The Heart of the Deal

The path to this sort of progress took a circuitous route, from the big screen to a second-floor office at Town Square in Las Vegas.

How the entity that is Caric Sports Management grew from one man’s hopes and dreams to what is now one of the best and most respected NFL sports agencies was inspired, unintentionally, from a movie about a slick sports agent who, one lonely night, had a crisis of conscience.

“It’s Hollywood,” Steve Caric says from that second-floor office. “I loved it, but I just don’t have the, ‘Show me the money’ moments with athletes. Those kinds of guys aren’t attracted to me.”
“Jerry Maguire” is a film with all sorts of memorable scenes, and yet none is as captivating as when the agent awakes to a moral epiphany that propels him to type a mission statement to his peers about remembering why they chose their field.

Titled “The Things We Think and Do Not Say: The Future of Our Business,” the manifesto suggested changes like signing fewer clients so that they could be offered more personal attention.
In the film, it got Maguire fired.

In real life, it planted a seed in the mind of a young man that would, years later, sprout into a principled commitment he would steadfastly honor.
“The whole personal attention and really caring about your guys is the part of that movie that attracted me to it,” Caric said. “That’s who we are. That’s what we will always be. I’m not out for this to be the biggest agency in the world.

“I know people don’t think of an agent as a really rewarding profession, but it can be. These guys work their whole lives to get to this point of being in the NFL, and it’s a great responsibility to know you can help them fulfill those dreams and help their families. It’s pretty awesome.”

Behind his desk in that office at Town Square, taped to a board among notes and hand-drawn cards from his two young children, is a copy of the movie’s mission statement.

Steve Caric might not think he’s Jerry Maguire, but in the very best ways, he is.

‘IT’S INSANITY’

Some telling numbers: This year’s NFL Draft is April 26-28 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, where seven rounds will again transpire over three days and 256 young men will hear their names called as they are chosen by one of 32 teams.

Caric has signed seven draft-eligible players from the class, and his highest rated prospect is offensive tackle Tyrell Crosby out of the University of Oregon by way of Green Valley High in Henderson.

Crosby has a chance to go in the first round, because if quarterbacks are the most precious of commodities, those colossal giants up front protecting them are next in line.
How difficult is it to land clients?

There are over 900 certified NFL agents, and yet 90 percent of the league’s players are represented by just 10 percent of them, meaning the competition to sign even a seventh-round prospect is beyond brutal.
“It’s insanity,” said Caric, whose agency ranked 21st in the NFL with 23 clients at the conclusion of the 2017 season. “It’s an almost impossible business. I went into it with my eyes wide open. I knew what this was. Getting guys to sign is hard. Keeping them is harder.”

Here’s why: Do you know all the bad stuff you hear about agents, about the slimy part of their world, about how they cheat and swindle and poach clients from others, about how they buy players and will sell their souls for a first-round pick?

Well, about 90 percent of it is true.

“Sure, there are agencies breaking rules and throwing money at guys, and you have 22-year old kids who are going to make decisions for the wrong reasons,” Caric said. “They see that money and they’ve never had any and they go for it. But one of the biggest compliments I’ve ever received — and I’ve heard it a few times — is that I don’t seem anything like an agent. I love hearing that.

“We feel really good about the way we built this business. We built it based on not wanting to sign just good ball players, but good, family-oriented people who work hard and don’t want a ‘Yes Man’ for their agent. If a guy gets off track, I’m the first one to tell him. Most agents bicker and fight and throw mud. I do my own thing here in Vegas. I love what I do, love my clients and never plan to leave. I’m blessed. This is our home.”

He has never fired a client. He has been fired just five times in the past 10 years, a notable retention rate in a world where players are constantly jumping from one agent to the next after some over promise and under deliver.

Once, a longtime client of Caric, in line for a lucrative contract extension, was offered six figures by one of the league’s more powerful agencies to make the switch.
The player asked Caric to match the offer.

He declined, instead offering to sever the professional relationship by filling out the needed paperwork.

