Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Beachwood-based Neil Cornrich is a straight shooter among sports agents

July 28, 2019 04:00 AM

Defensive end Trey Flowers – shown with agent Neil Cornrich
after the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl win over the Atlanta
Falcons in 2017 – signed a five-year, $90 million deal with the
Detroit Lions in March.

Leaving the Cleveland Browns as a free agent after the 2012 season was very difficult for Phil Dawson.The kicker, as beloved as anyone from his position group could be in an NFL city, had spent his first 14 seasons with the Browns. Dawson remains the second-leading scorer in the 70-season history of the franchise.
If Dawson was looking for a pick-me-up at the time, he wouldn't have reached out to his agent, Beachwood-based Neil Cornrich.
"If I needed to make a phone call to be encouraged and feel better, I wasn't going to call Neil, in all honesty," Dawson said. "But if I needed to make a phone call to understand the facts and how this works and what it's going to mean, he's the one I'm gonna call."
Dawson, who has made $3 million or more in every season but one since 2011, is a free agent again at age 44. After 21 NFL seasons, his future is uncertain.
By now, the 11th-leading scorer in NFL history knows all too well how cruel the business side of the league can be. That wasn't the case early in his career, though, and Dawson said knowledgeable straight shooters like Cornrich can be valuable for players who are trying to maximize their earning potential during careers that are often short-lived.
"What separates Neil is he just tells the truth," Dawson said. "He reps general managers, coaches and players. He has a comprehensive understanding of all sides of a negotiation. His insight, his counsel, just the way he communicates how things are gonna go, what the other side will come at you with — all of that is spot on.
"You might not always enjoy that," the 2012 Pro Bowl selection added, "and some agents might try to polish that up. But Neil just tells you how it is, and it's your job as an athlete to make a decision."

Neil Cornrich, Bill Belichick’s longtime agent, said he knew the coach was “so special” soon after meeting
Belichick during the coach’s time with the Browns.

Best of the best

Cornrich, because he's represented powerful figures from all sides of the negotiating table (from players to assistant coaches to head coaches and general managers), has one of the most diverse client sets in the league.
He has repped Bill Belichick throughout the coach's historic run with the New England Patriots. He also represents several Patriots players, including running back Rex Burkhead, who is entering the second season of a three-year, $9.75 million deal.
Last March, one of Cornrich's star clients, defensive end Trey Flowers, left the Patriots to sign a five-year, $90 million deal with the Detroit Lions, who are coached by Matt Patricia, a Belichick protégé. Flowers' deal includes $56 million in guarantees, and the $90 million total is the fourth-best among all players at his position.
By letting Flowers walk, the Patriots — in a move that's become a Belichick staple — likely will get a third-round compensatory draft pick next spring.
"It's his model," Cornrich said of the coach he first met in the 1990s, when the agent was representing former Browns players Tom Tupa, Bob Dahl and Craig Powell, and Belichick was working for Art Modell prior to the Browns' move to Baltimore.
"I had a profound respect for him from the first time I met him," Cornrich said of Belichick. "I knew about him. Then, when I met him, it became clear that he was so special."
Cornrich has since been on the field for all six of the Patriots' Super Bowl victories — along with their three championship-game losses — under Belichick.
Cornrich has negotiated book deals and contracts, and has become close friends with the 67-year-old who, in the agent's opinion, is "indisputably the greatest coach of all time, regardless of sport."

Quality references

A 2013 Sports Illustrated story, which ranked Cornrich among the 15 most influential agents in sports, called the Beachwood High School graduate "arguably the leading agent of football coaches, both professional and collegiate."
That group includes Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel, whom Cornrich repped during his playing days with the Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers, along with University of Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, former University of Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, Youngstown State University coach Bo Pelini and new University of Akron coach Tom Arth.
Cornrich's coaching practice is strong, but the player side of the business is larger for a simple reason: There are more of them.
That practice added T.J. Hockenson, a tight end from Iowa who was selected eighth overall by the Lions in April. The move is straight out of Cornrich's playbook — one that has proven to be quite successful in the 36 years since he became a certified player agent.
Hockenson played for Ferentz, and he was referred to Cornrich by Dallas Clark, a former Iowa standout who was a first-round pick by the Indianapolis Colts in 2003. Clark, a first-team All-Pro selection in 2009, was the NFL's highest-paid tight end for much of his career.
"My approach has always been fiduciary," Cornrich said. "People hire me to do what's best for them, not what's best for me. And if you do that long term, you'll have an opportunity to avoid some of the difficult situations that can arise in this industry. Good people refer other good people."

