Drew Rosenhaus can’t block, kick, tackle or throw a 60-yard spiral like the pros. But the brash sports agent and University of Miami graduate with the in-your-face attitude is back to being a major player at Dolphins training camp in Davie.
Since the start of the year, seven Dolphins players have dumped their existing agents and signed with Rosenhaus, giving him 10 clients on the team in a pursuit that could be considered relentless even by his standards. This has infuriated the spurned agents. According to multiple sources, at least two have told the team they will no longer steer their clients toward the Dolphins for fear that Rosenhaus, who is forever lurking at the perimeter of the Miami practice field, schmoozing with players, will swipe them.
The team’s top brass, including executive vice president Bill Parcells and general manager Jeff Ireland, has met twice to express concerns about Rosenhaus’ routine.
Rosenhaus, who started his agency at age 22 and has published an autobiography titled A Shark Never Sleeps, which includes a chapter about his Dolphins-loving youth, said it is all jealousy. He called the latest threats from competing agents “ridiculous.”
“That guy should be kicked out of the business,” Rosenhaus said of any agent threatening to boycott the Dolphins because of him. “Here’s what I would say to that guy: No. 1, you’re a coward. No. 2, you’re a poor competitor. And No. 3, you don’t have your client’s best interest at heart.”
An afternoon practice has just ended, and Rosenhaus is standing behind a white, plastic fence no higher than four feet. His left hand is resting on top of it, allowing him to stay as close as possible to the border without crossing over.
In a slow stampede toward the locker room, a herd of 80 Dolphins players is passing at once within 15 to 20 yards of him. A few of them peel off to greet their family and friends, who are standing behind that same waist-high fence.
Linebacker Cameron Wake, not represented by Rosenhaus, is one of those players. A fan wanted to give Wake a photo, so he walks over to retrieve it.
“Hi, Cam,” Rosenhaus says, greeting Miami’s rising star while he’s in the area. The two shake hands and speak for 30 seconds before Wake moves along.
It is casual and quick, an exchange between two men with mutual friends in a mutual industry. No rules are broken. No lines are crossed.
But was Wake being recruited, too?
“I don’t know,” Wake said. “It hadn’t crossed my mind. I was getting a picture from a fan, and we said hello to each other. That’s it.
“Maybe you know more than I know. I don’t think I’m big-time enough for that yet.”
It is that last word “yet” — that should sends shivers through every other agent with a Dolphins client. It’s the same word that shoots electricity through Rosenhaus, who has a team of five employees prepared to pounce if Wake should express the slightest interest.
OBEYING THE RULES
According to the rules governed by the NFL Players Association, an agent cannot talk business or provide information about his or her prospective services until the player first expresses an interest on his own.
“That’s a green light,” said Jason Rosenhaus, Drew’s brother, who keeps the agency in check with the rules. “At that point, we followed the rules. That’s the line. We never cross the line. Once a guy is in our line of fire, we pull the trigger and go for it.”
Take Wake, for example. When asked about his conversation with Rosenhaus last week, Wake said the agent only asked how practice was going, mentioning something about his conditioning after an intense workout.
Wake knows Rosenhaus because he represents his next-door neighbor. The linebacker said he also socializes often with safety Yeremiah Bell, a Rosenhaus client, which made the conversation typical.
Wake, a rising star with huge potential, is happy with his agent. But what if something changed? Rosenhaus is basically in his face, waiving his arms, providing a constant reminder of his services by his mere daily presence.
“Others might say we recruited their guys,” Rosenhaus said. “That’s bull [expletive]. We’re around a lot. We go to the games. We go to practices. When we’re with our clients, we see guys in the offseason.
“You’ve seen it for yourself. We just outwork guys. That’s it.”
STEERING CLIENTS AWAY
Rosenhaus never has been sanctioned by the NFLPA for a rules infraction, but it hasn’t stopped his competitors from constantly accusing him of improper contact.
Agent Albert Irby, who represented defensive tackle Tony McDaniels before he left for Rosenhaus this year, said he has a pending grievance filed with the NFL Players Association for improper contact with his former client.
When contacted by The Miami Herald, four other agents who had Dolphins clients swiped by Rosenhaus all contend the Miami-based agent also improperly and unethically recruited their players. Nobody has provided proof. None would speak on the record. One prominent agent said he has had enough.
