So, how was your first week of 2014?
Ask Hattiesburg-based lawyer and sports agent Bus Cook that question and he will answer: “I’ve had worse.”
Truth is, few agents have had better weeks. Cook tends to understate. In this case, his understatement is off the charts.
Let’s start with the fact that Jay Cutler, one of the many pro football stars Cook represents, signed a new seven-year deal worth $18.1 million a year. This makes Cutler the sixth-highest-paid quarterback in the NFL – none too shabby for a guy who has thrown 155 touchdowns, compared to 112 interceptions, over eight NFL seasons.
Then came the news that South Carolina wunderkind Jadeveon Clowney signed with Cook, when every indication had been that Clowney was going to hire Jay Z to represent him. Clowney could be one of the top three picks in the draft.
There’s more. North Carolina junior tight end Eric Ebron not only announced he was entering the draft but that he had chosen Cook to represent him. Ebron might be the first tight end chosen. He is considered by most a mid-first rounder.
“Don’t be surprised if Eric’s the next great NFL tight end,” Cook said.
Clowney and Ebron join a Cook client list of that includes current NFL standouts Calvin Johnson, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Mike Wallace, K. J. Wright, Johnthan Banks and Pernell McPhee – to name a few. Expect more new clients any day now.
Cook’s first sports client was Brett Favre. That turned out well for both.
Since then, Cook’s client list has included Steve McNair, Randy Moss and scores more.
It all started with a round of golf when Favre was a senior at Southern Miss. A mutual friend called Cook and asked if he would take Favre , who was learning the game, out to play 18 holes.
The two hit it off. Cook, the son of a West Virginia coal miner, and Favre, the son of a Mississippi high school football coach, both had a bunch of “good ol’ boy” in them. Favre trusted Cook and asked him if he would consider representing him.
Said Cook, a lawyer and not an agent at the time, “You in some kind of trouble?”
No, Favre told him, he just needed an agent and he trusted Cook.
A few years later, Cook negotiated the first NFL contract worth more than $100 million for Favre.
Memories of McNair
McNair was Favre’s next client, but not until after Cook had followed McNair around for most of his junior and senior seasons at Alcorn State.
Watching Steve his senior season remains one of the highlights of Cook’s life, he says.
“Steve McNair is the best college football player I’ve ever seen play the sport, period,” Cook says. “There was nothing he couldn’t do.”
Cook negotiated huge contracts for McNair – first the Tennessee Titans and then the Baltimore Ravens. The two became close, close friends, so close Cook still grieves McNair’s death.
There are so many facets to a sports agent’s task. Take Cutler’s recent signing. Cutler had played out his contract in Chicago. He could have opted for free agency, in which case the Bears surely would have put a franchise tag on him and kept him for one year at about $15 million before he could have shopped himself around the league to find the highest bidder.
But Cutler has come to love Chicago. It doesn’t hurt that the Bears have loaded up at wide receiver with guys like Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Devin Hester.
“Jay wanted to be a Bear,” Cook said.
So he is. A rich one.
Rick Cleveland (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.