‘Very humbling' business

Cornrich's third-floor office in the One Chagrin Highlands building would be a haven for memorabilia collectors. Signed pictures and jerseys adorn the walls, and the longtime agent has a story for each.
Off the top of his head, he recites Flowers' grade-point average at the University of Arkansas' Sam M. Walton College of Business. He'll tell you the names of all of his clients' parents, as well as Riley Reiff's record as a three-time state champion wrestler in high school. (Reiff, a Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman, signed a five-year, $58.75 million contract in 2017.)
And he'll gladly tell you about his own parents — the late Rita, a former teacher, and Sidney, a 90-year-old who went to college at 15 and finished law school at 21.
"My parents were really self-made people who did exceptionally well and instilled in me the values of resilience, commitment and passion," Cornrich said. "I always tried to do something a little bit different and better. I'm not saying I did, but that was the goal."
The business he's chosen, described by so many agents as brutal, is "very humbling," Cornrich said.
Cornrich has been approached "often" about selling his practice, but he's always resisted because he loves what he does — and those for and with whom he works.
With Flowers and Hockenson, the agent has already had a really good 2019. But Cornrich knows as well as anyone that can change in a hurry.
"We don't pitch what we've done for other people," he said. "Every day is a new day, and every day you need to earn it. Last season is last season."

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, an Ohio Republican, discusses a trip he took to the border with Rep. Ben McAdams, a Utah Democrat.

Updated Jul 27, 2019; Posted Jul 26, 2019

U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, an Ohio Republican, discusses a trip he took to the border with Rep. Ben McAdams, a Utah Democrat.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - For U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, a nameless Honduran infant who showed up at a U.S. border crossing in McAllen, Texas this month without his parents epitomizes a national immigration crisis caused by well-intentioned policies that aren’t working out as planned.
The Rocky River Republican, who visited several U.S. immigration facilities along the Mexican border last weekend with a congressional group called the Bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, said the boy, who appeared to be around eight or nine months old, was brought to the border by a young man who initially claimed to be his father, but admitted he was unrelated when he had to take a DNA test to prove his parentage.
The United States’ well-meaning policy to prioritize admission of immigrant families has perversely created a market for kids, says Gonzalez. The drug cartels that bring immigrants from Central America to the United States charge $8,000 for a single young man’s passage, but just $4,000 for entire families.
The man who brought the infant to the U.S. border said he didn’t know the baby’s name. He gave the child to border agents, along with a phone number in Honduras that was purportedly for the child’s family. Immigration officials hadn’t been able to reach the child’s family, and volunteers were pushing him around the immigration facility in a stroller.
“If you think about that baby, there’s really only a handful of potential starting points,” says Gonzalez, who has an infant son of his own. “Either the baby was kidnapped, the parents were killed, or the parents willingly gave the baby up. That’s where you very clearly see this is a real crisis and we have to do something about this.”

Utah Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams, who also was among the ten Republicans and seven Democrats who visited McAllen, said the condition of the facilities they toured depended on the nature of their use. A Baptist family services facility that was turned into a boarding-school type facility for unaccompanied boys between the ages of 6 and 18 who had nowhere else to go in the United States was clean, says McAdams, with dorm rooms and a cafeteria. Its occupants had been in the United States for six months to three years.

McAllen’s Central Processing Facility for immigrants to the United States was designed to serve around 1,000 people at a time, but contained roughly 3,000. As a result, parts of the facility were extremely overcrowded, with people living in bad conditions while overtaxed border patrol agents processed their asylum applications. McAdams said people stayed there only a few days before they were released to go to an airport or bus station to travel someplace where they’ve got a family connection.
Conditions were better at the Donna migrant detention facility, because that facility was not filled to overcapacity. Legislators said the cartels deliberately try to swamp particular facilities with refugees so more border agents will be sent there, leaving other parts of the border without patrols so the cartels can smuggle drugs into the United States through unpatrolled areas.
Gonzalez and McAdams, who both speak Spanish, said the immigrants they interviewed were all confident they’d be released into the United States because of the crisis situation at the border. Since there aren’t adequate facilities or staffing to handle the flow of immigrants and because immigration courts are backlogged, people know they’ll be released into the United States.
Although the vast majority of immigrants they met were from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, the pair said they also met immigrants from China, Cuba and Bangladesh who deliberately decided to enter the United States through its southern border because they realized overcrowding made it likely they’d be admitted after a short stay in a holding facility. They’re given immigration court dates far into the future, and many don’t show up.

