That’s where the analogies end between Caric Sports Management and the 1996 Tom Cruise movie about a high-strung sports agent.
Caric, 33, has built a client roster of more than a dozen current, former and aspiring NFL players. His best-known client is St. Louis Rams all-pro running back Steven Jackson.
According to the SportsAgentDirectory.com, there are roughly 3,500 certified agents. About 1,000 focus on the NFL.
CSM is the only established NFL representation firm in Las Vegas.
Caric represents five college football players who could be selected in this year’s NFL Draft, including UNLV offensive lineman Matt Murphy, University of Washington linebacker Mason Foster and University of Arizona linebacker Ricky Elmore.
Football experts project Foster to be drafted late in the first round or early in the second round.
The world of athlete management is competitive and cutthroat. Caric has heard his share of behind-the-scenes sniping that comes when agents are signing players. Comments have been directed his way.
Caric relies on is selling himself and his personal touch. Current clients also help spread the message.
“I tell players that a lot of guys will do a good job, but Steve is like having a good friend represent you,” said former NFL wide receiver Drew Bennett, who played eight seasons with St. Louis Rams and Tennessee Titans. “I played with guys who would groan when their agent called. It isn’t that way with Steve. He is always out there working for you.”
Caric spends the college football season scouting future clients. There are rules. He can’t make contact with players until they reach their third collegiate season.
CSM targeted about dozen players in 2010, but not the marquee names. Caric focused on top-to-mid-tier players, rather than Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Cam Newton of Auburn or Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert, both potential No. 1 draft picks.
The agency touted itself as serving all a players’ needs, including contract negotiations, public relations, personal brand management, marketing and endorsements.
“Having a boutique-style agency allows you to be closer to your clients,” Caric said. “Our philosophy is to build strong personal relationships while providing big agency experience and contacts. What sets us apart in this industry is that we are not running a business obsessed with volume and a (profit and loss) sheet.”
Caric didn’t negotiate Jackson’s multi-million dollar contract. He acts only as the player’s off-the-field business manager and consultant, including helping Jackson secure a deal with Nike.
“Steve shares the same vision of where I want to go in the business and public relations areas,” Jackson said. “I want to do more in the Las Vegas community and Steve has helped me in that direction.”
Caric doesn’t have a law degree. He was certified by the NFL Players Association to negotiate contracts with the league. CSM employs an attorney in an advisory role, but Caric is the sole contract negotiator for clients.
“I had a lot of experience in my previous jobs with contract negotiations,” Caric said. “The NFL contract is pretty standard language.”
CSM earns 3 percent of a player’s contract amount, a figure set by the NFL. The agency also earns commissions on the marketing and sponsorship deals it negotiates for a player. There are also monthly retainer fees from some clients.
Caric doesn’t pretend to be Tom Condon, who negotiated Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning’s $98 million deal. But he makes a comfortable living.
The median NFL contract is $900,000 and the average NFL career lasts 3½ years.
Caric said he supports players during their career, but also prepares them for life after football.
“Negotiating the NFL contracts are just a small part of what we do,” Caric said. “My job is about helping guys manage their careers on and off the field. I teach my clients how to make informed decisions.”
Sometimes that means being copied on a player’s financial statements to make sure their investments are in proper order.
He also plays medical adviser. It’s not that he doesn’t trust NFL team doctors, but Caric’s concerns are the needs of his clients, whose careers he wants to extend past the league average.
He won’t hesitate to send his player to a specialist for an injury.
“Sometimes I think I can read a medical report better than some doctors,” Caric said. “I want my clients to focus on nothing else but football and I deal with all the other stuff.”
Caric still represents Bennett. He helped land a deal as a football commentator with ESPN in 2009. Caric has lined up several public appearance contracts for Bennett, including a goodwill mission to visit American troops in Iraq last month by current and former NFL players.
“Steve is always out there looking out for you,” Bennett said.
In college, Caric had designs on being the client.
A high school linebacker, Caric was invited to walk-on at San Diego State. He realized quickly that he was better suited for a job in the Aztecs’ athletic department, working in marketing and public relations.
After graduating from San Diego State in 2000, Caric worked for Hill & Knowlton in the public relations firm’s worldwide sports headquarters in Irvine, Calif. He assisted various sports agents with their clients before taking a job with Premier Sports & Entertainment.
Caric spent three years with Premier before striking out on his own.
According to Premier’s website, the agency manages almost 50 current NFL players, more than a dozen retired players and broadcasters, and a handful of coaches, including University of Washington head football coach Steve Sarkisian and Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll.
Caric formed CSM with three business partners — Las Vegas public relations executives Bill Doak and Dave Kirvin and former Idaho State football player and coach Scott Carlovsky. His client list at the time was just Jackson and Bennett.
The promise of hands-on service helped Caric attract his first rookie client in 2009, San Diego State linebacker Russell Allen.
He wasn’t drafted, but Caric negotiated a free agent for Allen with the Jacksonville Jaguars after the draft. Allen has played two full seasons with the Jaguars, starting nine games. Caric has also secured endorsement deals for Allen from Reebok and Verizon.
In college, Allen talked with potential agents, but felt an immediate connection with Caric.
“He seemed honest. We also did our homework on Steve,” said Allen, who had several conversations with Jackson about Caric. “He did a lot to get my name out before and after the draft.”
Caric sat with Allen’s family and friends — about 140 people — last year when the Jaguars played the San Diego Chargers in Qualcomm Stadium.
“His dad told me how he had been coming to Chargers games all his life and he couldn’t believe he was watching his son guard (Chargers tight end) Antonio Gates,” Caric said.
Allen provided input to Caric’s latest crop of potential NFL players.
“Having gone through the process, I knew what questions they had,” Allen said. “I think they also had an instant connection with Steve.”
Signing clients is just part of the process. From January to April, it’s all about promoting the players to the 32 NFL teams.
The players participate in NFL and school-sponsored combines and tryout sessions. Caric organizes their workout schedules, provides media training advice, and offers skills for team interviews. Caric talks with NFL scouts, general managers and coaches, and develops spreadsheets highlighting each player.
The current NFL labor troubles and player lockout have offered new twist to the game; there won’t be any free-agent signing allowed for undrafted players.
“Because of the labor issues, teams haven’t filled positions like they would leading up to the draft,” Caric said. “It could change a lot of what we do until the labor matter is resolved.”
Operating a sports agency in Las Vegas has its benefits.
“Clients love to come here. It’s a great place to entertain,” Caric said.