After NFL Draft, Maryland Offensive Lineman Dane Randolph Still Looking for a Way In
Thursday, April 30, 2009
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- As the beach behind him disappears into a brilliant blue sea, Josh Stevens can feel the dream of his client Dane Randolph slipping through the speaker of the BlackBerry clutched to his ear. On the other end the phone is ringing. No answer. He paces the porch of this rented walk-up beach apartment and calls again. Voice mail. He taps out a message. No reply.
On the giant flat-screen television inside the apartment, coverage of the NFL draft is ending, football turning to baseball, and it is clear that Randolph, the right tackle from Maryland, will not be chosen. Until now, Stevens did not worry. An hour before, a scout from the Washington Redskins had asked Stevens for his fax number. This is usually a good sign, as it conveys serious interest. A fax often means a contract offer.
Washington would be perfect for Randolph. The Redskins need offensive line depth, which means he might have a good chance to make the team as an undrafted free agent, just as another former Maryland player, Stephon Heyer, did two years before. Stevens calls Randolph to tell him the good news.
But now the Redskins are not calling back. Stevens paces the apartment's porch, which abuts a paved bicycle path. A New Yorker here to spend draft day at his business partner Mike Abadir's home office, he looks lost in this beach paradise in his jeans and collared shirt, Yankees cap turned backwards and loafers on his feet. A woman in a bikini shimmies past on Rollerblades. He does see her. He is nearly toppled over by a family in a bike surrey with fringe on top. He scowls as he types into his BlackBerry.
Finally, the phone rings.
"What's the story here?" he barks into the phone.
The Redskins aren't interested. They've signed all their undrafted free agents. They are sorry.
Stevens slumps. And back home at his mother's townhouse in Owings Mills, Md., Randolph will soon learn another truth of life on the edge of the NFL: Nothing is ever as it appears.
In the weeks before the draft, several teams seemed to show interest in signing Randolph. The offensive line coach from the Jets acted especially impressed. The Dolphins were intrigued. As were the Redskins, Ravens and Giants. One team had him at the top of a list marked "priority free agents." And yet as the draft concludes and Stevens frantically calls team after team, the answer is coldly the same. No.
He sighs. "They get fickle, these teams," the agent says.
He trudges back to the porch to dial again. Finally, some success. The Green Bay Packers will bring Randolph in for a tryout at their rookie minicamp this weekend. Stevens smiles slightly. It's not what he wants, what he came into this draft expecting, but it's better than nothing. He tells the Packers he will take their offer if a contract doesn't come along from someone else.
In the months before the draft, Stevens and Abadir did everything they could to push their fledgling sports agency forward. They found prospective clients by examining scouting lists, trying to determine which players had the best chance of making teams. They interviewed players even as they recruited them, turning down several who might appear to be trouble later on. Then, after the players signed with them in winter, they flew them to Tempe, Ariz., to train with among others, Alex Rodriguez's running coach and Dan O'Brien, the former Olympic gold medal winner.