At some point in time, NFL players realize the game of football is going to leave them behind. However, they could still be in a position where they’re financially stable, they’re of sound mind and body, and they’ve got opportunities after football. Craig Domann, CEO of 360 Sports, says these can all be provided for. Craig’s company represents NFL players when they come out of college. They’re basically career counselors and negotiators, and help players through their journey through the NFL. Craig talks about the many hats they have to wear in assisting clients with all aspects of their NFL career and shares the process it takes for an NFL prospect to be in the league.
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360 Sports: Through NFL And Beyond with Craig Domann
We’re with the CEO of 360Sports, Craig Domann. Craig, thank you for taking time out.
I appreciate it, Bob.
Tell me a little bit about what you do in 360Sports and who you serve?
What we do is we represent NFL players when they come out of college. We’re basically career counselors, negotiators, we wear lots of hats. We help them through their journey through the NFL. At some point in time, the game of football is going to leave them behind. At that point in time, we want them to be in a position where they’re financially stable, they’re of sound mind and body and they’ve got opportunities after football.
The whole agent world, there are many misunderstandings about what you do. I suspect the Jerry Maguire movie had a great deal to do with that. Let’s walk backways, what did you do before you became an NFL agent?
First, you’ve got to look at the fact that I love sports. I love competition and I played college football. When I got out of college, I was in tax accounting. I was bored out of my mind. I went to law school to pursue something in sports and I found my way into the athlete representation business back in 1990. It gives me an opportunity to mentor young men, coach them. I love coaching. You are the ultimate coach when you’re an agent.
In my impression and I’m willfully ignorant, is that we have a notion of what an agent does. The coaching aspect, now that you say it, makes incredible sense. They have the coaching on their sport side, but you’re a life coach for them.
Absolutely. The person that besides the players that have fathers, the person they respect the most is typically a coach. The vernacular, the nomenclature, everything that goes along with the player-coach relationship is the one that they hold the highest. If you can communicate with a young man from a coach perspective, you can make more of an impression with him.
Looking at what you do for the athletes, you’ve been doing this for a long time. How many athletes do you think you’ve worked with through the years and securing them a place in the NFL?
Probably over a couple hundred.
That’s a couple of hundred folks and the audience is in a couple of different camps. You have the audience that may have either a friend or somebody that’s trying to get in the NFL as a college player. You have the folks that are sports enthusiasts and trying to understand the process of going from an NFL prospect to being in the league. Let’s talk about the typical things that are processed for an NFL prospect from college coming up to what’s important to them to get into the NFL?
There are a lot of myths involved in what it takes to be an NFL player. When guys come out of college you have to look at where they started. These guys were talented athletes, probably multisport athletes from when they were knee high. They were probably the best player in their middle school, certainly the best players in their high schools. They come to play college football and then they learn that it’s a business. That’s a big separator for players because there’s five stars, four stars, three stars but not all of them rise to the top.
The ones that are NFL prospects are the guys that have survived all that screening up to that point. This is the time in their life where they want to cash in. They want to capitalize on the opportunity they have to get paid for something that they’d been playing for free their whole life. When you’re sitting down with the young man and his family and they’re at the brink of becoming an NFL player. They want to make the right decisions, the right choices. They want to be with the right people. They don’t want to leave any money on the table. They want to take advantage of every opportunity they can. They’re looking for people that can guide them through that process.
As a kid that gets out of high school that gets recruited, that gets a scholarship to college, you talk about that they go from basically the game to working in the game. What’s that like for a kid that’s extremely competitive and maybe an NFL prospect? Their college work/study life, what’s that like for them?
It’s the first time in their life where they have to learn how to juggle a lot of balls. College football players now are under a lot of pressure, especially a lot of time demands. That college football coaches know that if they keep them in a stadium and they keep them in the building, whether it’s lifting weights, whether it’s study hall, whether it’s meetings, practice or extra film study, they stay out of trouble. Most college football players have to love the game or they’re miserable because it’s a full-time job. My son plays college football in the Power Five and he loves the game, but he has no free time. They pretty much take up about 46 or 47 weeks out of the year. They don’t get any downtime and pretty much most of your day is taken up between academics and the demands of the football stadium.
