These are turbulent times, especially in the football world. Though we at Inside the League try to provide the best answers to the toughest questions about the game, the truth can be a moving target, and getting the best and most up-to-date information can be elusive.
Still, that doesn’t mean we won’t try, and we’re going to give a big forum to some of the best minds in the football business next week when ITL’s Neil Stratton takes the helm of The State of Football, Ric Serritella’s daily football business broadcast on the SI.com Twitch channel. For five days, Stratton will be joined by guest host Bo Marchionte, founder of College2Pro.com, as they discuss the finer points of the football industry with 15 of the brightest minds in football. We’ll bring together former and active college football and NFL executives; some of the best young agents in the game; aspiring contract advisors who will take the exam next month; talented members of the football media, and more.
Starting a week from Monday (July 26), we’ll broadcast here from 9-10 a.m. Here’s a look at next week’s schedule (all times Eastern)
Monday, July 26
· Ralph Ventre, 9:05 a.m.: The Assistant Commissioner of the Northeast Conference is a regular on The State of Football, and he’ll discuss how he sees NIL impacting recruiting.
· Evan Brennan, 9:20 a.m.: The UA Sports contract advisor is one of the most talented young agents in the game and also one of the most outspoken on how the business works and the challenges facing young sports professionals.
· Nick Underhill, 9:40 a.m.: One of the brightest minds in football media, Nick is not only hands-down the best writer on the Saints beat, but boldly launched NewOrleans.Football just over a year ago to great success. With Drew Brees retired, are the Saints at a turning point? We’ll discuss.
Tuesday, July 27
· Blake Beddingfield, 9:40 a.m.: The former Titans executive has been featured on several ITL Zoom sessions as well as our first-ever podcast. With NFL camps kicking off, he’ll talk about his expectations for the season and make his picks on the Super Bowl, division winners, best rookies and more.
Wednesday, July 28
Thursday, July 29
· Don Williams, 9:05 a.m.: Another young professional slated to take the agent exam next month, Don has been around the game for a long time already. He’ll talk about the challenges he sees and how he’ll surmount them.
· Noel Lamontagne, 9:20 a.m.: A longtime contract advisor and member of Eastern Athletic Services as well as a former NFL lineman, Noel switched to the financial side of the game several years ago. Why? We’ll ask.
· Mike Sullivan, 9:40 a.m.: Mike was lights-out in a Zoom session with aspiring agents this spring, and he’ll talk about his time as a super-agent as well as his days as the cap expert for the Broncos.
Friday, July 30
· Aston Wilson, 9:05 a.m.: A former college fullback, Aston had success as an independent agent early his career before joining forces with others and helping form a new agency. Why? And why is NIL so hot in his hometown of Miami?
· Matt Lindsey, 9:20 a.m.: One of the first college football General Managers (at Ole Miss), Matt is also an ex-NFL scout. No one is better-positioned to talk about the future of NIL, its impact on recruiting and how it might influence scouting and evaluation in the future.
· Neal McCready, 9:40 a.m.: The publisher of RebelGrove.com, Neal will talk about what’s ahead in the SEC this year, which coaches will flash and which will crash, and the conference’s best NFL talent.
We are truly blessed to have such a great lineup of talent ready to roll starting a week from Monday, and we can’t wait to get started. It’s a five-day stretch guaranteed to increase your football intelligence, and we hope you’ll join us at the SI.com Twitch channel! In the meantime, here’s a look at what we saw, heard, read and said in the business of college and pro football this week.
Catching Up: Buddy Nix, 81, spent 57 years in football, coaching 32 years all over the SEC (Alabama, Auburn, LSU) and then spending 25 years in NFL front offices in Buffalo and San Diego. We caught up with him this week.
· Where are you living and what are you doing now?: “I have a home in Chattanooga, Tenn., and one in Alabama, close to Auburn, on the lake. I spend time at both places. I play golf, work out, and go watch my grandson play high school football. In Chattanooga, I sit by the pool, and in Alabama, I sit by the lake or get out on the boat.”
· Do you miss the job? What do you miss most?: “I do miss it, and what I miss the most is being around the players and the coaches and the people I worked with. That’s the big thing. As far as the grind and that kind of thing, you don’t miss that very much, but the associations you have is what you really miss. That’s what it’s all about. I was always in (early) and stayed late, so it gets to be a habit. You’d have to miss it.”
· Do you keep in touch with any of your former colleagues?: “Yeah, I do. I get calls, I guess more calls from ex-players. I still hear from players I coached in 1969, 1970, and I mean, once a week and sometimes more. Like I said, that’s what it’s all about, is the relationships you make.”
