Adam Jones' agent, Peter Schaffer is one of the cast members on Esquire Network's new TV show, "The Agent". Schaffer has 24 years of experience as an agent and has been the agent for Hall of Fame greats as Barry Sanders and William Roaf. We spoke with Schaffer to hear what it's like being an agent, what he works with Jones on, how he got into the business and much more. You can catch "The Agent" on the Esquire Network Tuesdays at 10 p.m. and catch up online now or on demand to see the first episode.
Rebecca Toback: What’s your favorite part of being an NFL agent?
Peter Schaffer: There’s not one favorite part, I think giving Adam as an example, where I get the most satisfaction is when you can help a young man who might be going in the wrong direction or didn’t have the proper direction and to change focus and be not just a great NFL player but a great person.
The great Jackie Robinson, said, "A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives," and I try to live by that every day.
RT: What's a typical day like for you?
PS: The typical day is there is no typical day. You wake up early and a lot of things are going to happen, good and bad and you have to deal with them and prepare to deal with every contingency, every event. There's no way to plan for it. And that’s where experience comes in -- 20 years of experience for me. You have to deal with things you have no choice not to deal with it.
RT: What are some things you work with Adam Jones on?
I have a special place in my heart for him because he’s such a unique individual. Every time you get off the phone with him or see him in person, you just feel better about yourself. He wears his emotions on his sleeve and his heart is as big as anyone I’ve ever seen. He truly wants to be a great person, a great teammate. It’s just a pleasure to work with him.
RT: How do you acquire new clients?
PS: Every year, it’s like running a marathon. You have to keep your feet moving or you’ll never cross the finish line. You go around the country and meet fascinating people from all walks of life. There are 800 agents and 2000 players, so the ratio isn't very good. Not every agent is the best for every player. You go out there and find people who are going to appreciate the work that you do and the sweat, equity, passion and track record you bring to them. And hopefully the players see it the same way and like-minded people find a way to attract themselves to each other.
RT: What can we expect from your new show, "The Agent"?
When I was approached by the producers about the show, there was a little trepidation at first. Was it going to show train wrecks or car crashes or like "Entourage" or "Ballers", showing extremes of the business? Or was it going to show realistic goals of what agents do? And it was the later. And they followed through with that. There are a lot of sports agents who break every stereotype out there. It’s important people get to see not the press conferences, but the 95 percent of what we do: truly working hard and working to better the athletes' lives and careers. It might not be as flashy as "Entourage" or "Ballers", but I think it really shows what happens behind the scenes.
RT: How often are you in touch with your clients?
Everybody is a little different and it depends on the time of the year, so there’s really no commonality. We spend a lot of time with them on the phone or in person. If you have a great relationship, its like whenever you talk it’s as if you never left.
RT: What’s an example of something you would work with a client, like Adam Jones on?
Theres a lot of subjects, buying and selling real estate, finances, charitable endeavors, health, training, nutrition, family, family issues, life, kids, goals, aspirations. It’s no different than a conversation you'd have with your best friends on a daily basis.
How did you get into the business?
You have to combine your passion with a way to provide for my family. After law school this was an option that gave me both.
Back in 1988, when I started I started with recruiting late round draft choices, using a great vision, a lot of hard work and a lot of passion. In 1989, I convinced safety David Tate and Erik Norgard a center that a 24-year-old kid out of law school could be the best person to help them with their NFL career. Both of them believed it and both had fantastic careers that exceeded their expectation and slowly had me getting first round draft choices all the way to the hall of fame.
Are there any misconceptions you'd like to clear up about life as an NFL agent?
I think that’s what the show is going to show. There are a number of hard working, diligent and conscientious agents who are doing great work 24/7 and I think the producers have done a great job at showing the industry and it’s not all glamour and caviar. It’s a lot of individual time on the road, and going through security and traveling to places like Mobile, Al and Tuscaloosa and meeting people from all walks of life and dealing with issues that most people don’t know what to do with and never thought they'd have to deal with.
My wife will ask what are you going to do today? And I say I'm going to wake up and work until we go to sleep. It’s like swimming to an island in the distance. I never look up to see how far I have left, I just keep swimming until I hit the beach.
I have a great relationship with my clients – it’s my family, my wife Alison and daughter who really sacrifice. Most people have 9-5 lives, we have 5-midnight lives. To truly get away from work at night on the weekends, on vacation, it’s just not something that happens. It’s part of being a sports agent.