IOWA CITY – For would-be NFL players choosing agents and agents wooing players, a lot of it boils down to who they know.
Monday was Pro Day at Iowa’s football complex, a day when Hawkeye seniors ran, jumped and lifted weights for representatives of 31 of the 32 NFL clubs, and answered questions from anyone from the pro teams wanted to ask.
The nerve-racking business of looking and sounding like an NFL player was on the players’ shoulders. But the business-business has already been handed off to someone else.
In the Hawkeyes’ case, as usual, a lot of that business has gone to two agents. One, Neil Cornrich of the Cleveland area, has had Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz as a client for a long time.
That clearly hasn’t hurt in making connections with Ferentz’s players. Notables like Aaron Kampman, Riley Reiff, Marshal Yanda and Brandon Scherff have been or are represented by Cornrich. This year, he has added Iowa linebacker Ben Niemann and offensive lineman Boone Myers.
“He’s had guys like Marshal Yanda, Scherff, that are big-time NFL players at this point,” Niemann said. “Last year he had LeShun Daniels and Cole Croston, undrafted guys that both ended up landing in the NFL and getting a spot.
“Whether I’m drafted or a free agent, I just think he’ll be able to find me a fit.”
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Jack Bechta has been a certified NFL agent for over 30 years. He has been representing former Hawkeyes since the late 1990s.
“The first was Damien Robinson,” Bechta said Monday. “I was recruiting a lot of guys from the state of Texas and Texas schools, and Damien was from the Dallas area.
“Of course, watching Damien at Iowa I got to watch Tim Dwight, and fell in love with him. I just had to have him, and I beat out the biggest agents in the country for him, everybody.
“Then came Matt Bowen, and Eric Steinbach, and on and on.”
Yes, on and on. Jonathan Babineaux, Pat Angerer, Micah Hyde, Anthony Hitchens, George Kittle and several more have gone from Iowa to Bechta’s JB Sports agency in La Jolla, Calif.
Bechta has signed linebacker Josey Jewell and offensive linemen Ike Boettger and Sean Welsh from the latest group of draft-eligible Hawkeyes. It’s not like they’re three of a few dozens of guys turning pro this year whose business matters he’ll juggle.
“I sign only three, at the most four a year,” Bechta said. “I’m not running a factory. I’ll have maybe 15 guys in the league at any given time.”
Angerer, retired from football after an injury-shortened four-year NFL career, said “I looked to former Iowa players and reached out to them to see who represented them and what their thoughts were. Jack was extremely popular among many I talked to.
“He’s been in the game a long time and has a great reputation for taking care of guys and doing it the right way.”
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Some players don’t mind being showered with praise and perhaps gifts when meeting an agent for the first time. Some do mind. Not surprisingly, Jewell is in the “do mind” group. He spoke bluntly about what it was that made him select Bechta as his agent.
“He’s a good dude,” Jewell said. “He doesn’t fill me full of crap and he doesn’t kiss my butt. Those are the things I liked about him. The phone will be answered if I call him, and I’m pretty sure he’s the same way with everybody else he has.”
“I’m direct,” Bechta said. “I don’t beat around the bush. I’m blue-collar. I don’t buy my clients. There are no fancy accoutrements. It sounds like a cliché, but I try to under-promise and over-deliver.”
It sort of sounds something an Iowa coach would say about recruiting.
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