After that I was screwed. We drove from Vegas to Lake Havasu in Arizona, and it was very awkward in the car. Even a few days of partying on the lake didn't change that. Ryan started giving me the cold shoulder, and that continued when I tried to call him in the weeks after. Still, I felt that as long as he needed my $500 a month, I could reel him back in.
You know when you are in a relationship with a girl and you can just tell she is about to break up with you? That is what being around Ryan felt like in the months that followed. Before the 1998 Rose Bowl, I talked to Ryan in a bathroom at the team hotel and gave him some cash, and he couldn't even look me in the eye. Then the day after the Rose Bowl, Jan. 2, I watched on television as Ryan announced that he was going pro. Leigh Steinberg was standing next to him.
Losing Ryan, who would end up being the No. 2 overall pick in 1998, hurt, and that will never completely go away. But Ryan also did something I found somewhat redeeming. During training camp of his rookie year with the Chargers, I went down to San Diego. I met him in the lobby of the team's facility, and after coming back with me to my car he ultimately gave me $10,000 in cash—close to the total amount I had paid him. He never explained why he didn't sign with me nor did he apologize for breaking the promise he made to my dying father, but at least he paid me back.
My parents' deaths and my missing out on Ryan changed how I looked at my life. In 1997 I met the woman who would become my wife, and I wanted to start a family. I was also getting to an age when it wasn't fun partying with college kids anymore.
The last player I went after with Doc was R. Jay Soward, a receiver at USC. At the beginning of almost every month during the 1999 season, I would give him $1,500. R. Jay and I were cool; we got along great. But after the season, when he told his father that we had taken care of him, his dad was so mad that he refused to let R. Jay sign with us.
In 1999 the NFLPA had changed a rule to say that players who were found to have taken money from agents while in college would not have to pay the money back. Before, agents had the threat of litigation, so it was often easier for a player to just let the paying agent do his rookie deal. However, the floodgates opened after the NFLPA changed that rule. Players, their parents, everyone put their hands out because there were no ramifications.
R. Jay's dad knew about the rule change, and he told Doc, "We don't have to repay you s---."
That was the last straw. You would think I would have left the business altogether, but I still loved being an agent and being around the sport and players. However, I knew that to keep going I needed to become a different kind of agent, and to do that I needed a new partner.
R. Jay Soward confirmed receiving money from Luchs... . Gary Wichard's lawyer, Howard Silber, said his client declined to comment... . Mel Kiper denied that it was prearranged for him to call during the Willie Howard meeting or any other. "I would never have called Gary, but Gary and other agents often call me and ask me to speak to players," said Kiper. "Gary is my friend, but I do that all the time for many different agents. I give players my opinion of them as football players. But I would never promote Gary or any other agent to a player." As for the belief among some agents that he favors Wichard's clients, Kiper said, "My player ratings are not related to my relationship with Gary or any other agent. There are many examples of players Gary represented who I have not ranked highly." (Howard confirmed to SI Luchs's account of Kiper's calling during Howard's meeting with Luchs and Wichard.) ... John Blake's lawyer, William H. Beaver II, said his client declined to comment... . Kenyon Coleman declined to comment... . Jeremy Shockey did not respond to messages left through the Saints or his agent, Drew Rosenhaus.