One of the NFL’s most powerful agents carries on the legacy of a legendary mentor (2024)

Before any of this — the jetting to stadiums on Sundays, the texting with NFL general managers, the recruiting pitches to some of the best football players in the world — Tory Dandy drove the South Carolina roads looking for restaurants to carry his company’s products.

He would enter a local sports bar, ask for the manager and pitch Seagram’s gin, Malibu rum or Stoli vodka. It was a post-college job with some stories, but not the one he’d wanted.


In the months prior, he had sought to stay connected to football after a playing career at South Carolina State and Tusculum University ended in 2002. Before he graduated, a teammate asked if he would sit alongside him in a meeting with someone who wanted to represent him. The conversation about business deals and potential contracts opened Dandy’s mind. This was a job? You could help someone else navigate their career?

Afterward, Dandy connected with a former fraternity brother who worked for Synergy Sports, a small agency in South Carolina, and they hired him as an intern. He researched players, compiled contract information and over time, he wondered: Who are some of the top agents in the business?

He found an article about Eugene Parker, who represented Deion Sanders, Emmitt Smith and Rod Woodson, among many others. Parker played college basketball at Purdue before attending law school. Newspaper articles described him as private, smooth and an impressive negotiator.

“Eugene Parker is who I would call to represent me right now if I need an agent,” Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones once told The Buffalo News.

Parker lived in Fort Wayne, Ind., but frequently visited the Southeast to recruit players and speak at conferences. One weekend, Dandy showed up to a panel discussion to introduce himself. Parker shared some advice about professionalism and credibility. Dandy fixated on every word and asked for Parker’s email address, leaving inspired.

Less than a year later, Dandy’s internship ended, Synergy Sports shuttered entirely and Dandy found himself crisscrossing South Carolina as a marketing manager for Southern Wine and Spirits. He contacted Parker constantly during his off hours.

“The only person I knew of was Eugene Parker — and I didn’t even know Eugene,” Dandy said recently. “But I emailed him. I blew him up for months.”


One day, Parker replied with an invitation. He was going to Atlanta for a meeting and wanted to get lunch.

He peppered Dandy with questions about his background. Dandy explained that his mother raised him and his two sisters in a single-parent home in Woodruff, S.C., a town of about 5,000 people southeast of Greenville. She worked 16-hour days as a nursing assistant. Football offered him an outlet, and he became the first member of his family to go to college. He had a daughter, Victorea, whom he’d raised since he was 16 years old. Giving her the best possible life mattered more than anything else.

The lunch lasted more than two hours. Afterward, they shook hands, and Parker told him to stay in touch. Dandy did, contacting Parker intermittently over the next year. Twice Parker returned to Atlanta, and Dandy again met him for lunch.

After their third meeting, Parker shifted the conversation. He’d been in the industry 20 years and wanted to bring in a younger partner, but his reputation preceded him — he needed to bring in the right person. He was giving Dandy a shot.

Dandy is now a certified power broker. The co-head of CAA Sports’ football division, he has negotiated more than $1 billion in active contracts with a client list that features superstars like Deebo Samuel, CeeDee Lamb, Patrick Surtain, Denzel Ward and A.J. Brown, who recently signed a three-year extension worth $96 million with $84 million guaranteed, the largest ever guarantee for an NFL wide receiver.

And it might never have happened had Parker not seen something in a persistent young man nearly 20 years ago.

“I didn’t fully understand the legend of Eugene at that time,” Dandy said. “I knew he was Eugene Parker, but I didn’t know he was the Eugene Parker.”

When Carmen Policy thinks of Parker, he hears the voice. Calm, smooth and firm.

Policy, the former president of the San Francisco 49ers, would pitch the team’s contract offer over the phone. Parker would listen, sit silently for a few seconds, then say: “Ah, you say that so well. And yet, I know you don’t believe it.”


Policy would smile on the other end of the phone. The negotiation had begun. “But he brought you to that place without going overboard or being a bore,” Policy said. “He was showing respect, but he was also putting you in your place in terms of getting you back to the reality of the negotiation.”

Few backs and forths stick in Policy’s mind as much as Deion Sanders’ free agency in 1994. Policy talked constantly with Parker and, after months of negotiations, struck a one-year deal that ultimately would help spur San Francisco to the Super Bowl.

“I honestly think we would not have gotten Deion if he were not represented by someone with the caliber of Eugene,” Policy said. “Eugene saw the big picture. He understood his client. He knew Deion was not only a magnificent talent but that he also had a business sense.”