For the kids in our audience, the collegiate athletes that are the NFL prospects, when should they start thinking about what they need to be doing that will make them different or make them stand out or distinguish their chances or increase their chance to be in the NFL?
The best way to make a case for yourself in the NFL is to be an awesome college football player. Understand that you’ve got to be able to connect with your coaches. You’ve got to know your playbook inside and out. Ultimately, on Saturday afternoons you have to perform and be one of the elite players. Between Sunday and Friday, you’ve got to go to class. You’ve got to take care of your studies. You’ve got to take care of your body, you’ve got to take care of your sleep and you’ve got to find the time for your girlfriend, you’ve got to find time to have some fun too. It’s a balancing act for these guys and if they can learn the balance, the demands that they have in college and then perform like a madman on Saturday afternoons, the NFL is going to be there.
If you were going to offer advice to a younger athlete, not yet in college, they’re going, “I’d like to take in and get to college and ultimately play in the NFL.” What are the three or four things that you would explain to them in detail that would give them the opportunity or increase their opportunity?
For a high school kid, the biggest thing is that they have to maximize their physical abilities and they need to listen to their coaches and not go on their own private plan. The coaches have their best interests in mind. Young men in college don’t look like young men in high school. There’s a tremendous amount of physical development and a lot of that is done in the weight room. If a young man in high school really attacks the weight room, that’s going to help him. If he’s a skilled position player, he’s going to want to run track. He’s going to want to do multiple sports. The best way to get to be excellent at football is also to be excellent at other sports. More multisport athletes are successful in college than single sport athletes.
Is there a preferred other sport that these guys played that increase their opportunity to be in the NFL?
I don’t think so. I think basketball, soccer, some of the movement sports is more important than golf. I love golf, but it’s not going to help you be an NFL player. When you play multiple sports, your body gets used to going in lots of different directions, a lot of different movement patterns and you’re less susceptible to injury if you are a multisport athlete.
From what little I understand about the NFL, there’s been a movement toward more flexibility. Maybe it’s always been there, but it seems it’s talked about more. Do you find that the guys are more focused now on flexibility as well as strength?
I find them being more focused on recovery and that includes everything. That includes stretching, it includes hot and cold tub and it includes yoga. There are lots of different disciplines that play into that, but it’s more about recovery. Guys that are elite athletes can do it one time, but the superstars do it every week for the whole season. That’s the dividing line between the superstars and the rest of the rank and files, the guys that can recover.
I don’t know what the average time is for an NFL player to be in the league. For the guys that have long careers in the league, what distinguishes them between the guy with a long career in the league and those that have the two, three or four-year career in the league?
I would say some of it is luck. A lot of it is health and a lot of it is being in the right place at the right time, being a good fit with your scheme. Ultimately, it boils down to what’s between the young man’s ears. What’s his mindset? How does he handle the business of the NFL? For example, if he has a tremendous amount of athleticism and talent, he’s probably going to play two or three years. If he wants to play ten, he has to have the spirit of a rookie in year four. He has to have the energy of a rookie in year six.
He has to have the commitment and the want to of a rookie when he’s in year eight. That’s not easy to do. At year ten he has to reinvent himself because the way the NFL works is they’re always looking for younger, healthier and cheaper. Once you hit 26, 27, you’re not young anymore in the NFL. Generally, you’re more beat up and you better be making more money. They’re trying to get rid of you. If you don’t have the spirit of a rookie when you’re a veteran, you’re not going to be a veteran very long.
We talked a little bit about mindset, and you touched on the mindset of being a rookie and reinventing yourself. When you look across your career of the various players, what were the top one or two distinguishing characteristics that propelled some of these guys into the league? Is it mindset mostly and physical ability? Is there more to it than that?
