A busy time of year

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As an ESPN NFL reporter speculated where a big-name free agent would land, Chris Dingman smiled because he knew the location.

Dingman, who is in charge of The Dingman Group, is not a rival reporter or a sports agent. As a man behind the scenes he finds out some of the transactions before they are reported. He specializes in a unique business. He relocates athletes, helping them find new homes, move, transport cars and other off-the-field details that go with joining a new team.

For the sake of privacy, Dingman could not reveal the free agent he smiled about during the speculation, only that the NFL player relocated to Pennsylvania.


Dingman’s been at it since 2006. But this year is different for sure. He has been working with dozens of NFL players – some of the top free agents – doing his best to provide a smooth transition during such a hectic season.

Dingman, a Newport Beach resident, usually has a whole NFL offseason to work with players who are traded or sign with another team. But because of the 136-day NFL lockout, some of his business was slow.

When the lockout was lifted, the work poured in. Dingman has clients in other pro sports too. So he’s been extra busy with business stemming from Major League Baseball trades as well.

“It’s definitely been a whirlwind, but in a good way,” Dingman said Friday. “There’s a big difference right now what’s going on in the NFL and what we’re traditionally used to.”

Usually, he has months to plan for relocation when dealing with NFL players. But this year he’s doing what he normally does in a matter of a few days or a couple weeks.

Dingman turned 33 on July 27. He didn’t have much time to plan for a party. He just had a sushi dinner in Manhattan Beach with close friends.

“My birthday present was a whole bunch of free agents asking me to help them,” Dingman said.

As such, he had to cancel his attendance at a friend’s wedding this past weekend. He also missed out on an annual family trip to the Central Coast because there was so much work.

“There’s significantly more business than last year,” Dingman says. “And, at a different time of the year than normal.”

He doesn’t see much money from the athletes who sign new multi-million dollar contracts. Dingman’s company makes most of its money from relocation management fees, real estate brokers and other company referrals.

Dingman coordinates the relocation process. In a normal offseason, he says there are times when athletes will seek other people to help with moving. Some other moving-detail services try to get in the picture by swaying an athlete because they might know the athlete on a more personal level.

But because of the quick player movement this year, some pros don’t have time to seek other help.

“I wish it always like this,” he says. “It makes things cleaner.”

The rampant player movement hasn’t been Dingman’s only benefit recently. He has also built a trusting reputation in a short time, gaining credibility as he was profiled by Forbes and Darren Rovell of CNBC. He was also featured in the Daily Pilot two years ago.

It wasn’t as if Dingman had no work during the NFL lockout. There were times he had to relocate athletes who wanted to train while the league and player representatives sorted through issues.

Strong safety Charlie Peprah and cornerback Jarrett Bush both helped the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl title. They wanted to train together in San Diego during the lockout. Dingman helped them relocate.

Marcedes Lewis, a tight end for the Jacksonville Jaguars, wanted to train in Los Angeles when the league was going through labor struggles. Lewis, a Dingman client, works out with NFL reporter Jay Glazer, who also specializes in mixed martial arts training.

Lewis was contemplating to extend the lease in L.A. for another month as he was considering a holdout, according to various reports. He showed up to Jaguars camp on Monday.

Situations or opportunities can change quickly in the league some refer to as, “Not For Long.”

As the NFL and its players inched toward a resolution a few weeks ago, Dingman worked closely with Steve Smith, the star receiver for the Carolina Panthers.

Dingman knows Smith well, as they were both receivers for the football team at Santa Monica College in 1998.

Rumors swelled of Smith leaving the Panthers in a trade, as some analysts pegged Carolina in a rebuilding stage and the team could perhaps land a young player or some draft picks for Smith.

Baltimore appeared in need of a receiver after releasing veteran Derrick Mason. San Diego might want a wideout in place for 2012 as lead receiver Vincent Jackson could only be playing with the Chargers for a season after signing a one-year tender.

Dingman started to talk about the process of relocation with Smith and his family. But everything changed. The Panthers became one of the busiest teams in free agency. They needed their big-play receiver to stay.

Smith said he wanted to remain with the Panthers.

Soon Dingman received a call that there would be no move for Smith and his family.

Dingman immediately worked the phones and sent out emails telling people to cease the process.

“I have to keep my realtor happy,” he says.

In the days leading up to the 2011 NFL season, Dingman is also happy.