With the NFL Draft set to begin Thursday night we talked with professional player agent Eugene Lee to get a different perspective on what a handful of former Notre Dame standouts will be going through this weekend and what they went through during the past few months.
Eugene Lee started representing NFL players when he was a law student at Notre Dame.
Lee became a certified agent in 1997 while finishing his law degree at Notre Dame. He has worked with former Irish stars like Carlyle Holiday, Anthony Denman, Shane Walton and Robert Hughes. In 2003, Lee left his law firm and started his own agency called ETL Associates. Last year, Lee and ETL were featured in “The Dotted Line,” a documentary that aired on ESPN as part of the “30 for 30” series.
BGI: What is it like for you to sit through the actual draft?
Lee: “It’s pretty intense. Emotions will be all over the place. It’s a complete rollercoaster. You’re going to have highs of getting a player selected and the lows of having a player who was supposed to be drafted that does not get drafted at all.”
BGI: What do you do to channel some of that nervous energy during the weekend?
Lee:“We chart the draft every year for our guys. Just knowing which teams took which players at which position in which round is incredibly important. If we have players that are not drafted and will be free agents, we’ve got to know which teams give our player the best opportunity to make the team. That’s an essential part of the draft as an agent.”
BGI: What’s the busiest part of this whole process for you and your clients?
Lee: “March is just a madhouse. You have college pro days all across the country. Scouts from every NFL team are going from college to college just to work out players. March is filled with those pro days. If you have clients you go to every pro day and look for opportunities to network and to answer any questions that scouts or coaches or team representatives might have about your player.”
BGI: Can you watch all the drills and tests with your clients?
Lee: Different schools have different policies. At Notre Dame agents are not allowed inside the Gug[lielmino Complex] to watch pro day. You typically have to wait outside or walk around a little bit to catch people on the way out. That’s when you do your work. A couple years ago, Michigan had a complete open door policy where agents and families could sit in the weight room they could be on the field, inside the fieldhouse and complete access to the scouts.”
BGI: Where can potential draftees help themselves the most during the process?
Lee: “Apart from the 40 [yard dash], I think positional drills are the most important test a player will take during his workout whether it’s at the combine or at his pro day. Looking smooth while playing his position means a great deal to NFL teams. You’ll have workout warriors every year. You’ll see them in Indianapolis and all around the country, but at the end of the day football is played in between the white lines and teams want to see athletic ability translate in football related drills.”
BGI: Every year we see under-the-radar guys create buzz with YouTube videos or other marketing ploys. Do you try to get your clients to drum up publicity? Can that help them get drafted?
Lee: “The answer is no. The NFL teams really don’t care how much a player is being discussed in chat rooms or how different draft prognosticators grade a player. They really do their own scouting. They pour millions of dollars every year into scouting in terms of film review and scouting for the draft and they’re going to rely on their process.”
BGI: In general, how do scouts and NFL general managers view a player that comes out of the Notre Dame program?
Lee: “Scouts know the rule rather than the exception is that he’s going to be a young man of character. He’s going to understand how to perform at a high level on the field with the rigors and demands of being a professional off the field. That’s because of the academic and off-the-field demands they get at Notre Dame.”
BGI: Does the NCAA make it hard for you to follow all the rules and succeed in your industry?
Lee: "[The rules] border on the edge of common sense. My gut feeling is that as long as you always try to do things the right way you’ll never run afoul of any potential rules or regulations.”
BGI: But does doing things the right way put you at a disadvantage in signing clients?
Lee: “I’m sure it does for certain players, but those aren’t the types of players we’re going to recruit. So, I guess that’s the answer in a nutshell. We always look at character, that’s one of the things that differentiates us as an agency.”
BGI: How do you feel about paying college athletes?
Lee: “I think some type of stipend for athletes, especially big-revenue program athletes, is justified. …There has to be some type of compromise. I’m sure that if the NCAA sits downs with major program A.D.s, and they all put their heads together we can come up with some type of resolution to take care of the players to make sure they can enjoy life as a college student.”
You can hear more from Lee by following him on Twitter at @EugeneTLee.