All of them have physical ability. There are a few that have elite physical ability, but the distinguishing factor is always the mindset and belief. What I find is that you can’t accomplish what you don’t believe you can accomplish. If you don’t have the mindset to do the right things, to put yourself in a position to be successful, you won’t. What I find is that in NFL, regardless of a young man’s draft in the first round, second round, fifth round, no round, if he is committed to becoming a starter, if he’s committed to becoming a contributor as a rookie, he has to have a different mindset. He also has to have a different belief.
There’ll be somebody here that are going to be, “I want to get my mindset right,” and go, “What exactly do I do? What is a proper mindset?” What are the components in your mind of proper mindset?
First and foremost, you have to be authentic. You can’t have a dream and you can’t have a wish unless you’re going to back it up with work. That’s number one. Number two is you have to know who you are. If you don’t know who you are, every man struggles with either trying to accomplish something or trying to avoid something. As a consequence, you have to know who you are and what your propensities are. If you’re going to end up spending too much time playing video games, leave your video equipment at home and don’t take it to training camp. If you have girl issues, you’ve got to make a commitment to put football ahead of girls. Regardless, every man needs to know who he is.As an NFL player, the guys that have somebody else they're playing for have a tendency to play longer. Click To Tweet
The second thing he needs to know is why he does what he does. As an NFL player, the guys that have somebody else they’re playing for have a tendency to play longer, because once you get a little bit of money in your pocket, NFL’s too hard. You can make that money doing other things. You have to have a big why. Generally, as a man, you have to have whys. Something you’re trying to get or somebody you’re trying to prove wrong. Sometimes it’s that middle school coach, high school coach, college coach that told you, you couldn’t do it. Maybe it’s the media that told you, you couldn’t do it. Maybe it’s your dad that told you, you couldn’t do it. That is a motivator for a lot of NFL players.
For guys that didn’t have nice things when they were kids, you have three siblings sleeping in the same room, they wanted to have nice things. You have to know why you’re doing it. The last thing you have to know is what impact can you make as an NFL player? What impact can you make on your family? What impact can you make on your community? What impact can you make on a cause? Something that’s near and dear to your heart. As an NFL player, it’s a three-dimensional thing. When you’re in the NFL, you’re on a stage and you’ve got an opportunity to make an impact. When you put those three together, your mindset’s going to come together.
Shifting gears a little bit. At some point there’s a reach out by you or by the athlete to you at some stage of their collegiate career. How does that process work? Let’s say that you’re a freshman or sophomore and I don’t know when the NFL starts to look at the prospects, but what are the proper steps for somebody that’s an NFL prospect? What should they expect from their years in college and how do they select an agent?
Those are a couple of different questions. Let’s go first with how do you even put yourself in a position to be in NFL prospect? That is doing what your coach is telling you to do, being excellent. The NFL is not for everybody. You’re going to have to be a superstar at your college to have an opportunity to play in the NFL. It’s doing all the right things to put yourself in a position so on Saturday afternoons, you’re the guy. You’re making plays, you’re the leader and you’re the guy that everybody looks to you in tough situations. That takes time. Some guys are fortunate that they stepped in as freshmen and they’re superstars from the jump. For most guys, it takes time, especially the guys it takes longer. Once they put themselves in a position to be marketable, be attractive to NFL teams, they can’t go to the NFL and can’t be drafted until they’re three years removed from high school.
Registered sophomores after that season, they can go to the NFL. True juniors, obviously seniors can go to the NFL. It’s either the NFL or get a real job. At that point in time, the second part of that question was, what can they expect? How do they get contacted? First and foremost, you have to look at what’s legal. What’s appropriate in the NCAA, with the state statutes and everything that’s in place now. In some cases, the schools. The NCAA does not prohibit any contact. They do prohibit giving players anything of value. You can’t give him a pencil. You can’t buy him lunch. You can’t give him a ride but you can communicate and give materials and you can answer questions.
