Former Cane Shawn O'Dare fulfilling agent dreams
Shawn O’Dare always wanted to be involved in football. The game was his “whole life”, as he put it. So after his playing career at the University of Miami finished in 2012, the former Hurricanes wide receiver began his two-year journey to becoming a certified NFL agent.
The path to being an NFL agent for the former Miami Hurricanes wide receiver was not an easy one. It involved a year of graduate school at ‘The U’, a $2,500 background check, and passing the NFL’s certification test in July 2015, which had a success rate of only 39% last year.
On top of becoming certified by the league, prospective agents must be certified in each state and school that they recruit in, as well as pay an annual fee for recruiting in that state.
“I’ve always been intrigued by the agency aspect of it because that is the closest thing to actually playing for me,” said O’Dare. “I think even seeing Jerry Maguire as a child was big. It drew me to the field and made me do my research about it.”
EPIC Agents, based out of Coral Gables, is comprised of founding partner Alex Gavilla and O’Dare, who is the President of the management agency. Gavilla is a sports and entertainment lawyer who is also a graduate of the University of Miami, as well as Georgetown Law School. He is a certified NFL Players Association Contract Advisor.
“While we both handle day-to-day client relations and all business matters, Shawn definitely provides a personal touch to both managing and mentoring our clients in various aspects of their football careers,” Gavilla said.
An example of Gavilla’s expertise paid off last year for Cleveland Browns third-round pick Duke Johnson, when he was able to negotiate additional compensation for Johnson through workout bonuses. Traditionally, the Browns had never conceded such compensation in a rookie contract.
“Alex brings the business and the law side of it, so I get a lot of experience of it in that sense. I’m very blessed to be able to gain the contract and business knowledge from a guy like him. He makes me read contracts and gets me to understand them a lot better,” O’Dare explained.
Their skillsets seem to compliment each other perfectly, as the two have noted. O’Dare’s involvement in the game has certainly given him an edge early in his career.
“Since Shawn played the game, he understands the football mentality and importance of players’ families being involved in the process. He is excellent at handling our marketing and social media and has a firm understanding of the role we play as contract advisors.”
EPIC Agents’ client list currently includes former Miami Hurricanes and current Green Bay Packers quarterback Ryan Williams, Cleveland Browns running back Duke Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Tyriq McCord, and defensive lineman David Gilbert who most recently played for the Colorado Crush of the Indoor Football League. Kenneth Harper, a running back who was most recently with the New York Giants, as well as defensive lineman Micanor Regis who was last with the Carolina Panthers are also clients of EPIC Agents.
“EPIC’s personal attention to their clients is second to none, and I’m grateful to have them on my team. They have a family atmosphere; very similar to what my teammates and I had had at The U,” said Ryan Williams, who has reportedly impressed those within the Packers organization.
Former Canes all-purpose back Dallas Crawford is also a client of EPIC Agents. Crawford currently has several teams interested and is evaluating his options as an undrafted free agent. Offensive lineman Marcus Jackson of Tennessee and cornerback Quinton Bradley of Idaho are also on their roster of clients. Jackson will be attending Detroit Lions rookie minicamp this weekend.
“To me, they’re the next big Miami agents and I take a sense of pride that these are the guys representing me and vice versa,” said EPIC Agents client David Gilbert.
“It’s always easier to deal with someone who understands where you are coming from. I had a previous agent who was older—almost 60 years old, and I would tell him my frustrations, but he would rush me off the phone because he had other stuff to do,” Gilbert explained. “With Shawn, I can explain to him what’s going on within the team, the organization, and even describe the events of a single practice and he will know exactly what I’m talking about.”
Gilbert is not the only former Cane and current EPIC Agents client who had glowing remarks about his representative.
“He’s authentic and real. I didn’t get that vibe from other agents that I met with,” said former Hurricane Tyriq McCord, who signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted free agent on Saturday. “He’s my ‘U’ brother and I have complete trust in him just how I did playing with him my freshman and sophomore years.”
One thing that O’Dare is extremely passionate about is helping to reverse the perception of agents in today’s run-and-gun world of shady backdoor deals.
“There is a bad stigma about this profession, but I want to change that. I want it to be positive. A lot of these guys are losing money and I want to be the positive guy who changes that and makes an impact on these young mens’ lives. I don’t want to just be an agent, but a mentor as well,” O’Dare explained.
Gavilla echoed a similar sentiment, as an aspect of their work that the duo takes pride in is their devotion to helping their clients after their football careers have concluded.
“We do not believe the role of an agent is to influence our client's investments one way or another,” Gavilla said. “We want to change the stigma former agents created by focusing on providing sound advice when it comes to player contracts and endorsement or sponsorship deals, and most importantly by providing our clients support and post-career planning for after football,” he added.
An interesting dynamic for O’Dare is the relationship he has with his clients who also happened to be his former teammates at Miami.
“It’s difficult in the sense that they have to see you in a different element. We have the friendship trust, but to get that business trust is a whole different story,” O’Dare said. “Already having that relationship helps though, as well as having my partner who has experience in business and law.”
In O’Dare’s eyes, the fact that he has been there in the huddle and the gym with these guys can only be a positive and that is one of the things that he believes separates him from other agents.
“I’m young and I’m hungry. I don’t think there’s a more motivated agent in the game right now. I think I can relate to them more than anybody. I don’t think any other agent cares about them like I do. I’ve been through that storm with them and that is a big advantage for me,” O’Dare explained.
The profession is not all glitz and glam though, as O’Dare explains. Making sure your client is upbeat no matter the situation is a major key.
“It’s tough to manage situations sometimes where guys may be looking at the possibility of going undrafted, but you have to keep them positive and motivated to keep going,” O’Dare said. “A lot of these guys understand that as long as they get the opportunity, that it really doesn’t matter what round they go in or if they go undrafted.”
The uncertainty of the profession is something that constantly keeps O’Dare on his toes, but he embraces that grind.
“It’s always something different with this job, which is why I love it. I could be working on something with recruiting, and then the next minute it will be marketing, then a client calls and I have to deal with that. This is not your typical 9-5 job,” he explained.
O’Dare knows that he is still a young agent that has to build experience to compete with other agents, but that is only pushing him to perfect his craft. With that mentality, EPIC Agents is bound to make waves in the world of professional football.