“I don’t need the headaches or the aggravation,” said one prominent sports agent who lost a client to Rosenhaus this year. “I told the team, `I love you to death, but I can’t send players down to you.’ I’m not doing it. It’s not worth the aggravation.
“I’ve talked to at least five other agents who are going to do the same. We’re steering them away.
“It’s not worth the risk.”
It is potential retaliation such as this — whether ethical or not — that has caused a level of concern within the Dolphins. A team source said the Dolphins have no problems with Rosenhaus as a negotiator, pointing out Miami’s brass views him as prompt, diligent and fair. But the growing number of angry agents has become an issue.
`THE BOTTOM LINE’
David Rich, a small West Virginia-based sports agent, has his own concerns about how Rosenhaus convinced Dolphins linebacker Erik Walden to terminate Rich in favor of his agency — but he does not believe Rosenhaus broke any rules of improper contact.
With nearly 150 clients in the NFL, as well as his 10 players on the Dolphins, Rosenhaus is afforded plenty of opportunities to form relationships with prospective clients as a result of his constant presence. Rich credits Rosenhaus’ constant networking.
“I’ll give him credit: He gets it,” Rich said. “It’s not about performance or numbers or graphs. It’s about relationships. He’s calling Erik saying, `You’re looking great. They’re going to use you in the 3-4 defense. I talked to [coach] Tony Sparano about you, and he loves you.’ He’s brilliant at it. He’s the best in the business at that.”
At this point, Rosenhaus said he estimates nearly a quarter of the Dolphins’ roster has initiated contact with him about potential services, which means he can actively recruit all of those players.
Considering 80 percent of Rosenhaus’ client base has come from other agents, there is no reason to think his number of Dolphins players won’t grow as a result.
“There’s a lot of pissed off agents out there,” Jason Rosenhaus said.
“But the only person they have the right to be pissed off at is themselves. If they’re doing their jobs, their clients aren’t going to come to us. That’s the bottom line.”
SERVICE WITH A SMILE
How Rosenhaus gets his clients will clearly continue to be a matter of debate — but how he keeps them is not. He is loyal and passionate, and a recently expanded team that now includes six members works as hard as any agency in the business.
They do not miss a single Dolphins practice, often arriving as a pack, wearing shirts with the RSR logo (Rosenhaus Sports Representation) logo emblazoned across their chests. Rosenhaus even recently hired two second cousins, Mike and Jason Katz, to handle “client maintenance” strictly.
This type of attention doesn’t go unnoticed.
“Drew sends me a text message or calls me once a day,” Bell said.
“That’s honest. `How was practice? How was your day? Are you feeling healthy?’ Simple stuff. When you haven’t talked to your agent in three weeks, then you have a guy contacting you everyday, that counts.”
It also helps that Rosenhaus’ connections in South Florida provide him and his marketing executives, Robert Bailey and Danny Martoe, plenty of opportunities for their clients. That’s the reason wide receiver Brian Hartline was sold on Rosenhaus after the agency took him to a dinner of his choice (Hartline chose Grille 66 in Fort Lauderdale).
“It was more about the off-the-field potential,” Hartline said. “In the end, I knew it was more about getting out in my new community and being involved.”
Running back Ricky Williams, who negotiated his past two contracts on his own, hired Rosenhaus this year to manage his marketing as well. Eight months ago, when Williams told Martoe he liked coconut water, Williams soon found two cases of Vita Coco sitting in the bottom of his locker.
Martoe is now working on a potential marketing deal between Williams and Vita Coco that could allow Williams to become the face of the product.
With this type of passion and hard work, relentlessness and innovation, Rosenhaus’ dominance in South Florida is likely to continue. This won’t happen without more angry agents, without more grievances and without more concern from the team.
Then again, none of this seems to matter to one of the NFL’s most competitive agents, a man who has represented many more Dolphins players than he does now and outlasted many changes in Miami’s front office before this one.
So does Rosenhaus expect to stop his pursuit as a means to quell the concerns of the team and his competitors?
“At one time, we represented as many as 20 guys here,” Rosenhaus said. “Certainly, we’d love to have that many again.”