At the end of the day, the contact that players get from agents after they are ordained as an NFL prospect, is pretty heavy. They’re getting direct messaged on social media. Their coaches tapping them on the shoulder and saying, “I want you to talk to my guy.” Some schools like the University of Oregon have a process with an interview. Basically, an interview system where agents submit interest in certain players. The director of compliance takes those agents to the players to find out which ones they want to meet. There are a lot of schools that do that. There are zillion different ways these players are contacted; the parents are contacted.
At the end of the day, I feel the NFL prospects that are the most successful have the ability to block out all that noise, eliminate, minimize the distractions as much as possible so that on Saturday afternoons, they’re balling out. What I see happening over and over again is that during the summer, before the season, guys are projected to go high in the draft and they get approached by 30, 40, 50 agents. It takes up a lot of time and then they don’t have time to do the things they need to do to be successful. When the draft comes, they’re disappointed.
It’s a very difficult challenge for these players to maintain focus through this process. We are distractors. I represent a lot of coaches. Most coaches don’t like agents because they’re distractors. The reason why is because an agent can tell a player, “You shouldn’t play because you’re dinged up.” That coach wants them to play. They’re playing the arch rival next Saturday. At the end of the day, it’s very challenging for players to manage this process and funnel it down so they can get it to the people that they’re interested in and not be distracted from keeping the main thing. The main thing is playing ball for whatever school they play for on Saturdays.
You’ve worked with many NFL players and if you were to offer advice to an NFL prospect, here are the key things that you must consider before selecting an agent. I’m sure you have key advice. What would that be?
If you had a son, then you asked me what criteria you should use to assist your son in picking an agent, certainly integrity, experience, want to. Everybody has different levels of interest in clients. Everybody’s going to say that you’re going to be a priority, but you have to see through that and find out if you’re really going to be a priority. I would go with a firm that doesn’t take on too many guys because you will get lost in the shuffle, just the way it works. It’s a numbers game. I would go with somebody that’s a good fit for your son. If you’re an NFL prospect, go with somebody who’s a good fit for you. This is a critical relationship for these young men because we act as their key advisor. If you don’t feel comfortable, don’t feel confident, you’re probably not going to listen to their advice. Why would you pay somebody if you’re not going to listen to their advice?
One of the bigger decisions of their budding professional career and I think about the pressure to get it right. Are there resources for these guys to go to get it right?
Teammates, previous teammates. They could contact the NFLPA. NFLPA is a neutral party because they are affiliated with every agent. If a young man and his family have quality time and ask tough questions to people in my line of work, they’ll figure out who are the good guys and who’s a good fit for them.
For the family out there, what are the one or two tough questions they should ask?
Agents have visions for clients, teams have visions for players. I would want to know what the agent’s vision is for their son. If you can’t answer that question, he hadn’t thought about it. That’ll tell you a lot because they’re just trying to sign you because they saw your name on a list and they just want to see how it works out. As opposed to seeing a player that could be perhaps somebody they’ve already represented, may be better than somebody they’ve represented and they know what that young man’s journey is going to look like. They already know what the obstacles are going to be. They’ve already got a plan to make sure that they jump over those obstacles throughout their career so they can maximize their career.
For the kid that’s looking at agents and you’ve got an older agent with years of experience and you have a younger agent, less experience, maybe more enthusiasm. What’s the comparison in between the pros and cons between somebody that’s new with less experienced and somebody with a great deal of experience? What would be the benefit detriment between the two?
If everything goes well for a young man while he’s in the NFL, it doesn’t matter. Unfortunately, in the NFL, there are a lot of twists and turns, detours and disappointments. That’s where the savvy veteran agent will come in handy. I see myself as almost like an ER specialist from the standpoint that when things are going great, candidly, a player’s mom can represent him. When things aren’t going well, that’s where the agent community is divided. Some people are better life coaches than others.
