In 23 years as an agent for football players, Harold Daniels has represented first-round NFL draft picks Freeman McNeil, Phil Simms, Chip Banks and Art Still, among others.
Daniels, a professor at Harbor College who teaches courses in physical education, mathematics and psychology, began advising athletes about their futures while he owned the Los Angeles Mustangs, a semi-pro football team in the mid-1960s.
Daniels, who played three years of professional football before suffering a career-ending knee injury in 1965, started advising Mustang players who were contacted by professional teams. It has since mushroomed into a profitable second job.
Some of Daniels' clients will be competing in NFL playoff games this weekend, including Atlanta Falcon linebacker Darion Connor, Detroit Lion defensive back Bruce Alexander, Houston Oiler wide receiver Drew Hill and linebacker Al Smith.
Daniels also negotiated lucrative multi-year contracts for Steve Broussard and Rodney Hampton, who were selected in the first round of the 1990 draft. Broussard plays for the Atlanta Falcons and Hampton for the New York Giants.
Unlike some agents who become involved in all facets of financial planning, Daniels negotiates only the playing contract for an athlete. Although he did negotiate Michael Cooper's first contract with the Lakers, he specializes in football players.
"I don't claim to be a master of all trades," Daniels said. "I specialize in contracts. The kids want to trust one guy to do everything and agents will tell them, 'We'll do the whole package.' But they can't do everything. Who's looking over the agent's shoulder? Every (player) that gets burned has let one guy do everything."
Daniels said players can also get into trouble when they don't listen to their advisers. He tells a story about one of his clients, a recent first-round draft pick who is currently under contract to an East Coast team.
"The kid bought four cars in one year--two Mercedes, a Porsche and a Cherokee," Daniels said. "Then he fired two financial advisers because they told him he shouldn't have bought the cars. The kid figured, 'If they're going to tell me I can't buy this car, I'll fire them.' "
Player holdouts have become a summer ritual in the NFL. Daniels said in most cases, it is the agent who is at fault if a player under contract refuses to report.
"If the player is on the borderline and you think he is going to get better, sign him for short term," Daniels said. "If the agent does a good job (with the initial contract), you won't have to renegotiate.
"Some agents try to get long-term contracts for all their clients, including some players who are not high draft picks."
These long-term contracts are beneficial to the agent, who gets his fee, usually between 3% and 5%, but can hurt the player's bargaining position in future seasons.
When representing a high draft pick, Daniels tries to get a long-term contract that can be negotiated upward when the player proves his worth to the team. With a player drafted in the latter rounds, or a free agent, Daniels' strategy is to get a short-term deal. Then if a player has a good season, Daniels has leverage to negotiate a more lucrative pact.
Minnesota Viking running back Terry Allen, who outperformed highly paid teammate Herschel Walker for much of the 1991 season, is one of Daniels' clients. Because Allen signed a one-year contract, Daniels is confident of getting a lucrative deal for the running back in 1992.
"I'll ask (Viking management) how good they think Terry is," Daniels said. "Is he half as good as Walker? Then pay him half of the $2 million you're paying Herschel."
Daniels also represents Raider defensive end Greg Townsend and safety Eddie Anderson and Ram tight end Damone Johnson.
Townsend, according to Daniels, is one of the Raiders' highest-paid players. Anderson, who led the Raiders in tackles this season, has two years remaining on his contract.
Johnson will seek a new contract from the Rams, who, according to Daniels, are not as stingy in negotiations as many fans believe.
"I get along pretty well with the Rams," said Daniels, who has also represented Wendell Tyler, Ron Smith and Glen Walker in contract negotiations with the team.
"It all depends on how you approach them," he said. "You have to go in and treat them as people. You have to be firm . . . but I think you get more with honey than with vinegar."
Johnson said that Daniels has always been fair with him.
"I haven't found anyone I trust more," Johnson said. "He's a first-class guy. He has always given me good advice, even though I didn't want to hear it sometimes."
Although working as an agent is financially rewarding, Daniels, 51, said he won't cut back on his teaching schedule.
"I would teach school even if I didn't get paid for it," he said. "The kids need someone that is really going to help them. I see a part of myself in the kids."