Q & A With The Sports Agent Part 1

Patriots Insider held an exclusive Q & A with sports agency CEO Darren Heitner of Dynasty Athlete Representation. Some of the topics: Super agents, How agents get started in the business, contract terms and more

Ten Questions For Agent Darren Heitner: Part 1

Darren Heitner is the CEO of Dynasty Athlete Representation (www.dynastyreps.com), an agency representing athletes in multiple sports and entertainment. In addition, Heitner shares his experience and knowledge through his blog at sportsagentblog.com. and via Twitter (@Darren_Heitner).

1. You work for an agency that represents players from different sports. Obviously there’s a process to get certified to represent players in the various leagues. Bring us up to speed on how you became a sports agent and got into the business.

Darren Heitner: There are two different types of basic certifications. A majority of states require sports agent looking to recruit student-athletes to register as “athlete agents” in their states. I am registered in the state of Florida, which happens to be one of the most expensive states to register in. Others within my company are registered in various states. The other type of certification is by professional players’ associations. My company represents athletes in baseball, basketball, football, bowling, and we also represent coaches. Bowlers and coaches do not have an association that requires registration. We do not currently have any football or basketball players in the NFL or NBA (that will hopefully change soon), and until we have a baseball player on a 40-man roster, the MLBPA will not certify us. We just got our first client into Triple A, so we are expecting a call sometime soon!

I cannot recall when I first had ambitions to become a sports agent. To tell you the truth, I never really had made up my mind that the profession was right for me until I interned with a large sports and entertainment agency between my Sophomore and Junior years of college. I interned in the Client Services department of Career Sports & Entertainment, which is based in Atlanta, Georgia. I learned a great deal of information from those who took me under their wing, but left that internship unsatisfied. I was about to enter my Junior year of undergraduate studies (I was a Political Science major), and still had a hunger to learn more about the sports agent industry.

In December of 2005, after my Fall semester of Junior year, I started what is now, SportsAgentBlog.com. I was no Journalism major (although I did Minor in Mass Communications) and I was definitely not an expert in the field of sports, but I decided that starting the site would keep me abreast of the latest sports agent news and maybe build up a small connection base with those who happened to come across the blog. Search “sports agent” on Google right now. The site has come a long way.

In the Spring of my Senior year of college, one of my contributors challenged me to start a sports agency with him. He raised a lot of good points, and I am not one to back down from a challenge. Dynasty Athlete Representation was formed in April 2007, and is still alive and kicking roughly two years after the fact. I am the sole principal now, but we have an excellent group of people working in what we call, the Dynasty Family.

2. What are some of the differences in being an agent for players in the NFL, NBA and MLB?

The only difference between being a representative in the three leagues is that you are bound by different players’ association rules and regulations. To be NFLPA certified, you must have a post-graduate degree, pay a hefty fee, attend a seminar in Washington D.C., and pass a pretty demanding test. In order to remain certified, you cannot go more than 3 years without representing an active player. The NBPA also requires the payment of a fee. The application is quite lengthy, as well. The MLBPA is easy; get a client on a 40-man roster and you’re a part of the club. The NFLPA restricts agent commissions to 3% of a player’s contract, NBPA 4%, and MLBPA has no cap; however, the industry standard for a baseball agent is 5%.

3. You hear a lot about so-called Super agents in the NFL where one agent represents a disproportionate amount of the top players on the market. Who are some of these Super agents and what are they doing so well to achieve that status?

I hope I do not get any emails or calls for leaving anyone’s name off this list. The primary names that come to mind when I hear the phrase NFL Super Agents are: Tom Condon, Ben Dogra, Drew Rosenhaus, Joel Segal, and David Dunn. They achieve that status because they regularly make the newspapers and blogs. They regularly make the newspapers and blogs because they have high profile clients and represent the top picks in the draft year-in and year-out. That means they must be doing something right!

4. How do agents acquire players to represent? Do they have to recruit players, or is it the other way around?

It is a little bit of both, and definitely depends on the sport. Basketball is cluttered with runners and handlers, and in many cases, someone is being paid off in order to even speak to a potential client. Football is more crowded with agents than any other sport. Ten agents hound athletes who have no chance of being drafted before the players have played their bowl games. Baseball is the one exception. While the top draft picks are recruited years in advance, many Minor Leaguers do not have representation. Some of those players end up with an agent because of a teammate’s recommendation.

5. More and more players these days have a marketing agent and a sports (contract) agent. Is the sports agent business changing? What I mean, is there more of a demand to represent a client’s interests on various fronts now?

It all depends on the player. When I hear the name Peyton Manning, Tiger Woods, Derek Jeter, LeBron James, or Jason Belmonte (Dynasty plug), I do not think of a football player, golfer, baseball player, basketball player, or bowler. I think of a celebrity. The most marketable athletes demand more from their agents, which is understandable. Those athletes who get fifty calls a day from media entities, twenty five emails from potential sponsors, thousands of pieces of fan mail per day, etc. need more than just a contractual adviser. They need some who will handle marketing, a solid financial planner, a philanthropist to help with their charities, a publicist, etc.

Don't miss Part 2 of this Q&A where Darren answers questions on signing bonuses vs other types of bonuses, signing older players, gag orders and more.

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