“I don’t buy clients,” Caric said. “We want clients who want us as much as we want them.”

HE EVEN DOES WEDDINGS

When the Eagles scored the go-ahead touchdown with less than three minutes remaining against New England in Super Bowl LII, when tight end Zach Ertz caught the 11-yard score that would lead to a 41-33 victory at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota two months ago, Caric was sitting directly behind the player’s family.

Ertz, a six-year pro out of Stanford, is unquestionably the best example of that principled commitment upon which Caric has built his business.

Caric also represents Ertz’s wife, Julie, a member of the U.S. women’s national soccer team. When it came time for the couple to wed, it was Caric who negotiated contracts with the vendors, coordinator and photographer.

“Steve was a guy who stayed true to everything he said from our first meeting on,” Zach said. “You’re not just another cog in the machine with Steve. He’s your agent, but also a great friend. I trust him. My wife and family trust him. He will always tell you the truth, no matter how much it might hurt sometimes. I don’t have time for someone who just tells me what I want to hear. He’s always going to do right by his guys.”

Even ones with baggage.

Kiko Alonso was once thought a football castoff whose resume led with arrests for DUI and burglary and criminal trespassing and mischief. His troubles were as apparent as his talent as a linebacker, a player known around the University of Oregon as much for plea bargains, probation and community service as for tackles.

He’s with the Dolphins now, his third NFL team after being drafted in the second round by Buffalo in 2013 and winning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. He has endured two major knee injuries.
Last year, he signed a $29 million contract with the Dolphins.

“I went through a very immature portion of my life,” Alonso said. “It was really important for me to have an agent I could trust. Steve is a very special guy. I needed as much help off the field to learn what it meant to be a professional as I did on it, and he has been there for me every step of the way. We addressed my issues right from the start and came up with a plan for me to become the best person and pro I can be. Steve has played a huge role in both.”

As with any agent, it all began with one.

VEGAS FOREVER

Steve Caric is 40 now, husband to Natalie and father to Colton, 6, and Caydence, 4. He’s also a former walk-on linebacker at San Diego State who needed just a few Division I practices to realize his continued relationship with football would exist off the field, not on it.

He worked for a sports marketing firm before becoming Vice President of Marketing for Premier Sports Management in Las Vegas and then California for five years, choosing to return to Southern Nevada in 2008 and open his own agency. He just had a feeling it was supposed to happen here.

He just needed a client to get things going.

Russell Allen also attended San Diego State and was viewed by most as a late-round prospect at linebacker in the 2009 draft. He interviewed a handful of agents.

“Steve just came off as this trustworthy guy,” said Allen, who went undrafted and yet played nearly five NFL seasons with Jacksonville before having his career cut short after suffering a stroke in a 2013 game against the Bills. “I wasn’t some superstar player and high draft pick, so I felt it was important that I had a really close relationship with my agent. I had to go out on a limb being his (first client), but while it was one of the most important decisions I ever made in my career, it was also the best one.

“Sure, he was getting paid for his services, but what he sold about a personal relationship was genuine to this day.”

The paid part is an agent’s standard 3 percent on the amount a player receives from his contract and can be more than three times that for endorsements. Caric isn’t among the wealthiest NFL agents but, as he says, the lights are on and the air conditioning works in the summer.

In an opposite corner of the second-floor office, Molly McManimie prepares for this month’s draft. She is 26 and began working for Caric while attending law school at Chapman University in Southern California, becoming a certified agent just last year.

“The reason I came here, moved my whole life here, was because I believed in what Steve built,” she said. “I saw right away that it wasn’t fluff, that it was actually about spending quality time with clients and getting to know them beyond football players. The first question I am always asked is about Jerry Maguire. It’s a lot less glamorous than the movie, harder than I thought, but so rewarding in ways you never anticipate.

“I told Steve that I hope he’s the only person I ever work for.”

Some agents show clients the money.

Steve Caric shows them his heart and character.

The mission statement lives.