· Do you go to any live games (HS/college/pro)?: “Not many. I got a guy here in Chattanooga at UT-Chattanooga that played for me that was a special guy when he played, and he’s the head coach here (Rusty Wright), and I support him, so I go see them some, and I go see my grandson play every Friday night. I’m headed tomorrow to Thibodaux, La., to Manning Passing Camp, so I’ll go down there and spend time with them, and I have ex-players down there from LSU, and we’ll play golf when we’re not at camp.”
· Are there any players you love to watch and/or feel close to due to your work in the game?: “You know, (former Chargers QB) Philip Rivers was always special. (Former Chargers OH) Ladainian (Tomlinson), those are guys we drafted at San Diego early and I’ve kept up with them, they’ve stayed in touch, but there’s so many of them. Of course, the ones that are left in Buffalo, Jerry Hughes and Stephon Gilmore, guys we drafted, we’ve got them all over the league. They’re getting less and less, but those guys are always special and I always like watching them.”
Review the latest from other former NFL scouts and executives by accessing our Catching Up archive here. Want to hear from a former scout, or know someone who may be interested in being interviewed? Let us know.
Remembering Angelo Wright: We were late to discover that influential NFL contract advisor Angelo Wright passed away at the end of June. Angelo was among the true titans in player representation in the late 90s and early 2000s when the modern player agent became an established part of the sports landscape. Among the players he represented were Tim McKyer, Don Griffin, Roger Craig, Ted Washington, Sam Adams and Pat Williams, and according to his firm’s website, he negotiated more than $800 million worth of deals. Several of the biggest names in the game remembered him thusly this week:
· Arizona State Director of Athletics Ray Anderson, a longtime agent and NFL executive: “Angelo Wright was one of the most passionate advocates for his clients the business has ever seen. We need more like him to step up as the business continues to change.”
· Peter Schaffer, owner of Authentic Athletix: “On behalf of the agent community we both mourn the loss of Angelo and at the same time celebrate his career and his life. A tireless and passionate worker, he was one of the first Agents of color to successfully represent top draft choices and players starting in 1988 when such diversity didn’t exist in the agent ranks. He broke multiple barriers and overcame numerous obstacles while helping countless clients to enjoy successful careers and lives.”
· Former Bears GM Jerry Angelo: “Angelo was first and foremost an upfront guy. We did a handful of deals over the years. You always knew where he was coming from; he wasn’t much for small talk. He had no trouble telling you (that) you were full of crap. Saying that, I respected him, because he respected the process. For it to work, both sides had to feel some pinch, and he got that. Our last deal was with Ted Washington. It wasn’t easy, but in the end, he would always do the right thing for his client.”
A memorial service will be held Thursday, July 29, at 4 p.m. in Mayfield Vilage, Ohio, at the Hilton Garden Inn, 700 Beta Drive, and the service will be live-streamed on Facebook. From the ITL family to the Wright family, we offer our deepest condolences. He will be missed by players, agents and NFL executives, both friends and competitors alike.
This week in NIL: There’s been an awful lot happening in the two weeks-plus that NIL eligibility has been the law of the land. For example, in just 15 days, 14 players who were rated as first-rounders by at least one of the seven major draft services we tracked in May have signed an exclusive NIL marketing deal with an agency, and 10 of those agencies also represent players for contracts. Furthermore, of the top four quarterbacks in the ’22 draft, according to the seven services, three have already signed exclusive marketing agreements (only Liberty’s Malik Willis hasn’t). It’s led us to do some thinking about what it all means, and the impact NIL might have across the industry. As a matter of fact, that was the subject of this week’s blog, which we posted Thursday. We’ll continue monitoring, discussing and thinking about the football world and putting our thoughts in our blog. Make sure to review all our posts going back seven years here, and review the almost 200 NIL deals (and growing) that we’ve identified so far here.
Next week: There are now fewer than three weeks until the 2021 NFLPA exam. Meanwhile, NIL deals are being signed at a breakneck pace. That means that, as many people across the game wrap up their vacations, we’ll continue working. This week, we’ll be gearing up to run The State of Football each day next week (July 26-30), with three guests each day (as you know). We’ll be finalizing bios and thinking about our questions (by the way, got something you’d like to ask anyone on our panel? Fire away). However, we’ll have more. Monday through Thursday, the ITL Rising Contract Advisor Newsletter will hit the inboxes of hundreds of people taking the exam next month; most of them are already using our exam prep materials. We’ll also have five more Profile Reports (Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, UNLV and New Mexico); our regular Rep Rumblings reports; our blog; our various grids, like our NFL head coach-Agent Grid in case another school conducts a mid-summer coach switch, as Ohio did this week. Whatever happens, wherever the business is, we’ll be there to track it. Come along with us.