SBJ/Feb. 17-23, 2014/Labor and Agents

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  • Agents make moves, sign prospects as NFL draft approaches

    Liz Mullen
    JL Sports, the firm owned by veteran NFL player agent Joe Linta, has partnered with two newly certified agents while signing one of its biggest NFL draft classes ever, including LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger.

    JL Sports represents Mettenberger in partnership with Seth Katz, a marketing agent and founder of AMG Pro Sports who became certified by the NFL Players Association last year. JL Sports and AMG Pro Sports also have combined to co-represent LSU fullback J.C. Copeland, LSU wide receiver Kadron Boone and Virginia Tech linebacker Jack Tyler.

    Quarterback Zach Mettenberger is among JL Sports’ clients.
    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
    AMG Pro Sports has worked with JL Sports clients in the past, handling marketing deals for Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco for years before Katz, 37, became certified to represent players in contract work.

    Last year, JL Sports added to its team by bringing on contract agent Spencer Cannold, 30, and his presence is already reaping benefits. Cannold helped recruit and sign Georgia offensive guard Chris Burnette, Syracuse linebacker Marquis Spruill, Georgia Tech linebacker Brandon Watts and Auburn cornerback Chris Davis.

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    Linta, who started as an agent 22 years ago, and fellow agent Tom Kleine, are co-representing the players with Katz and Cannold.

    Linta said he partnered with Katz and Cannold because of their integrity, honesty and work ethic. “Any young guy you hire, you find they are grinders,” Linta said.

    Linta said the results are a strong number of invites for the NFL combine later this month. “We signed seven guys who are going to the combine, which is a record for us,” he said.

    > BILBO SIGNS NFL PROSPECTS: Former NFL player and newly certified NFL agent Damarius Bilbo has opened Revolution Sports Management and has signed Notre Dame wide receiver T.J. Jones and LSU wide receiver Jarvis Landry as clients. Bilbo formerly worked for NFL agent Todd France’s Five Star Athlete Management after a brief NFL playing career. He was certified to represent players by the NFLPA in 2013.

    > WILLIS & WOY SIGNS PROSPECTS: Willis & Woy Sports Group signed several NFL draft prospects, including Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat. The Dallas-based firm also signed Florida State safety Terrence Brooks, Oklahoma State wide receiver Josh Stewart, Utah State cornerback Nevin Lawson and Purdue defensive tackle Bruce Gaston.

    Agents Jordan Woy, Jack Scharf and Ashley Millerick will represent the players.

    Meanwhile, free agent wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who most recently played for the Pittsburgh Steelers, left Willis & Woy earlier this month. Asked for comment, Woy stated in an email, “I am proud that we helped engineer his restricted free agency deal last year that almost doubled his salary from his original tender by the Steelers. … Players change agencies for a variety of reasons, but Emmanuel told me he only has only good things to say about our agency.”

    Sanders had not signed with a new agent as of press time for this column

    > BEREZIN BECOMES AGENT: Former NHL player Sergei Berezin has received temporary certification to be an agent from the NHL Players’ Association and has signed Montreal Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov as a client.

    The Russian-born Berezin played in the NHL from 1996 through the 2002-03 season, after which he retired. He was granted interim certification from the NHLPA for the purposes of representing one player, Markov.

    Markov, who is playing for the Russian Olympic team in Sochi, left his agent, Don Meehan of Newport Sports, last fall.

    Markov is in the final year of his deal with the Canadiens and has been the subject of trade rumors in recent weeks.

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

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  • Prospect Bridgewater signs trading card deal

    Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has all the characteristics of a top pro player and is one of the most marketable players in this year’s NFL draft. But it’s still not clear whether he will retain a marketing representative to advise him on potential endorsement deals.

    That hasn’t stopped him from landing a trading card deal, as his adviser, former NFL safety Abe Elam, said he has negotiated at least one trading card deal agreement for Bridgewater.

    Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater waited until this month to sign with an agent.
    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
    Under Sage Trading Cards’ deal with Bridgewater, cards of the quarterback should be for sale at retail nationwide in early March, said company president Tom Geideman. Elam negotiated the deal with Sage and the company shot photos of Bridgewater last week at IMG Academy, where he is training, Geideman said.

    The NFL player signing season has been marked by new agents entering the market and some non-traditional relationships, but none of the searches for representation have generated the kind of buzz inside the business that Bridgewater’s has in the last six weeks.

    He was, arguably, one of the most sought-after players this year, as top agents from major firms, like CAA Sports and Lagardère Unlimited, and top NFL representation shops like Athletes First were said to have met with him soon after he declared for the draft as a junior on Jan. 1.

    Most NFL draft prospects, and especially projected top five picks, sign with an agent quickly and are in a training facility shortly thereafter preparing for the NFL combine. But Bridgewater didn’t start training at IMG Academy until sometime during the weekend of Jan. 18 and didn’t sign with an agent until Feb. 4, when he hired veteran player rep Kennard McGuire.

    Both the timing of Bridgewater’s NFL draft preparation process and the people advising him have some industry insiders scratching their heads.

    Elam, as reported in SportsBusiness Daily in January, has officially been hired by Bridgewater as his adviser, but it is not clear what that job entails. Elam has not returned calls to his cell phone or requests for interviews made to his publicist.

    Elam’s involvement has been of significant interest to the NFL agent community, as he advised his younger brother, Ravens safety Matt Elam, who was the 32nd pick of last year’s NFL draft. In the end, Matt Elam ended up not signing with any agent.

    Abe Elam’s relationship with Bridgewater developed out of a friendship he had with Matt Elam who is around the same age and grew up in the same area in Florida as the quarterback, according to one source.

    Both Elam and Clint Hurtt, the former University of Louisville defensive line coach, were present at Bridgewater’s interviews with agents, which took place at the University of Louisville in January.

    It is not clear what Hurtt’s role was or what his current relationship may be with Bridgewater, but he took a job with the Chicago Bears as the NFL club’s defensive line coach in late January, a few weeks after helping Bridgewater with his agent search.

    Hurtt did not respond to a call or questions sent through the Bears. 

    "Clint Hurtt and Teddy have had a relationship for years," said Rocco Gasparro, University of Louisville assistant sports information director for football. "I know Clint helped Teddy in the process of selecting an agent and I do know a few of those interviews took place in the Louisville football complex."

    McGuire, in a brief interview earlier this month, said he didn’t know why Bridgewater made some of the choices he did or comment on the timing.

    “What I can tell you is Abe has put everything in front of Teddy and let Teddy make his own decisions as to when and who,” McGuire said.

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