NFL agent stakes claim in DMV

Rockville attorney looks to represent best of region's football players

By Kent Zakour Staff writer

Just prior to the start of the 2012 National Football League season, 2007 Seneca Valley High School graduate Jourdan Brooks partially fulfilled a lifelong dream: He was a professional football player with the Cincinnati Bengals, spending the entire year on their practice squad.

But on May 2, 2013, Brooks was released and his future playing opportunities were in limbo. While he was unable to sign with a team for the 2013 season, Brooks kept in shape, still in pursuit of making a 53-man active NFL roster.

During the running back's stint with the Bengals and ensuing year away from the field, Brooks, who signed with Rutgers University out of high school before transferring to Morgan State, familiarized himself with the business side of the NFL.

"It's a business, things happen," Brooks said of getting cut. "You get the next class coming in the next year — that's really what happened to me — if you are not that [top player on the depth chart, teams] are bringing two or three more [new players] in."

So, in search of a fresh start and new agent to help, Brooks researched potential representatives online and eventually contacted Bethesda resident and Rockville-based trial attorney Scott Bergman, who became an officially licensed agent in October with the National Football League Players Association.

"I wanted to find a local agent so I could have [a personal] kind of interaction," said Brooks, who hopes to receive a try out and join a team as a free agent after the NFL Draft, scheduled for May 8-10. "Found his name, did a little research, gave him a call, spoke to the receptionist, left a message and he got back to me within two hours."

Added Bergman, who hopes to create a strong presence in the area: "Get this boy back into the NFL. That's the goal."

Bergman, a Miami native that moved to the Washington, D.C. area in 2000, said he has always been an avid Miami Dolphins and NFL fan. From a young age, he wanted to help people and aspired to be a lawyer — Bergman received his undergraduate degree from Florida Atlantic in 1990 and law degree (1994) from the John Marshall Law School in Atlanta — but it wasn't until recently he began seriously considering entering the sports agent business.

In 2011 — when the NFL's new collective bargaining agreement changed player contract structures and eventually led to new agent regulations, prerequisites and a more stringent certification process — Bergman began exploring the realistic possibility of becoming an NFL agent. Additionally, several of his friends over the years had urged Bergman to pursue the career.

"It came to a point a couple years ago, I was constantly being asked, "Scott, become an agent," said Bergman, who was childhood friends with Jason Rosenhaus, a fellow NFL agent and brother of popular pro football agent Drew Rosenhaus. "... It was kind of a build up for me to become an agent because I've been around the NFL — not just as a sports advocate, but also with an attorney hat on. Now, I've decided to put that agent hat on."

To be certified by the NFLPA, according to its website, individuals must submit a non-refundable application fee of $2,500, have an undergraduate and post-graduate degree from an accredited college/university (it can be waived if the person has seven years of negotiating experience), undergo an extensive background check, attend an annual seminar and pass a written exam. Agents must also maintain certification by paying an annual fee, obtaining liability insurance, attending annual seminars, providing an updated application and negotiating at least one player contract within a three-year period.

"How a person becomes an agent now is very serious," said Bergman, who leads The Law Offices of Scott N. Bergman, LLC in Rockville. His firm handles personal injury, business to business collections, business contracts and consumer advocate cases. "I think it is almost as equal as what a state bar requirement is. ...

"It's a contract advisor, but the NFL is also looking for agents now, from what I've seen in my opinion, they're really honing in on having attorney agents. Not only is there a (financial) duty to guys like Jourdan, there is a fiduciary duty, which is a higher level duty, to make sure you're not doing anything to double deal against the client, that this client can completely trust you and knows that should you do something wrong against them, it's not just decertifying you out of the NFL ... you could lose your bar license."

Bergman hopes to build a strong football presence in the Washington, D.C. region. In addition to Brooks, Bergman represents about a dozen clients, including several former players from The Gazette's coverage area in Montgomery and Prince George's counties: Clarksburg graduate Rob Osborne, Damascus graduate Steve Anderson, Crossland graduate James Gaynor, former Crossland and Friendly defensive back Brendan Munnerlyn and Gaithersburg graduate Brian Boateng.

"If somebody from California said they would be interested in me, of course I would not turn it down," Bergman said. "But my focus has been to create a good marketing for the DMV area, especially Maryland. There's a lot of great talent here, but I don't think it gets marketed very well. A lot of guys from Morgan State, Towson and the University of Maryland do get passed up."

While Bergman admits his clients aren't solid pick prospects for next month's NFL Draft, he hopes all of his clients — some are fresh out of college; other are like Brooks, hoping for another chance — will get a fair shot at making a roster. Bergman also said it his job to help provide publicity to all 32 NFL clubs for players participating at the NFL regional combines and super regional combines.

"My challenge was to find guys that are NFL qualified and absolutely deserve to be in the NFL, but they are a long shot because they don't get the proper review and marketing," Bergman said. "Jourdan and a lot of these guys have value, good value to clubs. ...

"I don't think any of the guys I talked to are interested in negotiating a multi-million dollar deal. They're interested in the love of football and wanting to play and earn their way into the NFL. ... They just want to play football and get their chance."