In 1992 Doc began helping me understand the business. First, I learned that if I was going to keep paying players I had to do it differently. Giving money in one shot didn't build a long-term relationship with a prospect; I had to give smaller amounts each month so the player would stay in regular touch. Doc also taught me to focus locally. A common way for an agent to gain a foothold in the business is by getting in with a single school. How did Drew Rosenhaus become so big? He graduated from Miami and was embedded in the school when Ray Lewis, Warren Sapp & Co. went there. I had UCLA.
I rarely went to Bruins games or practices, but I was hanging out all the time with players, including someone who would become my first UCLA client, receiver Sean LaChapelle. Sean and I got to be good friends. He would come over to my parents' house even when I wasn't there, like a member of the family. He even gave me a dog, Touchdown, a golden retriever. I hoped to represent Sean after his junior season in 1992, but Rick Neuheisel, a UCLA assistant coach at the time, talked him into coming back for his senior year. I was worried about other agents' getting to Sean, so I had him give the agents who contacted him the phone number for my house in Woodland Hills. When agents called him they were actually calling my home phone.
Landing Sean gave me credibility with other players, and after him I signed fellow Bruins Carl Greenwood; Othello Henderson; Jamir Miller, who was the No. 10 overall pick in 1994; Matt Soenksen; and Chris Alexander. I did a lot for Sean, but I never gave him money. I did, however, pay all the others. Doc and I gave them money around the first of every month. We paid quarterback Ryan Fien while he was at UCLA, and when he transferred to Idaho in 1996 we kept paying him. We gave Bruce Walker and Vaughn Parker of UCLA money too, but they didn't sign with us. I did more than just hand players cash. When Bruce was thrown in jail for shooting off a gun in L.A. [he would later plead no contest to disturbing the peace], whom do you think he called in the middle of the night to bail him out?
If you were a good player at UCLA, I made a run at you. I tried to get can't-miss NFL left tackle prospect Jonathan Ogden as a client, but he wouldn't take my money. He did, however, go with me to a Janet Jackson concert. My girlfriend got two tickets, and I told her, "Sorry, I need those tickets for J.O. He's a big Janet Jackson fan." Instead of going to the concert with my girlfriend, I went with a 6' 9" guy who weighed more than 300 pounds and who screamed "Janet!" the whole night like a teenage girl.
The lunches, the money each month, the bail, the concert tickets, those were all NCAA violations, of course, but in my mind I wasn't doing anything wrong. Doc would say to me, "We ain't members of the NCAA. We didn't agree to follow these rules." I also justified it by remembering that the schools and the NCAA were making money while the players, many of whom came from poor families, weren't getting anything but an education, which many of them didn't take seriously. Plus, Doc and I knew that if they didn't take our money, they would take it from one of the dozens of other agents opening their wallets. Agents have been giving kids money for decades. It was more open in the 1960s, '70s and '80s, before states passed sports-agent laws making it illegal. Now, agents still do it, but they are more secretive and use middlemen. Anyone who thinks it doesn't go on needs to look at all the schools currently being investigated by the NCAA for contact between players and agents, places like Alabama, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. It goes on everywhere.
While most of my energy was spent recruiting UCLA, Doc and I also went after players who had ties to the Los Angeles area. Chris Mims, the Tennessee defensive end who was picked in the first round in 1992, was an L.A. kid Doc and I landed. We paid him about $500 a month during his final season in Knoxville and also paid a guy who was sort of his handler. Michigan State's Tony Banks, the first quarterback taken in the '96 draft, was another client. Doc had known Tony since he was a little kid and had represented his uncle, former USC and NFL linebacker Chip Banks. We paid Tony several hundred dollars a month. Colorado's Greg Thomas, USC's Delon Washington and Phalen Pounds, and Portland State's Darick Holmes also took our money and became clients.
However, there were scores of others we paid but lost out on. Between 1990 and '96 I'd estimate that I paid more than 30 players. Joel Steed of Colorado; Rob Waldrop, the Outland Trophy winner from Arizona; and Travis Claridge of USC all took my money but signed with someone else, as did many others. When I called those players and asked them why they didn't sign with me, they always had the same line: "Sorry, I gotta do what is best for me and my family."
One of the misconceptions about the agent business is that the kids are victims, preyed on by people like me. When Alabama coach Nick Saban and others rail against the agent business, they don't mention that most of the time the player or someone from his family approaches us. Guys see that one of their teammates has some cash, ask him about it, and suddenly my phone rings. It was rare to find a player who wouldn't take the money. I put $10,000 cash in front of Kansas's Dana Stubblefield, and he wouldn't take it. I tried to pay UCLA's J.J. Stokes and USC's Keyshawn Johnson, and they said, "No." But for every kid who didn't take the money, there were dozens who called me and asked to get paid.
Chuck Webb could not be reached for comment (SI left messages for Webb through his family)... . Mel Agee, Harold (Doc) Daniels, Chris Mims, Travis Claridge and Leon Bender are deceased... . Carl Greenwood, Othello Henderson, Matt Soenksen, Chris Alexander, Bruce Walker, Jonathan Ogden and Singor Mobley confirmed receiving money or extra benefits from Luchs... . Jamir Miller, Tony Banks and John Rushing declined to comment... . Ryan Fien, Joel Steed and Torey Hunter said they did not receive money from Luchs... . Vaughn Parker said he knew Luchs but had no comment as to whether he took money from Luchs... . Greg Thomas, Delon Washington and Darick Holmes did not respond to phone messages... . Phalen Pounds said Luchs was "a good guy" but declined to comment as to whether he took money... . Rob Waldrop denied that Luchs paid him. He recalled that he had lunch with Luchs and that Luchs offered to pay a friend in an effort to get to Waldrop, but he said that he did not accept any money... . Ryan Leaf declined to comment on specific allegations. "I remember Josh," Leaf said in a statement. "As I recall, he was an old hometown friend of one or two of my teammates and we all hung out a bit. I don't remember him aspiring to be an agent. We were all about the same age and we were interested in having a good time more than anything else."