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May 27, 2019

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NFL Draft is the biggest day of the year for thriving local sports agent

Caric Sports Management has grown steadily over the last decade

Steve Caric of Caric Sports Management

Wade Vandervort

Steve Caric, president of Caric Sports Management, is shown at his Town Square office Monday, April 22, 2019.

Steve Caric of Caric Sports Management

Caric Sports Management clients and staff pose for a photo during a company retreat, which included a free youth football camp at Faith Lutheran High School.  Launch slideshow »

Steve Caric sits behind a desk in his Town Square office thumbing through a packet both thick and detailed enough to be mistaken for court files from afar.

Instead of affidavits and subpoenas, however, the contents are depth charts, schematic tendencies, roster preferences and more for every NFL team. The ream of paper makes a slight thud as the agent drops it on top of a white notepad that contains more specific handwritten information before reaching underneath for a smaller set of football intel.

These nine pages rank potential team fits for each of his nine clients available in this year’s NFL Draft, which starts at 5 p.m. tonight and runs through Saturday in Nashville, Tenn., in case they go undrafted and need to sign free-agent deals.

“When I first started off, I wasn’t signing a lot of draft picks,” Caric says. “I was signing guys we had to do this research for, so it’s just making sure we put them in the best spot. We have a pretty good history of guys that don’t get drafted making 53-man rosters.”

That’s putting it lightly as Caric has built one of the league’s fastest-growing agencies in large part because of his ability to deliver under-the-radar players to places where they can succeed. Caric Sports Management had 23 clients on rosters at the end of last season, according to the NFL’s final agent count, to put it in the top 20 out of the nearly 900 licensed agents.

Not bad for a company that started as a one-man operation 11 years ago, as Caric split from an executive marketing position with Premier Sports Management to chase his dream as an agent. He signed one player going into his first draft, linebacker Russell Allen, whose status as a fringe selection forced Caric to put in exhaustive research on every team out of necessity.

Allen ended up going undrafted with two teams making the strongest push to sign him as a free agent — the San Diego Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars.

“Russ was born and raised in San Diego, went to San Diego State so turning down the Chargers was really hard for him,” Caric reflected. “But we had our research done and Jacksonville was at the top of the list, so I said, ‘Russ, you can’t let your emotions get involved here. Do you want to make the team or do you want to get cut in San Diego?’ He made the right choice.”

Allen played five seasons with the Jaguars, as a starter in the final three, before an on-field stroke ended his career prematurely. But he helped set a template that Caric continues to follow and refine going into every draft — even if he has a little more help now.

Caric Sports Management has added two more agents, Molly McManimie out of the local office and Travis Martz on the East Coast, as its continued to expand.

Caric has never represented the stars at the top of the draft like quarterback Kyler Murray and linebacker Nick Bosa this year — though he did have a pair of highly productive second-round picks in 2013 in tight end Zach Ertz and linebacker Kiko Alonso — and has instead mostly made a career out of advising players like Allen.

One of the more recent success stories is local Liberty High legend Kai Nacua, a safety whom hired Caric going into the 2017 NFL Draft after graduating from BYU. Nacua said he was drawn to Caric because of the close-knit environment of his agency and its Las Vegas base but soon learned the agent’s diligence was just as important.

Nacua was taken aback by Caric’s extreme attention to detail in their pre-draft meetings.

“We went over all the rosters, going over which teams needed safeties,” he said. “That’s what he does with every guy. He’s like, ‘OK, I’m going to be on the phone with this team, and I’m talking to this guy, and I’ll let you know about this.’ He’s so on top of everything.”

Nacua endured what many football players cite as their greatest fear in going undrafted, but he doesn’t speak of the experience in such dejected tones. Sure, it was a slight disappointment but also an opportunity because of Caric’s level of preparation.

He had pinpointed the Cleveland Browns as Nacua’s clearest NFL fit so it was a no-brainer when the franchise reached out.

“It definitely put a lot less stress on me,” Nacua said. “Once the draft ended and I didn’t get the call, I already knew the possibilities of where I could go. It was really easy to make the decision to go to Cleveland.”

Nacua, now with the Carolina Panthers, made the Browns as a rookie and appeared in all 16 games including starting in three. The free-agent deals can often be simpler to figure out than the actual draft.

Caric had former Green Valley High and University of Oregon offensive lineman Tyrell Crosby last year with a handful of teams showing strong interest throughout the evaluation process. But none of those franchises ended up taking Crosby, as the Detroit Lions instead selected him with a fifth-round pick despite having no previous contact.

“There was one team that I know liked him a lot and had a really high grade on him but they took a tackle in the first round so that team wasn’t going to take him,” Caric said. “So much is dependent on what a team does before.”

Crosby and Nacua lead Caric’s current local contingent, but he hopes that it’s just the start of securing more talent with Southern Nevada ties.

“Whether it be UNLV players or the guys who come out of Gorman, Liberty, Faith, that’s really important to us,” Caric said. “We have to make good decisions on who we recruit, so in a normal year if I see a guy who’s a Day 3 to undrafted guy and have to take a chance, the guy I would want to take a chance on is the guy from Las Vegas.”

Caric has no local products this year — Elon offensive tackle Oli Udoh and Duke tight end Daniel Helm currently project as his top prospects — but his draft operations will remain situated at Town Square. It’s easier that way during a three-day stretch guaranteed to be hectic.

The office will already start lighting up like a call center starting today and Friday, as the vast network of scouts, team personnel and agents stay in constant contact in an attempt to try to glean as much knowledge as possible.

The volume will steadily increase up until its peak on Saturday, when the final three rounds are staged and teams start trying to negotiate conditional, verbal agreements with impending free agents.

“From the fifth round to an hour after the draft, it’s total chaos,” Caric said.

For Caric, the draft is dually the most stressful and most rewarding part of his job. He emphasizes to all potential clients that his objective goes beyond securing the 3 percent agents earn off a contract and into fostering a family atmosphere with his agency.

Nacua says that attitude is most evident during career milestones as Caric always shares in players’ joy. He makes sure to keep it brief during the draft, though, as he can only be away from his phone and his research for so long.

“When you hear a guy’s name called, it’s euphoric,” Caric said. “Whether he goes higher than he’s supposed to, lower than he’s supposed to, at that moment, all the work this guy has put in his entire life, to fulfill that dream of, ‘I am now an NFL player,’ is amazing. But when you have seven or eight guys, you cheer for a minute or two and get real excited and talk to them but then it’s like, ‘Ok we’ve got to get back to it because we’ve got all these other guys trying to make it.’”

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or case.keef[email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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