These days, everybody, it seems, has an agent.
A guy hijacks a plane, gets caught, gets an agent and a TV Movie of the Week.
A government official gets fired. Who cares? He gets an agent and a seven-figure deal for his memoirs.
A college linebacker sacks the opposing quarterback five times on national television and visions of sacks of money start dancing in his head. What to do? Get an agent and wait for the draft, of course. What else?
For an agent, those are the easy sales. I'll bring the calculator, you bring the checkbook.
But for every Vinny Testaverde--who recently signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a reported $8.2 million for six years--there are a hundred Mike Kanes running around . . . and through . . . and over opposing tacklers.
Kane, a Cal State Northridge running back, closed out his collegiate career last fall with a school, single-season record 1,565 yards rushing. He also had 30 catches for 383 yards.
That would be quite a feat if he played for a big school. But on an NCAA Division II team like CSUN, those numbers aren't exactly going to bring the scouts running.
Kane has gained 13 pounds of muscle over the past four months. He weighs 193 but stands only 5-10. That would be more than adequate if he had blinding speed and dazzling moves. Instead, he runs the 40-yard dash in 4.7, not the kind of speed to cause anybody to look twice at a stopwatch.
This is where Douglas Brenner and Neal Allen come in. They are the agents who run the Los Angeles-based Professional Management Group, a 2-year-old organization that handles Mike Kane and other undrafted players like him.
"He's a client worth representing," Allen said. "Mike Kane is the kind of guy an agent can cut his teeth on, show that he's good at getting a guy like him on a team."
Not that Allen is still in the teething stage of his career. Now 29, he's been in this profession for nine years. His first client was Calvin Perkins, a wide receiver out of Tennessee State. Perkins, suffering the effects of a gunshot wound, missed his senior year, but Allen still landed him a spot on the roster of the Green Bay Packers and a $3,500 signing bonus. Perkins, however, never recovered sufficiently from his wounds to play for Green Bay.
"It was the end of his career," said Allen, a USC graduate, "but the beginning of mine."
Neither Allen nor Brenner, 27, played football, but they feel that shouldn't hinder their work.
"I think we're good judges of talent," Allen said. "Our jobs depend on it. If you show you have an eye for talent, scouts will respect your opinion. I'm not an auto mechanic, but I know if my car is running OK."
It was Brenner, a CSUN graduate, who first noticed Kane. Both agents believe in him, but getting the pros to believe is another matter.
"It's difficult for any small-college program to get respect," Allen said. "They have to continually put out pro players.
"We got Vance Mueller from Occidental College onto the Raiders, but that was considered just a find. The Occidental program didn't gain any respect.
"It's changing, though. Four or five years ago, nobody had heard of Northridge. Now people like Chris Parker, the quarterback, and Mike Kane are showing up on some scouting reports. People are starting to say, 'Hey, maybe there's some talent out there.' "
What Allen and Brenner must do is match the talent to the team. Since Tuesday, they have placed four clients--all free agents.
Kane is now Priority 1.
"The guy was the second-leading ground gainer in Division II," Allen said. "He must have been doing something right."
They are looking for a club that was weak at the running back position last year and no stronger after the draft. They don't want to send Kane to a team just looking for fodder for training camp, a body to be pummeled by defensive linemen looking for a target on which to practice their new moves.
It's a tricky business being an agent. But when you find the right spot for your client and it all clicks, who knows where it will lead?
After all, a year ago, who had ever heard of Rob Deer?
Or Devon White?
Or Vanna White?