Sports agent and Janesville Craig grad says he’s ‘like a life manager’
MADISON Think you have the hustle to find and sign clients, negotiate multimillion-dollar NFL contracts, and follow through with the care and feeding of your overnight-rich 22-year-old client’s personal affairs 24-7?
Ron Slavin, 37, a 1993 Janesville Craig graduate, wanted to be a sports agent in the worst way.
In 1999, Slavin visited “400 dorm rooms” to find a football player Madison attorney Michael Bauer was hoping to recruit for his small agency. Turned out the recruit refused Bauer’s representation.
“He missed our calls, and kept ducking us,” Slavin said. “I got to the player and (Bauer) hired me because I was aggressive.’’
Slavin had to beg Bauer for that shot.
“(Bauer) blew me off for six months,” said Slavin, who was working at a Madison health club after graduating from UW-Whitewater in 1998 with a degree in marketing and public relations. “He finally took me on a recruiting trip.’’
Once he had the job, Slavin traveled a tough road.
“I started out cold-calling and working 100-hour work weeks,” Slavin said.
Thirteen years after he rambled through the dorms, Slavin is a partner in BTI Sports Advisors, working out of Madison. BTI handles between 30 and 40 football clients, including Packers defensive lineman Jarius Wynn and Bears wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher.
Slavin said working for a client does not end after the contract is signed.
“I’m more than an agent,” Slavin said. “I’m like a life manager. I’m there for my guys 24 hours a day. When the phone rings, I answer it.”
Slavin said young players don’t always make the right choices.
“I tell them, ‘No, you don’t need a third or fourth car,’’’ Slavin said. “If you were 22 with a lot of money, how many dumb mistakes would you make?
“That’s a problem,” Slavin added. “There are agents that don’t say ‘no,’ and that’s when their client gets in trouble.’’
Slavin guided Beloit College standout and Edgerton native Derick Carrier through last week’s NFL draft. Carrier wasn’t drafted, but he signed a free agent deal with the Oakland Raiders.
Carrier, a wide receiver at Beloit who has potential as a tight end, turned NFL scouts’ heads at his pro day workouts. Slavin sent tape of his client to all 32 NFL teams.
Slavin said Carrier has a good a chance of making the Raiders. Oakland, which did not have a first- or second-round pick, selected wide receiver Junior Criner of Arizona in the fifth round but did not draft a tight end.
“It was a no-brainer to send (Carrier) to Oakland,” Slavin said. “Reggie McKenzie runs the show. He came from Green Bay and wants to do things like (Packer General Manager) Ted Thompson and bring in his guys and develop them.’’
Under the new CBA, rookies that are drafted receive four-year contracts. If a rookie is drafted in the first round, clubs can exercise a fifth-year option for the player’s rights. If a rookie is undrafted, he will receive a three-year contract. Rookies receive the minimum salary of $390,000.
Slavin said free agents receive bonuses of between $30,000 and $80,000.
“The goal is to get a new deal after the third year,” Slavin said. “Most NFL teams want to negotiate after the third year if the player is going to stay around.’’
Slavin added that the average NFL career is four years, and getting the second contract is tough.
The sports agent field is overcrowded, and several large firms represent the majority of players, Slavin said. He calls BTI “a boutique” agency because it caters to a small number of players.
There are independent agents that represent one client, but they face a stiff challenge.
“There are 100 or so agents that have one client,” Slavin said. “And when it’s time to negotiate a second contract, they lose them.’’
Slavin doesn’t knock on dorm doors anymore, but he spends long hours finding and representing clients. Slavin is married, has two small children, and has not taken a vacation since his honeymoon.
“My wife is a stay-at-home mom, and she understands the day-to-day job,” Slavin said. “I work out my house, and I spend time with my kids. They just know I’ve got to answer the phone.’’