By Tim Graham
The chief reason I wanted to write a profile on NFL agent Eugene Parker was to find out who the man is, where he came from, what he believes in.
Parker is an elusive figure when it comes to the public spotlight. He doesn't return calls from reporters looking for a scoop on a client's contract situation. He rarely does interviews and never conducts news conferences. He's a borderline recluse.
As such, Parker has a negative reputation among fans as a puppeteer who orchestrates holdouts to squeeze cash out of teams and sometimes coerces them to trade his clients.
That reputation doesn't jibe with reality, as I quickly learned by speaking with those who've worked with Parker.
Not every anecdote was used in the lengthy feature that ran in Sunday's paper.
ESPN analyst Andrew Brandt, formerly the Green Bay Packers' cap manager and a consultant for the Philadelphia Eagles, is an admirer of Parker's.
Brandt negotiated contracts with Parker clients such as Greg Jennings, Ahmad Carroll and Justin Harrell and on Jason Peters' new deal after the Buffalo Bills traded the Pro Bowl left tackle to the Eagles.
"When teams draw him as an agent, they know they're going to deal with somebody who's experienced, who knows the business, who probably has other players on the team," Brandt said. "Teams know they're going to be in for a negotiation with a guy who's going to get top dollar for his player.
"It's hard to define 'fair,' but at the end of the day he's fair. He's just going to be on the high side of fair."
When I asked Brandt what makes Parker different than other agents, he didn't hesitate to share a story from Green Bay in July 2004. Carroll, the Packers' first-round draft choice that year, wasn't under contract.
"We were getting toward training camp, and we wanted all our draft picks signed," Brandt said. "Eugene and I are going through a tough negotiation on Ahmad Carroll. Our player personnel director, Mark Hatley, dropped dead of a heart attack."
Hatley was a beloved scout who had been the Chicago Bears' vice president of player personnel before he became the Packers' vice president of football operations. Hatley, 54, died on his 30th wedding anniversary.
"It was a really tough time for us at the Packers," Brandt said. "I'll never forget the call I got from Eugene. It was really reaching out to see how I was and reaching out to express his admiration for Mark and his eye for talent.
"And then Eugene just says, 'Listen, whenever you want to do this deal, we'll do it, and we'll be fair, and we'll get it done quickly. You've got much more important things to worry about. If you want to do this now, fine. If you want to wait, that's fine, too. But I truly respect what you're going through and don't want Ahmad Carroll negotiations to be a factor.'
"I'll never forget that, how felicitous he was for my well-being and didn't want negotiations to be anything I remember about Mark Hatley's final days. He's got a special place with me for how he operated there."
Shouldn't that kind of gentlemanly behavior be expected?
"Let's just say there were a couple other players who weren't under contract at that time," Brandt said, "and their agents knew what happened, and they didn't act that way."
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