Some people look out for the best interests of their clients better than others. Some people will give authentic advice. Some people understand how the business works and how the NFL teams are going to look at this player based upon what decision he makes. An experienced agent that has integrity and authenticity and is looking out for that young man’s best interest, you’re going to get different advice than you’ll get from somebody that might be a cheerleader agent that’s just telling the player how great he is.
Effectively there are three or four different types of agents in the business. You’ve got the cheerleader agent, that’s the guy’s going to hit you up with the clubs. He’s going to be fun. Not that these guys need more friends, but he’s going to be one of your friends. When something goes wrong, he may not be ready for that. You’ve got the sharp attorneys that are great negotiators that really don’t know football, that negotiate contracts. They’re great at the negotiating table. They’re not so great during the season and during a young man’s career when he’s dealing with a relationship issue with his coach. When he’s got a struggle with one of his peers, it might be one of his best friends and they’re competing for the same spot. Those guys are inept for helping that young man in that situation. They don’t even understand it’s happening.
You’ve got coach agents and that’s the way I see myself as being a coach agent. As a coach agent, you’re really acting as a coach. It’s more business coaching, life coaching than football coaching. However, you still do football coaching because sometimes when you ask one of your clients, “What’s your position coach is telling you?” He’s, “He tells me this all the time,” “What are you doing about it?” It didn’t click.
You’re like the interpreter and you go, “This is what he’s asking you to do.” If you don’t earn the trust of your coach, you’re never going to play. If you don’t earn the trust of your coach, you’re never going to start. If you don’t gain the trust of your organization, they’re never going to pay you. You’re just going to hold the spot warm until they put somebody else in there for you. The coach agent relationship is one that gives players multiple benefits throughout their career.
We’ve been talking about the NFL prospect and the young player. The young player comes to the end of his contract or you have a coach that is looking for a home. Do you represent those people as well?
What’s the chief difference between the player that is now at the end of his first contract and the player that’s just gotten drafted and coming into the league?
The biggest difference is the money and the leverage. When a young man comes into the NFL, he comes through the draft. The draft is a weighing scale. First round is going to make more than second and so on and so forth. When a young man is either restrictive free agent or an unrestricted free agent after three or four years, it’s all about leverage.
What’s the difference between restricted and unrestricted?
Restricted means the team you’re with has an opportunity to retain you by just making a tender. Depending on the level of tender they offer, dictates what other teams have to give up if they want to pursue you. Comparatively, if you’re an unrestricted free agent, you’re free. Once the free agency period starts, you can sign with any of the 32 teams.
Let’s say you have a fairly competitive athlete, who has done a good job, respected in the league, comes to the end of his contract. What are the considerations that an agent should have for that athlete?
First, you need to understand if he wants be where he’s at. If he does, you want to try and find a way to maximize his income and keep him where he’s at. He may have a wife, a couple of kids, they may be in school. He may be close to home. He may be in a warm weather area and may be on a winning team. For whatever reason, he wants to be where he’s at. I find my job in those situations to fight to make it happen, but not at a discount.
If he wants to leave then I need to find out which of the other 31 teams like him and like him enough to pay him, and where he’s a good fit scheme-wise. Once I do that due diligence, then I can give him advice. There are typically four situations that happen to a player to fit into one of four boxes. They should stay with their own team, and they do. They should stay with their own team and they don’t. They should leave and they do or they should leave and they don’t.
There are two good boxes to be in and two bad. If you should stay, I want them to stay. If you should go, I want him to go. What goes along with that is the compensation. What you don’t want is a player that should go, that doesn’t, and he’s mad the rest of his career he didn’t leave or he does leave and he shouldn’t have. He doesn’t realize it until he shows up to work the first day and he’s not a scheme fit. He’s not a priority. He’s in a new city and now he’s dealing with moving issues with the spouse and he’s starting all over. He could be back at his previous team enjoying life.