“The goal should be to have a system that treats people fairly, but expediently,” says Gonzalez. “We should find ways to make sure these cases are heard more quickly. We also need to make sure that everyone who immigrates into the country has been vetted and has a place here, and there’s no way to do that quickly under the system we have today because of the overcrowding.”
A slew of Congress members have visited the nation’s southern border in recent weeks, including both of Ohio’s U.S. Senators and Niles-area Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, who is running for president.

Gonzalez says his own father and grandparents legally immigrated to the United States from Cuba after spending months in their home country waiting for their paperwork to be approved. Fearing execution by Fidel Castro’s regime, the family hid in other people’s houses, traveling frequently to avoid capture, says Gonzalez.
“My perspective has always been that you want an immigration system that prioritizes and rewards legal immigration,” says Gonzalez. “That’s ultimately what my family chose to do.”
Gonzalez and McAdams said the nation’s well-intentioned asylum system is being exploited by people who are using it to short circuit the nation’s immigration process. They said the asylum system should be reserved for people who legitimately fear for their lives, instead of people who are merely seeking better economic opportunities or fleeing crime in their home countries. Roughly a quarter of the people who seek asylum in the United States are deemed to have a legitimate claim, but the rest get to remain in the country for the years it takes to process their claims.

“The asylum process is breaking down, because we’ve signaled to people that’s a way to come to the border and be allowed in,” says McAdams.

The pair hope that visiting the border as part of a bipartisan group will help them devise reforms that Republicans and Democrats can agree upon, ending the longtime stalemate that’s worsened the nation’s immigration problems. They suggest that adding more judges would help reduce legal bottlenecks at the border, and allowing immigrants to seek asylum at U.S. embassies in their home country might keep people from walking thousands of miles to the United States through dangerous conditions under the control of a drug cartel.
“My first takeaway from this visit is that the situation is complicated and partisan rhetoric has made it more complicated,” says McAdams. “We’re going to commit to dialing down the rhetoric. We need to recognize the humanity of the people who are coming to the border, but at the same time, recognize the humanity of the customs and border patrol agents who are asked to do an impossible job with very little resources.”
McAdams recalled visiting a part of the Rio Grande where immigrants swim across the river, and speaking with a border agent who had been traumatized by discovering the bodies of a mother and her three children who died of exposure when they got lost looking for a law enforcement agent to whom they could make an asylum claim.
Gonzalez said rhetoric denigrating the border patrol should end.
“Our group was near unanimous in feeling sympathy for the border patrol, because we’ve made their job so much more difficult as a Congress because we haven’t been able to figure this out,” Gonzalez says. “We are putting them in unbelievably difficult situations.”

Monday, July 29, 2019

T.J. Hockenson "is gonna be a problem" in the NFL


Lions fans are starting to see what Iowa fans have been bragging about for the past two seasons. Former Hawkeye tight end T.J. Hockenson has been a star through the first few days of Detroit's practices. One Twitter account mentioned that Hockenson likely has double-digit touchdowns through the first two days of training camp. 
The 6-foot-5 251-pound tight end was drafted by the Detroit Lions at number eight overall. He became the fourth tight end to be drafted in the top ten since 1997. At No. 8 overall, Hockenson is the highest drafted TE since Vernon Davis went 6th overall in 2006.

In 2017, he recorded 24 receptions for 320 yards and three touchdowns. The following year, he tallied 49 receptions for 760 yards, six touchdowns and was the winner of the John Mackey Award, which goes to the nation's top tight end. 

