Rookie Agent Has High Expectations
Written By: Steve Amedio
Schenectady Gazette May 17, 2007

 Amsterdam native Josh Beekman sat through 11 hours of the first day of the NFL draft last month with family members, friends and other supporters from the community at a local restaurant, taking up a good portion of a couch set up for him in front of a big-screen TV.

Squeezed in next to the 6-foot-1, 320-pound former Boston College offensive lineman for the full 11 hours was his second cousin, Calvin Robinson.

But Robinson was there for reasons beyond providing familial support.

In fact, his presence, at Beekman's side through not only the draft's first day, when the 2002 Amsterdam High graduate went unpicked, but also the next day, when Beekman was finally selected in the fourth round by the Chicago Bears, is symbolic of their current relationship.

The 29-year old Robinson, a native of Gloversville who graduated from Union College, has been spending a lot of time at Beekman's side, and will continue to do so in the future.

Robinson, a two-sport standout in high school and a basketball player at Union, is Beekman’s agent, and he hopes he is on his way to making a living full-time representing professional athletes.

Robinson helped create and is one of two agents working for the Empire Sports Agency, a Florida based group in its first year of operation. The other agent is former Middle Tennessee football coach Richard Burnoski.

"My plan initially was to start my own company, but I met Rich, and we decided to join to try to build our own powerhouse agency," said Robinson.

"We've got a business model and a five-year plan that we'll try to follow to get this going. It's something I want to do on a full-time basis."

The group represents five NFL players, including Beekman and Gloversville native Marc Hickok, a kicker who is on the New York Giants' roster.

Robinson, who did his graduate work at Florida State's College of Law, is employed by Rosenthal & Levy, a West Palm Beach, Fla., law firm that specializes in workers' compensation, employment law and personal injury claims.

"But becoming a sports agent would combine my two loves, law and sports," he said.

"I had always been a fan and a participant in sports. When I realized I wasn't capable of becoming a pro athlete myself, I realized that I could stay close to sports by representing athletes."

While at Florida State, Robinson worked as an intern in the Seminoles' basketball program, an assistant to the program's director of operations.

"While I was there, I got to know a lot of the school's football players, and they knew I was in law school and interested in sports," said Robinson. "Some of them came to me with an interest in having me rep resent them, but at the time, I wanted to make sure I not only finished law school, but that I had enough knowledge that I'd be able to represent athletes properly."

Robinson began moving in that direction in 2005 when he applied to be certified by the NFL's Players Association, to represent football players. He is one of about 3,500 agents certified by the NFL group.

The first athletes Robinson is representing are Beekman and Hickok.

"Being from the Fulton-Montgomery area, those are guys I had established relations with," said Robinson, who graduated from Gloversville High School with Hickok's sister.

"It's difficult as a first-year agent, and it's a very cutthroat business. People tell our players that they don't want to be with a first-year agent, that we might ruin their careers. That's the stuff all the players hear." But it doesn't hurt to have a relationship. It comes down to trust and relationships. People who know me know that I'm knowledgeable and trustworthy, and that I won't steer them the wrong way." Others agents can say they've negotiated contracts before and are from the bigger agencies. But if you're not one of their first-round guys, if you're not a first-round money guy, you can get placed on the back burner.

"The guys I'm representing know I'm devoting everything to them."

Hickok said those traits made Robinson attractive when he was looking for an agent.

"I had an agent who went out of business, and I was searching for someone else," said Hickok. "Out of the blue, I got called by Cal, liked what I heard and signed with him.

"He has helped me tremendously. He's one of those go-getters, the type of guy you want working for you. I'm an underdog myself, and I wasn't hesitant about signing with a guy who's in a similar situation."

Through Robinson, Hickok's resume and highlight tapes were distributed to NFL administrators. He was invited to an open tryout camp for potential NFL Europe players, and while he was there, drew the attention of Giants coaches.

Hickok recently participated in the team's mini-camp, and is one of two kickers on the Giants' roster.

Beekman, though, became the first athlete Robinson represents that was drafted.

"It made me feel like a million dollars," said Robinson, about Beekman's selection by the Bears. "To be with him nearly every day for the last four or five months, and then see him have this great opportunity. It's very rewarding."

Robinson's prior personal relationship with Beekman, though, only went so far when it came time for the family to choose an agent.

"They had a formal process in which nine or 10 agents they were considering went to Boston to be asked questions by Josh and his family," said Robinson. "After that, they reduced the field to three or four. I sat down with them, and went through what I wanted to do with Josh.

"Their final decision was to go with us."

And then, Beekman went with Robinson.

"I brought him to Florida to train for the NFL combine and the Senior Bowl game. As his agent, I contacted his Boston College professors, and assured them he could do online classes or would fly back and forth to Boston to attend classes while working toward his Master's degree.

"I did all his travel arrangements, and also made sure he was getting the proper physical training, as well."

Robinson said the next step is to negotiate Beekman's first contract with the Bears.

"Although the draft spots are pretty much slotted [financially], there are other incentives we'll look at to potentially escalate his salary," said Robinson.

Agents who represent NFL players receive about 3 percent of a player's salary.

Robinson will also be involved in developing off-field opportunities for Beekman. Agents receive between 15 and 25 percent of the financial payout players receive for non-football activities.

"If you've have a top-10 guy at a key position, there's a lot more money available in those areas, but there's still money out there for Josh," said Robinson. "We just finalized a deal for him to endorse Reebok products. I'm sure there are upstate New York car dealerships and restaurants that might want to get involved with him.

"There are also opportunities for appearances at sports stores and things like that. Plus, he wants to do some charitable things. He wants to give back to the community. I'm sure he'll come back home, at some point, and do a football camp.

"I'm the guy who gets the ball rolling on all of those things. It lets him just focus on football."

In essence, sports agents handle all the peripheral aspects, allowing athletes to concentrate almost solely on their on-field endeavors.

"A lot of times, guys in this business tell you the job is glorified babysitting because some athletes aren't used to having that much money and success right off the bat," added Robinson.

"I'm fortunate, so far, to have guys like Josh and Marc who are just great to work with. I'm just delighted with how everything is going in my first year in the business."

But he's far from satisfied.

"When we first started out, we thought we'd call ourselves Florida Sports Management, " he said. "Then, we considered Esquire Sports. But as we talked, we realized that we're trying to build an empire, of sorts, so we took that name, the Empire Sports Agency."

And now, Robinson hopes his firm will grow from its fledgling status into one that attracts clientele and does work befitting a company by that name.

 

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