There’s no way we’re going to cover everything on this particular episode about what you do and what you bring to the table. They’re leading and you have to see where he fits. If he’s leading one team and there are 31 other ones, how do you know whose looking for that skill set in that particular player? That’s not a small thing to go find them all. I thought we would shift gears a little bit and I generally like to quiz everybody to death, my favorite part of the show. For you, what’s the most recent book or most influential book that’s altered your perception on being a CEO and how you run your business and why?
I would say an excellent book I’ve read recently is called Pitch Anything, and it’s a sales book. It talks about power frames. It talks about things in a different perspective than I’ve seen before. It helps you understand that even though you might be sitting down with an owner and he might have 100 times more money than you, maybe there’s a situation where you feel you’re at a disadvantage, but there’s situational power.
When you’re in negotiation, you have to find your situational power. You may not be the best player in the market. You may be the second-best player or third best player. You can create an environment situationally where you have power. That’s where you maximize your leverage and maximize your client’s money. It stands the reason that when you hit free agency and there are a lot of times when you’re working with your clients where you’ve got the Alpha male lead dog, but you can still be successful and still maximize dollars for clients that aren’t that guy.
For you, looking back over your career, what failure or at the time apparent failure has served you or your company best or set you up for future achievement and why?
I would say that when you first start out doing anything, you typically do it for the right reasons. When you grow, there are many reasons why you do what you do. At some point in time, I have to practice what I preach, which is, “Who are you?” As an agent, you have to understand why you do what you do. What benefit are you giving to your clients? It’s not necessarily a failure, it’s more of a shift in mindset of obviously everybody wants to make money, everybody does.
As I’ve grown and become more experienced in the industry, I really want to make an impact on young men. I understand now the impact I have made and so when I pick my clients, I want to pick guys that get it, guys that appreciate my perspective and the way I do my business, the way I communicate, the way I talk, because I can make a bigger impact as opposed to forcing fits and selling my soul to sign somebody that I’m not a good fit with. Number one, I won’t be able to help them as much. Number two, we probably won’t stay together because we’ll both realized were not good fits.
You’ve been doing this for quite a while. What advice would the Craig of today offer the Craig that was starting in this industry in the beginning?
One of the things that I have done as I’ve studied my successful clients and what made them tick, what were their thoughts, what was their approach, what was their mindset? I’ve also studied other agents and other players’ situations over the years. You can learn a lot in this business by not even representing a player, but watching how the teams respond, watching how his agent responds, watching how the player responds, how they utilize the media or not, whether they hold out or not, where they do everything behind the scenes and keep a low profile. My advice to my younger self would have been a little bit of what I’ve done, which is learn from all situations, not just your own.
If you could put an ad on page one of the local paper or something that goes to the NFL, sharing your message or advice, what would it say and why?
For NFL prospects, they don’t realize how precious the opportunity is to play in the NFL. It’s like being on drugs on Sundays. They also have to understand that behind the curtain, there’s a lot of blue-collar type of work you have to do. My message would be simple. You have to treat the NFL like you’re working at a factory. You have to take your lunch pail to work. You’ve got to clock in on time, can’t take a long lunch. You’ve got to do your job or things are going to start going haywire on the assembly line. If you can take a blue collar, workman-like mentality in the NFL, when you get done, you can have more money than you never dreamed of. You can have your health, you can have relationships and you can have opportunities. If you do those things, that’s all everybody ever wants.
What’s your most unusual habit or what others may consider out of the ordinary that’s helped you or your company most and why?
I don’t know what unusual habit I have. I ask a lot of questions. I want to know what makes people tick. I want to understand their motivations. If I’m going to be a coach for my client, I need to know what his relationship is with his dad. I need to understand is he running from something or is he running to something? At critical moments, especially during training camp and during cut time, it’s literally playing a video game where you’re driving a race car and you pop over the hill and there’s something in the road and you’ve got to react quickly. My counsel and advice have to be quick. It has to be on point because it can mean the difference between that player getting cut or not.
That drives back into why he’s doing it, which pushes your advice, one way or another.
You have to know your clients, you have to know what their dreams are. You have to know what their why is. It impacts completely how you communicate with them.
