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Volume 20 No. 41
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Small agents see clients post big numbers at NFL combine

They say this year’s NFL draft may be one of the best ever for running backs, with Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey, Florida State’s Dalvin Cook and LSU’s Leonard Fournette projected by analysts as first-round picks.

But it was little-known North Carolina running back T.J. Logan who posted the fastest 40-yard dash for the position: 4.37 seconds at the NFL combine.

“He moved out of the average category and into the relevant category,” said Gary Shipman, Logan’s agent. “He’s on the radar now.”

Shipman, founder of Shipman Law in Wilmington, N.C., and a lawyer for 36 years, has represented coaches, but only was certified by the NFL Players Association in 2013. He has five players in the NFL, including Romar Morris, who played for the Jets last year.

Logan is one of a handful of players represented by small, independent agencies who posted eye-popping performances at the combine.

Washington wide receiver John Ross ran the 40-yard dash in 4.22 seconds, the fastest time ever recorded at the combine. He is represented on the field by Brad Cicala of Terra Firma Sports Management and off the field by Ian Grutman of Grutman Sports and Entertainment.

John Ross burned up the combine sprint in record time.

Grutman negotiated a deal with Nike that prepared for the possibility that Ross would break the record of 4.24, set by Arizona Cardinals running back Chris Johnson at the combine in 2008.

“We had a plan that he hopefully was going to break the record,” Grutman said. When Ross did break it, “we ran over and met with Nike and celebrated with them and we went straight to the plan,” he said. Grutman would not disclose details of the marketing plan.

Cicala, meanwhile, said Ross still needs to have shoulder surgery but he wanted to prove what he could do at the combine. Ross trained with Gary Cablayan at EVO Sports Training in Long Beach, Calif.

Cicala said he doesn’t look at what draft analysts say, but as far as Ross goes, “I believe he’s a first-rounder.” Cicala added, “but I don’t believe in moving up or moving down. There’s only one draft on one day.”

Another player won praise for not one accomplishment but three. UConn safety Obi Melifonwu posted an 11-foot, 9-inch broad jump, a 44-inch vertical jump and a 4.40 in the 40-yard dash, a fast time for a man who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 224 pounds. “There are not many people walking the planet that can do what he did,” said Chris Martin, owner of OTG Sports Management and Melifonwu’s agent.

Martin played cornerback in college at Northwestern and had a brief stint with the Chicago Bears. His experience as a player, Martin says, is one reason he was

able to sign Melifonwu.

Martin said many NFL personnel people told him after Melifonwu’s combine performance that Melifonwu can play safety or cornerback. Melifonwu trained at ASPI Training in Tampa with Yo Murphy.

> EBMG SIGNS CLIENT; ROCKSTAR DEAL: Ella Bee Media Group has signed a multiyear deal for client and halfpipe skier Annalisa Drew with Rockstar Energy Drink.

Drew was a member of the 2014 U.S. freeskiing Olympic team and is pointed toward the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

EBMG also signed surfer Meah Collins. She was previously without representation. EMBG founders and agents Lila Brown and Richard Thorpe represent the clients.

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