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Marty Fischman

October 13, 2011

Marty Fischman, NFLPA Certified Contract Advisor

First, can you walk readers through how and why you became an agent and offer advice for any who would wish to do the same?

I became an agent for several reasons.  At a very early age, I decided that I wanted a job that allowed me to combine my passion for the game of football and my passion for helping people.  Over the years, the more I began to learn and grow as a person, the more certain I became that representing athletes was my calling.

There really is no sure-fire way to become an agent.  In 2009, I earned a J.D. and a certificate in Sports Law from Tulane University Law School, and formed the sports agency Fischman & Smith Sports.  In 2010, I became a licensed contract-advisor with the NFLPA, and partnered Fischman & Smith Sports with Dynasty Athlete Representation.    

For those who wish to become an agent, I would definitely recommend law school.  While law school certainly does not prepare a future agent for the day-to-day activities of the trade, it provides a great educational background for anyone wishing to negotiate player contracts.  

In addition to law school, I would recommend finding work experience.  The summer after my first year of law school, I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to work for the now defunct sports agency, Executive Sports Management (ESM).  ESM represented over 50 collegiate coaches and a handful of NFL and CFL coaches.  Although I did not get experience in representing players, my role in reviewing contracts, marketing clients to potential job openings and observing contract negotiations, provided me with a great experience as to what the day-to-day business of a sports agent entails.

If you are unable to find work with a sports agency or a law firm representing athletes you are not out of luck.  I think a huge benefit to anyone wishing to become an agent would be to work with a players’ union, league office or a professional team.

How do you decide on who to target to represent and do you ever turn players away? If so,  for what reasons?

Thus far in my young career, I have been fortunate to have represented players that were referred to me through mutual friends. However, my partners and I have compiled lists of potential prospects in our respective states, cities, universities, etc., whom we feel would be good targets to approach about representation.  

Occasionally, I am forced to turn players away.  I turn players away if their request for representation comes at a time that would be deleterious to my fiduciary duties to my other clients (such as weeks before the draft).  I also turn players away if their resume/body of work indicates they have no realistic chance of being signed to a professional sports team.  

There are some athletes that believe if they have an agent, they will sign with a team.  If that were the case, everyone in my flag football league would have an agent!

How are the CBA negotiations affecting you – what worries you most about what a new agreement could entail?

The suit against the NFL is affecting me in that I am now required to advise clients about the unknown.  I am representing two clients in this year’s draft, and both are likely to go undrafted.  I had a client ask me today if we could find other job opportunities for him if there is no season. While sending guys to the CFL seems like a viable option, CFL player contracts are minimum 2 yr deals, so signing a CFL contract could thwart a kid’s chances of having an opportunity to play in the NFL.

What are the biggest misperceptions most players have when entering the contract negotiation process  – especially as rookies?

That they have finally “made it.”  Guys haven’t made it just by signing an NFL contract.  It is very rare to see a contract where every component is “fully guaranteed for skill, injury and cap.”

Other than the first round guys, the only component of a drafted player’s contract that is guaranteed is his signing bonus.  For most rookies, they will have to earn every cent of their contract.  Unlike in other pro other sports, an NFL player’s contract is not guaranteed (unless otherwise stated) and can be terminated at the team’s whim.

How do you prepare rookies for the pro game – and for life after college?

Sometimes, the combine training facility will have psychologists and former players to serve as mentors, but some facilities we have used do not have those amenities. Additionally, I try to serve as a mentor for my clients, by stressing the importance of staying out of harm’s way and focusing on the goal of making it into the NFL.

I remind clients all the time that they are entering one of the toughest job markets in the world.  In order to earn a job playing football in the NFL, they must make the necessary sacrifices.

I urge all of my clients to get their degrees, even if it requires them to go back to school in the offseason.  I also help them with non-football resumes in the event that their football careers do not last as long as anticipated.

With more and more of players’ personal lives – especially legal issues – becoming public, how do you prepare players to protect themselves from these situations and has that become a bigger part of your player preparation?

For the same reasons I’ve mentioned above, I prepare players by showing them real-life examples of how current and former players have screwed up their finances and in some cases, their careers, by making poor off-the –field decisions. I urge our clients not to post anything on twitter or facebook that is lewd or could be misinterpreted.

Can you give a quick run-through on how a standard contract negotiation/process would work in the NFL?

For rookies, most agents wait at least til the pick in front of them signs. Once that happens the negotiation for the agent generally goes much easier. A team gives an original offer, followed by an agent’s counter-offer, and it goes back in forth until the two sides reach agreement.

However, because each team is limited by its rookie pool number, the negotiation process for an agent does not always become easier even if the picks both directly in front of and in back of their client have signed.

Regarding veteran contracts, the market value is usually clearly established although there are some cases where an agent has inflated their client’s market value to such an extent that he ends up having to take less than what his client’s true market value probably was had he not inflated his market value in the first place.

Do you represent any Steelers players (or have you in the past)? If so, can you let us know which players?

I have not.

What tends to be the most frustrating part of the job?

1) When a player screws up off the field and decreases his market value to teams. 2) When teams pass on a client that you believe has the ability to play in the NFL.

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