The next year, Parker developed a contract structure with the Cowboys that essentially paid Sanders all of the $35 million he was due over seven years in the first three seasons, including a $13 million signing bonus. The contract forced the NFL and NFL Players Association to add the “Deion Rule” to the collective-bargaining agreement, which limited the percentage of a contract that could be in a signing bonus.

One of the NFL’s most powerful agents carries on the legacy of a legendary mentor (1)

Eugene Parker (left) presented former client Deion Sanders for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011. (Jason Miller / Getty Images)

Once he joined Parker’s Maximum Sports Management in 2005, Dandy got to watch his mentor in action. They would enter players’ homes, and he would listen to Parker tell stories about his past. About a mother who had him when she was 17 and raised him in a single-parent home. About life with his two sisters in inner-city Fort Wayne. About playing college basketball, then finding his way into the agent business after a friend named Roosevelt Barnes needed someone he could trust.

After they exited the homes, Parker would give Dandy an education on the car ride back to the hotel or airport.

You set expectations right away.


Never overpromise. Always over-deliver.

You’re there to educate and empower as a businessman.

Your sole purpose in this job is to make sure you are educated on the multi-billion dollar industry you’re about to embark on.

Parker told Dandy he would be a superstar.

Hall of Famer Richard Seymour, one of Parker’s clients, remembers Parker talking about his protege’s smile, engaging nature and wit. “Eugene saw those qualities in him,” Seymour said. “It was, like, ‘Let me continue to pour into you.’ Tory took that opportunity and never looked back.”

Dandy didn’t try to cut corners. He didn’t rush to complete his agent certification. He waited. Watched. Learned. Then in 2014, one night in Miami at the Fontainebleau, Dandy signed Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins. During a quiet celebratory moment, Parker pulled Dandy to the side.

“Tory, When I signed Deion, it changed my career,” Dandy said Parker told him. “This is your Deion Sanders right here. This is going to change your career.”

“And he was right,” Dandy said.

During one of their conversations the next year, Parker revealed that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 kidney cancer. Six months later, in March 2016, Parker passed away. Dandy made it his mission to honor Parker by upholding his mentor’s mantra: Do what’s right for the client.

Jimmy Sexton was the first person to mention Dandy’s name to CAA Sports’ co-head Michael Levine. Levine and the super-agent were talking after the 2016 draft, and Levine wanted to know how to improve as an agency.

“Jimmy just flat out said what made it all so simple: ‘The best recruiter we’re bumping into most regularly in the business is Tory Dandy,'” Levine recalled.

Sexton had watched Dandy from afar and noticed a budding star, so Levine invited him to CAA’s New York offices for an introductory conversation. Levine expected someone brash and full of bravado, but “he was completely the opposite — very, very polite and understated and humble and kind. We barely talked football.”


Dandy dug into his background. He even spoke outwardly about his newfound purpose to make Parker proud.

“He was interested in wanting to do more, to do better, for Eugene,” Levine said. “It was all still pretty fresh for him.”

CAA offered him a job. He accepted, believing he and his clients would benefit from their mountain of resources. And in the years since, he has further solidified Sexton’s belief and Levine’s initial impression. Dandy not only represents plenty of stars, he also helps manage CAA’s entire football operation alongside Sexton.

“Tory’s success comes down to the real simple human-nature equation,” Levine said. “He is a really likable, genuine and instantly kind-hearted person who is able to really connect with young players the way he connected with me a decade ago. It comes down to chemistry among people and charisma, and he’s got it.”

When A.J. Brown was in college at Ole Miss, he changed phone numbers to prevent the onslaught of pitches from prospective agents. Most uncovered the new number and reached out. Brown told them he preferred to focus on the season and speak afterward. Dandy was one of the few who obliged.

“He respected my time,” Brown said. “That gave him the edge over a lot of people.”

Cleveland Browns cornerback Denzel Ward cited Dandy’s ability to outline a plan and then stick to it. Browns GM Andrew Berry, who negotiated Ward’s five-year, $100.5 million extension — at the time, the largest for a cornerback in NFL history — commends Dandy’s ability to fight for his client without the tenor of the conversations being combative.

“Tory is world-class at his job,” Berry said. “I have the utmost respect for him managing as much as he does.”

It’s no coincidence that these qualities sound reminiscent of the man who gave him his big break. At Dandy’s desk inside CAA’s Atlanta offices, there’s a framed picture of him and Parker with the following message:

A truly great mentor …

Hard to find …

Difficult to part with …

Impossible to forget …

I will forever honor your name, Eugene Parker.

