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Volume 21 No. 30
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Agent Jack Mills returns to NFL draft pinnacle 34 years later

NFL agent Jack Mills has had a No. 1 draft pick before — in fact, he’s had two. They just happened to be 34 and 37 years ago.

Celebrating his 51st year in the business, Mills last represented the first pick in the NFL draft in 1984, when the Patriots took wide receiver Irving Fryar No. 1. He also represented running back George Rogers, who was taken No. 1 by the Saints in 1981.

 

But Mills, who at age 80 looks more like he’s 60, didn’t think he’d represent a No. 1 pick again, at least not until he and his son Tom signed Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield earlier this year. Mayfield was taken No. 1 by the Cleveland Browns last month.

 

“No, I did not,” Mills said when asked if, prior to signing Mayfield, he thought he’d represent the first player taken again in his lifetime. “We were lucky in a lot of respects.”

 

Initially, Mayfield was not sold on having a playing-contract agent. Still, his family was approached by every major agency in the country, with some agents promising that they could get him drafted No. 1 overall, according to his father, James. Such guarantees didn’t go over well with the Mayfields.

 

Asked last week if he was happy he ended up hiring an agent, Mayfield in an email wrote, “Yes. With the caveat that I am happy with THE agent(s) I hired, not just an agent in general. Me/my family were approached by everyone, and the only ones that were a best-fit for me were the Mills.”

 

Longtime NFL agent Jack Mills, No. 1 pick Baker Mayfield and Mills’ son, Tom
Photo: courtesy of tom mills

The biggest thing the Mills did for Mayfield was help determine his travel, workouts and appointments with teams. That was a little tricky considering Mayfield didn’t have enough time to meet with every team that wanted to sit down with him.

 

“In terms of navigating the weeks and months leading up to the draft, they took an approach that I liked,” Mayfield wrote. “We didn’t try to please every team out there — all it took was one to buy in to me and Tom/Jack preached that since day one. The results speak for themselves.”

 

The Mills turned down some teams, Tom Mills said. They agreed to send Mayfield on seven franchise trips — to the Browns, New York Jets, New York Giants, Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins and Arizona Cardinals.

 

“There were so many teams that wanted to talk with him, wanted to work him out, wanted to interview him and bring him into the facility,” Tom Mills said. “We decided we wanted to streamline it [and] focus on teams that we knew needed a guy and had the draft capital to actually get him.”

 

This is the first No. 1 pick for Tom Mills, who became an NFL Players Association-certified agent in 1996.

 

When Tom was in middle school and high school in the 1980s, the NFL draft was always on a Tuesday. In those days, he was allowed to take a day off from school when his father was representing players who had a chance of being taken in the first round.

 

There was one year, 1984, when Jack represented the top-two overall picks: Fryar and offensive lineman Dean Steinkuhler, who was taken second that year by the Houston Oilers. Mills has represented two hall of famers during his career: offensive lineman Randall McDaniel, who was picked No. 19 overall in 1988, and Eric Dickerson, selected No. 2 in 1983.

 

That 1983 draft still holds the record for the most quarterbacks taken in the first round with six, including hall of famers John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino. Jack Mills didn’t represent a quarterback in the ’83 draft, but he notes that at the time, there wasn’t the hype around the quarterbacks that there was this year. Mayfield was one of five QBs taken in this year’s first round.

 

“Elway was clearly rated as the best and it wasn’t like this year, where four were rated highly and in differing orders and all four went in the top 10,” Mills said.

 

Gil Brandt, former head of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys who now advises the NFL on who to invite to the draft, thinks there’s one, maybe two, quarterbacks in this year’s draft who are future hall of famers. Brandt wouldn’t name them, but he had plenty to say about Jack Mills.

 

“I have known Jack forever,” Brandt said. “Jack Mills is a solid, solid, solid individual. … Everybody likes the guy.”

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