SBJ/January 23-29, 2012/Labor and Agents

‘Fair question’ whether new CBA allowed agent to win Luck

Liz Mullen
Will Wilson, the newly signed agent for Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, couldn’t say last week if he would have been the agent for the expected top pick in this year’s NFL draft if the league’s new collective-bargaining agreement had not changed the structure of playing contracts for top picks.

“That’s a fair question,” Wilson said when asked if Luck would have signed instead with an experienced NFL agent had deals for rookies stayed the same. “It’s hard for me to answer that question. If it was not that structure, I don’t know.”

Highly touted Andrew Luck selected an agent who hasn’t repped an NFL player.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
Wasserman Media Group
announced last week that it had signed Luck for representation on and off the field and that it also had hired Wilson, who most recently was executive vice president of MLS and Soccer United Marketing but has worked in the sports business for 21 years. He’s previously been an executive vice president at the Arena Football League and at CART. He also, notably, is Luck’s uncle.

Under the NFL CBA agreed to last year, the first pick in the draft will get less than half of what top picks did under terms of the prior labor deal. In addition, the contracts now are structured in such a way that there is not a lot of negotiation involved.

Wilson was certified to represent NFL players in contract talks with clubs by the NFL Players Association in 2010, but he has never previously represented an NFL player. WMG represents hundreds of athletes, including star NBA and MLB players, but no NFL players. For those reasons, Luck’s selection of Wilson and WMG came as a surprise to many, especially given Luck’s standing as arguably the most heralded draft prospect in years.

“We’re four months out [from the draft], but at this point, I haven’t seen a player more locked into the No. 1 overall pick than Andrew Luck is right now,” said Rob Rang, senior draft analyst for CBS Sports.

Quarterback guru Steve Clarkson, who has trained a number of top college and NFL quarterbacks through the years, said, “I think he is the best prospect to come out in the last 10 years.”

Despite that talk, agents and others in the industry say Luck hasn’t had his head turned by the hype. Asked if it was important to Luck that he be drafted No. 1 overall, Wilson said, “I think for Andrew, it’s just important to play.”

As for marketing, Wilson said Luck will probably do some work but that his focus is on football. “I think the general feeling on Andrew is less is more,” Wilson said, regarding marketing. “We will take it as it comes and we will be very strategic about it.”

Wilson has known WMG founder, Chairman and CEO Casey Wasserman since about 2002. He interviewed to run the former AFL team, the Los Angeles Avengers, that Wasserman owned. While Wilson did not get the job, he and Wasserman stayed friends.

Wilson is joining WMG as executive vice president of football operations and will spend “1,000 percent” of his time managing Luck until Luck is situated in his career. After that, Wilson will work with the WMG management team on international business development, including on its soccer division, which represents more than 400 players worldwide. 
 
OCTAGON SIGNS NFL PROSPECTS: Octagon signed Alabama linebacker Courtney Upshaw, Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus and Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden for representation in this year’s NFL draft. Octagon also signed Oklahoma cornerback Jamell Fleming, Missouri tight end Michael Egnew, Cal linebacker Mychal Kendricks and Cal wide receiver Marvin Jones.

NFLDraftScout.com projects Upshaw and Mercilus as first-round picks, with Upshaw at No. 18 and Mercilus at No. 22 in a mock draft last week. Agents Doug Hendrickson, C.J. Laboy, Sean Howard, Mike Sullivan and Andy Ross will represent the players.
 
PRIORITY SIGNS NFL PROSPECTS: Priority Sports & Entertainment signed Georgia punter Drew Butler, Arizona State wide receiver Gerell Robinson and Michigan defensive tackle Mike Martin for representation in the draft. Agents Deryk Gilmore, Mike McCartney, Rick Smith and Kenny Zuckerman will represent the players.

Liz Mullen can be reached at lmullen@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @SBJLizMullen.

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