April 24, 2014

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Lifestyles: Show Me the Passion

From mac-and-cheese dinners to making millionaires, sports agent Peter Schaffer has always kept lacrosse close

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | McLaughlin Archive

Schaffer with one of his clients, Seattle Seahawks offensive tackle Russell Okung, at the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. (Courtesy Peter Schaffer)

Peter Schaffer has been a certified NFL agent for more than 25 years. He has negotiated more than a billion dollars worth of contracts, including a deal in 1997 that made future Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders the then-highest paid player in NFL history.

Schaffer's firm, Authentic Athletix, represents many NFL players plus media personalities, golfers, baseball and hockey players. Even with all that, Schaffer, a former Franklin & Marshall lacrosse player and Adelphi assistant, still finds time to play and support the game he loves.

How did you become a sports agent?

After graduating from Franklin & Marshall in 1984, I went to Brooklyn Law School and, after that, got a job at a litigation firm in Colorado. Then I just decided to follow my passion. It was 1988. I was single, 25 years old and fortunately for me, I liked eating Kraft macaroni and cheese. I didn't mind it at four-for-a-dollar, eating seven days a week. I decided I was going to work my tail off as a lawyer to fund this thing. As opposed to taking the money I would get from being a lawyer, and living high on the hog, I reinvested in my future. I have a hundred different recipes that I could give you for how to make Kraft macaroni and cheese. Macaroni and cheese with hot dogs, with broccoli, with extra cheese, or when we didn't have any money, with ketchup.

What's a typical day for you? Is there one?

The thing about being a sports agent is you never know. Whether it's a contract, a negotiation, a player needing surgery, a player wanting to buy a house, the mother of a player's child dropping a maternity action, getting a loan — you just never know what you have to deal with on a daily basis. To be a successful agent, you have to have a huge Rolodex and the ability to deal with issues as they come. With free agency, for example, it started March 15. Teams start calling at noon Eastern. You try to find the best situation, best contract for your players. The phones ring. You got two cell phones, email set up, computers, two TVs. It's sort of like air traffic control. You're trying to land all these planes.

Bill Belichick is football's famous lacrosse fan. What's your relationship with him?

He's very reluctant to talk football, with anybody. That's because he's so intelligent and he has so many secrets. But if you really want to have a conversation with him, he'll talk lacrosse all day: the growth of the game, the strategy of the game, all kinds of stuff. That's really what our relationship is based on, lacrosse. We're both in the same place because of football, but the conversation is always about lacrosse. I love it. I take no greater pride than when I see him working out in the Marriott workout room at the Senior Bowl, or at the NFL Combine, and he's wearing a Rutgers Lacrosse Dri-FIT, or a Hopkins Lacrosse sweatshirt. That's cool. He truly loves the game. There's no doubt about it.

You ran with the bulls in Pamplona with one of your clients, Seattle Seahawks offensive tackle Russell Okung. Why did you want to do that and what was it like?

My wife handles the marketing, PR, concierge for my company. Russell called her and said he wanted to run with the bulls. She asked him, 'Who is going with you?' Eventually he asked me.

They run every morning at 8 o'clock. [New York Jets coach] Rex Ryan had gone that week and we had seen the video of him jumping over the fence. We go on the course the night before and say, 'If it gets hairy, let's try to have some strategy and some plans to where we can bail out.' My job is not only for me to survive, but I have to protect Russell. That was sort of the tail wagging the dog. His job is to protect quarterbacks. He's 6-foot-6, 320 pounds and yet me, at 6-foot, 195 pounds, I have to protect him.

We go on the course the night before, and it's right through the streets of Pamplona. It's like Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras. We have it all mapped out. "We can bail out here and here. Here's a door." But as soon as those bulls start coming, you throw strategy right out the window. At that point, it's straight adrenaline and instinct. It was straight "Omaha," straight audible.

The day we ran, more people were taken to the hospital than any day in the last 25 years. We saw a few people taken off on stretchers, but it wasn't until we got back to our hotel room that we started watching the video, because they replay it all day like SportsCenter. But of course it's all in Spanish, so we didn't realize that all these people had gotten hurt until we went on the Internet later that day.

It was exhilarating, though. I would do it again in a heartbeat. What are your bucket list items? Well, I'm not climbing Mount Everest and I'm probably not going to surf the Banzai Pipeline and survive. But a regular guy can go out and do this, knock off a top-10 bucket list item. You do it with a friend or a client who wants to explore the world.

How are you involved in lacrosse now?

This article originally appears in the May 2014 issue of Lacrosse Magazine. Join US Lacrosse today to start your subscription!

My son plays for the Denver Lacrosse club, which is actually run by Rob Gormley. He and I played together in Ocean City summer lacrosse in 1981-83. On our club team out here, our masters team, 30 and over, our entire defense grew up in Cortland, N.Y. We've been playing together for a combined 160 years. There are five us who grew up in Cortland. We've been playing since we were 7 and 8 years old. We're all 50 now. We all play for the Elder Statesmen in the national tournaments. We've won every title for the last five years.

Last year in Vail, when I turned 50, my wife said, 'Why don't you play in all four divisions?' So I played in the 20-, the 30-, the 40-, and the 50-and-over. We won the 30, the 40 and the 50 and I lost one game in the elite. The hips were a little sore. It was eight days. My record was 16-1 for the week. I played for the Denver CityLax team, and the only team we lost to was the Merrill Lynch team that had Peter Baum and Billy Bitter and JoJo Marasco. They were stacked. We had Kyle Harrison and Sam Bradman, and we still lost. By far the best team I've ever been on and we still got beat by six or seven goals. That's how I told my wife I wanted to celebrate my 50th birthday.

How did you meet your wife?

We met in 1996. I was getting on a plane to Cleveland to recruit Orlando Pace [No. 1 overall pick in the 1997 NFL Draft]. I see her going through security. I looked at my buddy and said, "Wow. There's a pretty lady right there." How many times do you say that going through an airport, but it turns out her gate was next to our gate and both our flights were delayed, so we started talking. I tell people, "I didn't get Orlando Pace, but I got a wife."

What do you take from your Adelphi coaching days?

We played in 1985 at Johns Hopkins in the [NCAA] quarterfinal and '87 at Schoellkopf Field at Cornell in the quarterfinal, in the Division I playoffs. Back then, I used to walk to take the Long Island Rail Road every day from Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn to Adelphi, right before Garden City. I would walk to Adelphi, coach, get back on the train, do all my reading, get home at 9 o'clock at night every day for three years while I was in law school. I loved every minute of it.

We recruited Gordon Purdie during that period. He's now the coach. I do whatever I can do to help the program and help him out. One time, Steve Atwater was signing a deal with the Jets and Gordon picked us up the airport because we didn't have a ride, and took us to Weeb Ewbank Hall on the campus of Hofstra, our archrival. He was there when Steve Atwater signed his contract.


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