough stretch for Cook

    In the last year or so, NFL agent Bus Cook has seen his first and most famous client, Brett Favre, retire and unretire twice; negotiated a controversial trade for Jay Cutler; and had to deal with the shock of the murder of close friend Steve McNair.

    Cook, a country lawyer from Hattiesburg, Miss., who got his start in the agent business in 1991 when he signed Southern Miss quarterback Favre, says the past year and a half has undoubtedly been the toughest stretch in his career.

    “It was the most stressful, for sure,” Cook said.

    Cook had to dodge 20 to 30 reporters camped out in the parking lot of his law firm last summer before Favre signed with the New York Jets. “I would try to hide from them, you know, not trying to be ugly, but I had nothing to tell them,” Cook said. And he had to deal with negative press when Favre signed this summer with the Minnesota Vikings, division rival of his longtime team, the Green Bay Packers. “Right now the Green Bay fans are mad because he wanted to play in Minnesota,” Cook said. “But they have to remember, Brett wanted to play in Green Bay [last year].”

    In the spring, Cook was involved in controversy again when client Cutler demanded a trade after a 15-minute meeting with new Denver Broncos coach Josh McDaniels where, Cook said, it was clear “they weren’t on the same page.”

    Cook has taken hits in at least one story suggesting  he was the common denominator in the drama enveloping the trades of Favre, Cutler and McNair — whom the Tennessee Titans sent to the Baltimore Ravens in 2006 after locking him out of their training facility.

    The worst thing Cook endured was the July shooting
    death of longtime client Steve McNair.

    “I am saying, you know, I represent my clients, I don’t try to get guys traded,” he said. Favre wanted to stay in Green Bay, Cutler in Denver and McNair with Tennessee, Cook said.

    By far the worst thing Cook has had to deal with is the July 4 shooting death of McNair, who signed with Cook before being selected as the third overall pick in the 1995 NFL draft. Cook knew McNair’s mother, who lived 20 miles away from him in Mount Olive, Miss., and he watched McNair play for Alcorn State in Lorman.

    Cook last saw McNair the week before he was killed, when McNair came to visit his son, Steve Jr., who plays football for a Hattiesburg high school team. McNair and his brothers went fishing at lakes on Cook’s property, and had some time for football, as well. “The week before, he and Brett Favre just happened to be over here throwing” to Steve Jr.’s team, Cook said.

    Cook said the slaying makes his death harder to take. “Absolutely, because it is something that is intentional, it is not accidental. … It doesn’t make any sense and particularly in this situation, when you had no knowledge of this person that he was allegedly involved with,” Cook said.

    Nashville police said McNair was shot dead by his 20-year-old girlfriend, Sahel Kazemi, who then killed herself.

     Nearly two months after McNair’s death, Cook got choked up talking about it. “That is not just the worst thing in my career as an agent, it is one of the worst things in my life,” Cook said.

    ATHLETES FIRST SIGNEES: Athletes First, the firm headed by agent David Dunn, has signed a number of NFL players in the last several months, including Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker, Chiefs guard Brian Waters, Chargers center Nick Hardwick and Chargers outside linebacker Shaun Phillips.

    GAYLORD SIGNS 2 MLBERS: Gaylord Sports Management has signed San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval and pitcher Carlos Carrasco, who was set to make his big league debut last week with Cleveland. Agents Gregg Clifton, Gus Vasquez and Terry Bross will represent the players.

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

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