I’m thinking about the various why’s for your clients. Are there categories of why is that you run across?
I would say so. Some people, their why is fear of failure. They don’t want to fail. They’ll do anything not to fail. Some people chase money. Those guys played the shortest because once you get couple hundred thousand dollars or couple million bucks, generally you don’t keep making more money because you attained what you were hoping for. The guys that are Christian and have a spiritual presence about them have a tendency to play longer as well because they know that the Lord is using them as a vehicle. Maybe changing something in their community, improving life in the community. It could be generational change for their family. There are a lot of different motivators.
Over the past three years, what belief or protocol have you established in the company that has impacted you or the company’s success and why?
I would say that in coaching players, it’s helping them understand to keep the main thing the main thing. There’s such heightened media coverage of everything an NFL player does. When an NFL prospect is coming out, there’s draft next, people that project who’s going to be what. If you get caught up into how other people view you, you’ll get lost. If you get caught up into all the opportunities and all the doors that open for you, that are in my opinion distractions, your career won’t go as long as it should. Yes, you can buy a nice car, live in a nice neighborhood, buy a nice house, go on nice trips. You have some outstanding opportunities to go to Mexico and different places during the off season. Companies can reach out to you directly through social media and get paid for your digital footprint. If you don’t keep the main thing the main thing, all that goes away.
What advice would you offer to somebody new coming into the agent world, knowing what you know now?
I would say that it’s probably not like you think it is and that they should keep their antenna up to try to figure out what’s the business really about? Jerry Maguire was a great movie but it’s not reality. The relationship that you have with your client isn’t like what that’s portrayed to be. I would say for a new person getting into business, they should shadow and try to work with reputable people. You’re going to learn by osmosis. You’re going to see the interaction and the trust that’s developed between an agent and a player. It’s funny how trust is almost like a relay race and track.
At the beginning, players trust you because you’re paying for their training. You’re connecting them to the NFL teams. The first day they’re on the job, they realize that the owner signs the paycheck. The trust transfers over to the teams. Once they get sideswiped once by the team or one of their teammates steer, then they realize, “I can pull back. I can’t put that much trust in the team because they can do that to me.”
Trust is a tug of war. What you have to do is establish a foundation of trust with your clients, so much so that they understand that, “We want you to love your team. We want you to trust your coaches. We want you to do whatever they ask you to do.” There’s going to come a time when their best interests and your best interests collide. They always win. It’s a business. You need to have enough trust with your agent that when he sees that collision coming, you can make an adjustment to your career to either go around it, under it, through it, whatever, but don’t let it kill your career because the NFL teams, they’re the boss.Jerry Maguire was a great movie but it's not reality. Click To Tweet
Folks have a general notion or misconception about your role. What’s the biggest misconception or common misconception about what you do?
I would say there are two misconceptions. One is that we do negotiate the contracts and up until 2011, when they implemented the wage scale and the new CBA, the rookie contracts were a big negotiation. They’re not a big negotiation anymore. The veteran contracts are, but a lot of parents and players think that’s all we do. That’s not all we do. I would say the other thing is that agents can make a difference in a player’s career, good or bad. Every time a player faces either a major decision or crisis, the agent can make a difference. Any agent worth his salt has seen it before. You can help young men as 23, 24 avoid a pitfall that he’s seen before, but the player hasn’t. If you go back to middle school, high school, college, this guy was the superstar and now everybody on the team’s a superstar and so there’s more to it. The misconception is that we’re negotiators but really, we’re life coaches and we’re coaches. It’s way more important than players realize.
Looking back over the past few years, what should you have said no to and why?
I need to make sure that I practice what I preach, which is keeping the main thing the main thing. There are many ways to get distracted in this business too. Whether you think the trainer is going to make the difference. You think this marketing opportunity might make the difference of this marketing alliance or relationship. You think getting certain types of players is going to make a difference. For me, it’s been finding good dudes that have talent, that know who they are, have a big why and want to make an impact. They want somebody to walk through their career with them that is going to give them wise counsel and we’re going to agree to trust each other. If we do that, players maximize their careers.