"You're working day in and day out and if you get caught up in that [fame and glory] then you're wrong," Hockenson told Iowa media in March. "There's been so many things that have gotten me to this point. There's been hard work-- so many people have gotten me here. This University has gotten me so far and you need to remember that and go back to that and not get caught up in that. It's all just a distraction and you got to eliminate those distractions to do your job."
He continued, "You're going to push yourself and I'm going to push myself. I'm going to do the same things that I did to get me here and I'm going to do that at the next level. That's what some people forget about."  
Hockenson wasn't on the NFL radar entering his redshirt sophomore season but he quickly emerged as the best tight end in college football thanks to his blue-collar mentality and performance. He's like a tight end back in the 80s that could block and run a route. NFL Analyst Daniel Jeremiah called Hockenson "the best blocking tight end" that he has ever evaluated

Hockenson's ability to catch the ball over the middle while getting hit is second to none. He has strong hands, sharp cuts and a mean-streak as an offensive weapon. He's going to be one of the safest picks in the NFL Draft. 
Lions fans have seen a top-10 tight end pick fizzle out and not live up to the lofty expectations, so fans were hestitant to trust the Hockenson selection. Although, so far, Hockenson is picking right back up where he left off at Iowa. 

Jaguars offense efficient on first day of pads


With full contact allowed and all pads on, would the Jaguars offense be as sharp as it was in OTAs?
The running theme through Jaguars OTAs in May and June about the offense was caution.
Yes, the unit looked sharp with Nick Foles at quarterback, a group of improving wide receivers and upgrades at tight end with third-round draft pick Josh Oliver and free-agent signee Geoff Swaim.
But let’s not get carried away, players and coaches said.
Let’s see what happens in full pads.
Sunday was that day, and while the offense didn’t make many plays to bring the overflow crowd of nearly 3,000 to its feet, the operative word was efficiency.
“The offense looked good out there,” said Oliver. “First day of pads, and everyone came out feeling great.”
Wide receiver Dede Westbrook, who hasn’t had a drop yet in the preseason, added an adverb to Oliver’s assessment.
“We looked really good,” he said. “We’re getting the timing down in running routes and how we need to run them and working on chemistry.”
The Jaguars’ four 11-on-11 periods focused mainly on situational football, such as running two-minute drills from both midfield and in the shadow of their own goal post, plus short passes and timing routes.
And while the players were in full pads, the officials blew whistles quickly, and rarely was a ball carrier brought to the ground.
The only deep ball came in an early 7-on-7 drill in which Foles overthrew Westbrook, who was closely covered by Jocquez Kalili.
The offense committed only one pre-snap penalty in the 11-on-11 periods, and there was nothing that could have been judged as a dropped pass.
Foles completed 13-of-18 passes in the 11-on-11s, Gardner Minshew was 8 of 14 and Tanner Lee 7 of 11.
Alex McGough got the short end of the reps but still hit on both of his attempts, one on a two-minute drill rep and another near the end of the final period.
The four quarterbacks combined to complete 30-of-45 passes, but six of the incompletions were spikes to kill the clock on two-minute reps.
There was only one interception, on a poorly thrown pass on the run by Minshew that was picked off by Tre Herndon.
Chris Conley caught five passes and Westbrook four, all from Foles. Westbrook had one diving catch in which he laid his body full-out and grabbed the ball inches from the ground.
Toward the end of practice, Westbrook dove for another ball that went off his fingertips. He said he was held on the play and catching it would have taken another extraordinary effort, but Westbook offered no excuses.
“I have to make those catches,” he said.
Minshew connected with C.J. Board on back-to-back plays, and Lee hit Oliver over the middle with one pass, with Oliver bouncing off two defenders to stay on his feet.
When the Jaguars did run the ball, Leonard Fournette showed some slick moves. But with the officials quick to blow the whistle, the gains were minimal.
“It’s coming along,” Oliver said. “One day at a time. We’re getting the install stuff in and cleaning it up.”
Another plus for the offense was another strong showing by the line in individual drills against the defensive line. The offense won about 60 percent of those battles, with center Brandon Linder, guard A.J. Cann and rookie tackle Jawaan Taylor leading the way.
Westbrook said it’s a sign of continued progress under new O-line coach George Warhop.
“We’ve got a great line coach,” Westbrook said. “It pretty much starts with him and trickles down to the players. They’re taking care of their own. We trust them to let Nick get the ball off, and then we have to go get it.”

