SBJ/December 10-16, 2012/Labor and Agents

NFL adding two sites after success of Regional Combines

Liz Mullen
The NFL is expanding its Regional Combines from eight to 10 cities next year because of demand from clubs and football players, after a surprising number of last year’s participants — 32 — made NFL rosters or practice squads.

“There is a need for it,” said Ron Hill, NFL vice president of football operations. More clubs want to participate, by holding an event at their facilities, and there is a greater demand for it from football players who are not invited to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Hill said.

The Regional Combines will begin Jan. 24 at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, to coincide with the Pro Bowl, and end in Dallas in Cowboys Stadium on April 7.

The event was formerly called the Elite Pro Football Combines, but the NFL bought it from Elite and renamed it. At the first one in 2011, about 1,300 aspiring NFL players worked out for scouts. One made an active roster and three made practice squads.

This year, 2,000 wannabe NFL players participated in the Regional Combines, and four were drafted, 13 made active rosters and 12 made practice squads at the start of this year’s season, Hill said. The number on active rosters or practice squads has grown since the season began to 32.

“That was shocking,” said Hill, who formerly worked as a scout or player personnel executive with the Cowboys, Broncos, Jaguars and Falcons. “I didn’t think we would have but eight or 10.”

Hill said the Regional Combines’ success as a route into the NFL may be a reason for the increased demand from players who are not invited to the Indianapolis combine. “It gives a kid another opportunity to chase that dream and realize that dream or put closure to that dream,” he said.

Position players pay $225 to participate in the Regional Combines, and kickers pay $275. Players invited to the Indianapolis combine do not pay to participate.

> NFL SCOUTS EXPECTED AT NFLPA BOWL: The NFL Players Association will hold its second annual bowl game for draft-eligible players at the Home Depot Center in the Los Angeles area next month, and this time scouts from NFL clubs are expected to be present.

The NFL will now treat the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl “like any other bowl game.”
Photo by: AP IMAGES
Those scouts could not attend the first NFLPA Collegiate Bowl game in January of this year because it was open to underclassmen, and the NFL has a rule that prohibits scouts from attending any all-star event where underclassmen are participating.

“We will be there,” said the NFL’s Hill, when told the game this year would include only players who had used up their college eligibility. “We will treat it like any other bowl game. It will be treated like any other game as long as there are no players with college eligibility.”

Jason Belser, NFLPA senior director of player development, said the union will use the same eligibility rules as the Senior Bowl, which will be held Jan. 26 in Mobile, Ala.

The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl will be held Jan. 19. The teams will be coached by former NFL coaches Herm Edwards and Dick Vermeil.

The reason for the change “is to give players the best opportunity to be evaluated by the scouts and general managers throughout the league in practice, on the field and in interviews,” Belser said.

NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith sent a letter to all NFLPA-certified agents last week, informing them of the change in the rules and asking them to send information regarding future clients “you deem worthy of participation” to the union for invitations to the game. “As we develop this exclusive invitation list, we want to ensure that our game becomes a priority for your future clients,” Smith wrote.

The union will also hold educational workshops, interview preparation classes and other events for the invited players.

“Our collegiate bowl experience is designed to give NFL prospects the best glimpse into what their professional careers will look like,” said George Atallah, NFLPA assistant executive director of external affairs. “Our hope is that they understand what the overall business of football is like after their week is done.”

> CAA SIGNS DANNY GRANGER: CAA Sports has signed Indiana Pacers forward Danny Granger, a one-time all-star, for representation in all areas. Granger will be represented by a team of agents at CAA Sports led by Aaron Mintz and basketball co-head Leon Rose.

Granger was formerly a client of Priority Sports & Entertainment, where he was a client of Mintz and Priority CEO and founder Mark Bartelstein. Mintz left Priority for CAA in March. Granger terminated his player agreements and all other agreements with Priority Sports and signed new agreements with CAA Sports.

> UNC PLAYERS SIGN WITH FIVE STAR: Three highly rated players from the University of North Carolina — defensive tackle Sylvester Williams, offensive tackle Brennan Williams and offensive guard Jonathan Cooper — signed with Atlanta-based Five Star Athlete Management, the firm owned by prominent agent Todd France, for representation in the draft.

The players will be represented by France and Five Star agent Brian Ayrault.

Brent Williams, the father of Brennan Williams, said that his son interviewed several agents before picking France and Ayrault and that his son’s decision was based on factors including the presentation that Five Star made, the agents’ adherence to North Carolina’s strict rules regarding agent contact with student athletes, and his rapport with France and Ayrault.

The three players are friends, and the fact they will train together at Athletes Performance in Arizona, where Five Star trains all of its prospects, may have factored into their agent choice, Brent Williams said. But he added, “I don’t think they ever discussed, ‘We are all going to sign with the same agent. They all looked for their representation individually and it happened to be the same group.”

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

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