For you on an on a day-to-day basis, what’s a personal habit or a self-talk dialogue that keeps you focused on what you should be doing?
I have quiet time in the morning and I get up early. It’s a combination of my faith and being mindful of exercising. It does a great thing for our mind to be clear and be able to handle any situation that we might run into.
For the folks that want to reach out to you on social media, whether it’s an athlete or an individual, how do they find you? How they reach out to you?
I’m not a big social media guy. I do social media but they obviously can direct message me and find me on Twitter. Google me just like anybody else in this business and we’ll pop up. Everybody’s got a cell phone too.
Is there a quote that you find meaningful or that you use frequently?
I don’t. I believe in helping young men stay on the path. Depending on the situation, what’s the distraction? Is it girls? Is it they’re all focused on money? Is it they think they have to bring their second, third, fourth cousins with them everywhere they go? Do they have a posse? Whatever it is. What I do is I make it situational.
If I was to talk to your colleagues and ask them what you’re best at, what would they say and how do you utilize that particular strength on a day-to-day basis?
I have two strengths that come to mind. One is that I systemize things. I try to make things smoother and easier by systemizing. With respect to clients, no one has a crystal ball. I feel I can see the future for certain players because it’s almost like God only made so many looks and so many different personalities and players can only have so many different types of careers. You have the young man that might get drafted high and he bust like Johnny Manziel because he was distracted. You have guys like Chris Harris that was not drafted and only wanted by one team that becomes one of the highest paid players in the NFL. There are all these different prototypes of player careers. One of the things I feel I’m pretty good at is identifying a player and where he’s going. If it’s a good place, support him in going in that direction. If he’s detouring, getting him back on track.
Craig, you’ve been gracious to answer tons of questions and invite me into your home. You guys are knee-deep in your preparation for your Pro Football Camp Charity. Can we give a shout out to what you’re doing for the youth here in Colorado Springs? Could you tell the folks about your Pro Football Camp?
We’re doing a Pro Football Camp for the thirteenth year here in Colorado Springs. We’ve served over 3,000 kids. We have about a dozen or that are playing college football now. It is July 10, 11 and 12. We’ll have about ten of our athletes come back. It’s a great opportunity for us to give back to the community. Share the love so to speak. One of the things that are missing in sports is everybody wants a scholarship, everybody wants to go pro and retire but it’s really about the love of the game. Our Football Camp exemplifies that and gives kids an opportunity to see that our players do love the game.
I sincerely appreciate you taking time out to be on the show.
Thank you very much, Bob. Appreciate it.
About Craig Domann
Having been a registered NFLPA Member Contract Advisor since 1990, Craig has negotiated more than half a billion dollars ($500,000,000) in contracts for more than 100 NFL athletes from first and second round draft picks to 2nd & 3rd & 4th contracts for veterans.
“We believe that God’s will for our lives is to help young men make good decisions, build their families and maximize their NFL careers. We want to help them leverage the NFL to develop relationships and to increase career opportunities for your life after the NFL.”
Craig earned undergraduate degrees in Accounting and Business Administration from the University of Kansas and his Juris Doctorate from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law in 1990. Following law school, Craig started an athlete representation business that followed his passion and training. He is a licensed attorney and a member of the American Bar Association and the Missouri Bar. He is also a certified public accountant.
“What I like most about this business is helping young men to achieve their dreams and provide financial security for themselves and their families. Through the years, I have had the privilege to do this with more than 100 athletes…many of whom are still my friends. I truly value that!”
Craig currently lives in Colorado Springs, CO with his wife, Teddi. He has three kids, two boys, JoJo & Brock, playing college football and a daughter, Rylee, who is an actress, singer and dancer in LA. Craig’s hobbies include cycling, biking on trails, golf, and watching his kids perform whether on the stage or on the football field.