Friday, July 26, 2019

Ex-NFL players Anthony Gonzalez and Colin Allred form a bipartisan team in Congress

Updated Jul 25, 4:47 PM; Posted Jul 25, 3:30 PM

U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez of Rocky River, left, during his days with the Indianapolis Colts, is pictured beside U.S. Rep. Colin Allred of Texas, during a Tennessee Titans game.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - They played on rival teams in the National Football League. They’re members of rival political parties in the U.S. House of Representatives.
But freshman Congress members Anthony Gonzalez and Colin Allred are hoping their sports background can help them bridge the partisan divide and find common ground on matters like veterans issues, rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, and securing help for people with the sorts of traumatic brain injuries that plague NFL players.
The pair will publicly kick off their bipartisanship effort on Aug 1, when Allred, a Texas Democrat, will hold a joint town hall meeting in Wadsworth with Rocky River Republican Gonzalez. The meeting will be at 5 p.m. in the city’s council chambers. They also plan to tour a manufacturing facility in Strongsville and sample the goods at Fat Heads Brewery. Gonzalez plans to visit Allred’s district next year.

“I want to, hopefully, set a little bit of an example of bipartisanship, that we’re not as far apart as we think we are, that we’re not as different as you see in cable news, or in the national coverage,” says Allred. “This may be more valuable now than ever.”
“We came into this with the notion of let’s actually work together to solve problems instead of talking past each other all day,” says Gonzalez. “And obviously we have a common background on the football side, and a common respect there.”
Allred, a former Tennessee Titans linebacker, was raised by a single mother in North Dallas and won a full-ride football scholarship to Baylor University. He spent five seasons in the NFL before a neck injury ended his career. He went to law school at the University of California Berkeley, and subsequently worked in the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s general counsel’s office during the administration of President Barack Obama.
Gonzalez, a former Indianapolis Colts wide receiver, was a football standout at Cleveland’s St. Ignatius High School and won a football scholarship to Ohio State University. When injuries ended his football career, he got an MBA at Stanford University.

Anthony Gonzalez, a Rocky River Republican, and Colin Allred, a Texas Democrat, discuss Allred's upcoming trip to Gonzalez' Ohio congressional district.
Both are new parents of infant sons and sport the same haircut.
The pair say that football has a fair amount in common with being a Congress member.
“On the campaign side, it’s very competitive, obviously, and if you’re a competitor and have a competitive background, I think the campaigning can come naturally,” says Gonzalez.
Allred calls football “the ultimate team sport” and notes that each player does things to help the team win that he may not get credit for. He says he believes everybody who serves in a legislative body should have to play team sports.
“When you walk into any locker room in the NFL or college, you’re going to encounter the entire swathe of the American experience in that locker room and you’ve got to find a way to work together towards a common goal,” says Allred. “I think that training is invaluable for being in a legislative body where we all come from different places, with different backgrounds, different ideologies, but we should, and I think we do, share a common goal around what’s best for the country.”
The pair still have their differences. Allred jokes that he hated Gonzalez’ quarterback on the Indianapolis Colts, Peyton Manning, “although he is a great player.” Gonzalez, who gets campaign donations from Manning, said he loves him.

While they were active in the NFL at the same time, Gonzalez believes they never actually faced off against each other due to games they missed because of injuries.
“We would get the scouting reports every week in these big binders, and I remember reading about Colin in the scouting reports and watching him play from my injured position on the sideline,” says Gonzalez.
“Anthony was a very high draft pick and they had a high-powered offense,” recalls Allred. “So we knew all about their offense and we actually signed a bunch of guys on our team from the Colts."
“To steal our signals,” Gonzalez interjects.
Gonzalez said he hopes his collaboration with Allred will “model to people what it looks like to disagree, but do it in a way that’s civil and productive.”
“We feel differently about a lot of issues,” says Gonzalez. “That doesn’t change the fact that I have an unbelievable amount of respect and appreciation for the work that Colin does.”
“If we can help make anything work a little better around here, then that’ll be worth it,” Allred agrees.
Click here to obtain free tickets for Gonzalez’ town hall meeting with Allred. Due to space restrictions, a limited number are available.

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