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."

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