(Illustration: Sean Reilly / The Athletic; photos courtesy of Tory Dandy)

One of the NFL’s most powerful agents carries on the legacy of a legendary mentor (2024)


One of the NFL’s most powerful agents carries on the legacy of a legendary mentor? ›

May 21. The Athletic Football Show: A show about the NFL. “Eugene Parker is who I would call to represent me right now if I need an agent,” Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones once told The Buffalo News. Parker lived in Fort Wayne, Ind., but frequently visited the Southeast to recruit players and speak at conferences.

Who is the most successful NFL agent? ›

Drew Jordan Rosenhaus (born October 29, 1966) is an American sports agent who represents professional football players. He owns the Miami-based sports agency Rosenhaus Sports, and has negotiated over $7 billion of NFL contracts.

Who is Tory Dandy? ›

GIVING LEGENDS PODCAST: RADIO ROW EDITION featuring Tory Dandy OUT NOW‼️ Tory Dandy serves as Managing Partner and Co-head of CAA 🏈, a key division of the #1 Sports Agency in the world.

What are the top sports agencies in the NFL? ›

Some of them are defunct, but those who are still active are, in order, CAA, Athletes First, Independent Sports, Rep1 Sports, Sportstars, SportsTrust Advisors, Rosenhaus Sports, Octagon Football, BC Sports, Priority Sports and Klutch Sports Group. These are the firms that consistently dominate the first three rounds.

How many NFL sports agents are there? ›

There are currently 910 agents certified by the NFLPA, and as the NFL Draft approaches, all their calls, texts, and emails with coaches and teams' player personnel officials will begin to taper off. Their work is done — outside of keeping their clients' emotionally ready for the draft — until contract negotiations.

Who is the most powerful agent in sports? ›

Recognized by Forbes as the "Most Powerful Sports Agent in the World," Boras's negotiation tactics and strategic acumen are the stuff of legends. His journey from a dairy farmer's son in Elk Grove, California, to the pinnacle of sports agency offers invaluable lessons for sales professionals across industries.

Why was he called Dandy Don? ›

He also was the spokesman for Lipton Tea for a time, calling himself, “Jeff and Hazel's baby boy,” which is probably how most of Mt. Vernon referred to him right up until last Sunday, even though the man was 72 years old. And it sure never hurt that he was easy on the eyes, hence the nickname, “Dandy Don.”

How much does Drew Rosenhaus make per contract? ›

Drew Rosenhaus is arguably the most famous agent in the sport and his reputation is justified as he represents the most players in the NFL. Rosenhaus currently represents 68 players and has earned an average of over $300,000 per current contract.

What team has the best fans in the NFL? ›

Here is DAZN's list of the best fans in the NFL.
  • Buffalo Bills - Bills Mafia. In such a large country, a small town in Western New York would need something spectacular to stand out. ...
  • Seattle Seahawks - The 12s. ...
  • Green Bay Packers - Cheeseheads. ...
  • Kansas City Chiefs - Chiefs Nation. ...
  • New Orleans Saints - Who Dat Nation.
Oct 13, 2023

Who is Tommy DeVito's agent? ›

The Hudson Valley backstory of Tommy DeVito's agent, Sean Stellato.

What NFL team has the best field? ›

The Athletic is reminding the rest of the league what Vikings fans already know: U.S. Bank Stadium is the best stadium in the NFL.

Who is the #1 NFL agent? ›

NFL Agents
1. David MulughetaAthletes First$917.0M
2. Joel SegalWME Football$691.1M
3. Drew RosenhausRosenhaus Sports Representation$800.7M
4. Shahin AslaniWasserman Media Group$502.1M
46 more rows

Who is the worlds biggest sports agent? ›

In 2014, the Boras Corporation was named by Forbes magazine as the most valuable single-sport agency in the world. Boras and his company Boras Corporation have become known for record-setting contracts for their free agent and amateur draft clients.

What NFL player does not have an agent? ›

In 2018, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson famously announced that he was not going to hire an agent and would be represented by his mother.

Who is the highest paid football agent? ›

1. Jorge Mendes. The richest football agent on the list is Jorge Mendes. The one with enormous contracts and several talented players.

How much does a typical NFL agent make? ›

While ZipRecruiter is seeing annual salaries as high as $101,500 and as low as $13,500, the majority of Football Agent salaries currently range between $29,000 (25th percentile) to $52,000 (75th percentile) with top earners (90th percentile) making $83,500 annually across the United States.

Who has the highest deal in the NFL? ›

1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs (10 years, $450M) Mahomes laps the field in these rankings with the enormous 10-year pact he signed with the Chiefs prior to the 2020-21 season.

Who is the #1 prospect in the NFL? ›

2024 NFL Draft prospect rankings: Top 100 led by Caleb Williams.

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