Instead, Hardy sought a deal that would reward Williams for high levels of productivity (chart, page 88). Williams can earn as much as $500,000 in incentives per season, but his base salary will remain at minimum levels ($175,000 to $475,000) unless he activates one of two escalator clauses, the more lucrative of which requires him to match three of four statistical standards established by the Denver Broncos' Terrell Davis over his first four seasons. Besides Davis, the only runner in NFL history to have reached even two of these plateaus is Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson. "I was flabbergasted when I saw the numbers," says IMG's Tom Condon, agent for this year's No. 1 selection, Tim Couch. "You could be Barry Sanders and not achieve some of these incentives."
Williams, however, has a different perspective. "The Saints stepped up and showed a lot of faith in me," he says. "If I stayed out of camp to milk them and had a bad year, I couldn't live with myself. The way I was brought up, you don't screw people over for money. That's bad karma." He adds that the lack of voidable years doesn't bother him: "I'm old-fashioned. 1 don't want to bounce from team to team and go to the highest bidder." He clearly feels comfortable betting on his skills. "Either I go out there and play the way I should and do the things I was brought in here to do, or I don't, and it's my bad," he says. "I don't think athletes are greedy; I think agents are, and they play on athletes' insecurities. Trust me: Leland Hardy is the best agent in the country, and if he's not, he'll work so hard that he will be."
When Hardy shows up at Soundcastle the day after Master P's sharpshooting exhibition, he encounters a typically weary crew. No Limit releases records the way Danielle Steele churns out romance novels, and Master P and the gang stayed up laying down tracks for Mercedes's album until 5 a.m. Never mind that they had an 8 a.m. business meeting. "We get by on power naps," says No Limit vice president Anthony (Boz) Boswell, a close friend of Master P's since childhood. "Ain't no sense of sleeping if you ain't got enough money in your pocket."
As Hardy watches Silkk the Shocker (Master P's younger brother Vyshonne) and Mr. Serv-On do battle in a medium-stakes game of spades, he speaks boldly, in between cell phone interruptions, about No Limit's future. "We plan to make a major foray into golf, and I'm talking with Emmanuel Steward about setting up the most formidable enterprise in boxing history," he says. "I hope to meet soon with Allen Iverson, and I've been approached by an NHL free agent. I'm talking to a 14-year-old figure skater with gold medal potential, we're moving into pro wrestling, and we'd like to help reinvigorate track and field in the U.S. And this year we're working on something called BICEPS—a joint venture between No Limit and the Wharton School that will provide the first continuing education program in business finance for active professional athletes."
Hardy stops talking to tend to a more pressing business matter: Master P has challenged him to a game of pool, with $1,000 on the line. Though this is chump change for the No Limit CEO, there are larger ramifications. Master P, who is known to his employees as the Colonel, isn't accustomed to being upstaged, and his aura is intimidating. Hardy, wearing a custom-made purple pinstripe suit, looks like the ultimate mark, and he falls behind early. "Man, somebody take that stick away from Leland before he pokes somebody's eyes out," Master P says, "and get him a better pair of glasses."
Just as things look hopeless for Hardy, he rallies. As he drains shot after shot, the air is slowly sucked out of the room, until the No Limit nerd is only two shots from trumping the Big Kahuna.
"The opera ain't over till the fat lady sings," Master P says.
"You better give her a record deal," Hardy fires back, kissing the 4 ball into the corner pocket. He calmly walks the length of the table and banks in the 8 ball, and Master P throws up his hands. "Leland Hardy," he says, shaking his head, "you're gonna shock the world."
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