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Kevin Demoff takes care of business for Rams
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
On draft day in 1983, 6-year-old Kevin Demoff played backyard basketball with Penn State running back Curt Warner.
No big deal. Athletes always were around the Demoff household in Los Angeles. It seemed very natural to shoot hoops with Warner, chosen No. 3 overall by Seattle that day. Or to have Dan Marino show up at a youth basketball game.
"He always thought that was nice, that they were nice people, but he was never star struck by them," said Marvin Demoff, Kevin's father. When your father is a super agent — and Marvin Demoff was one of the first and biggest in the game of football — it's part of daily life.
"My dad was always on the phone," recalled Kevin, now a front-office executive with the Rams. "My image of him in my childhood is walking up the stairs and seeing him lying on his bed with the phone to his ear, and this was 8 o'clock, 9 o'clock at night."
This was before the days of cell phones, e-mail, texting and tweeting.
"We were one of the first houses, I think, ever to have three phone lines. And a fax machine," Kevin said.
When you're a sports agent, it's a given that you take your job home at night, and take it on the road.
"One of the great stories I remember was my freshman parents' weekend in college (at Dartmouth)," Kevin said. "My parents were staying at this bed-and-breakfast in Vermont."
Alas, it just happened to be draft weekend, and Marvin Demoff represented star offensive lineman Jonathan Ogden in that year's class.
"My dad went up to the proprietor and said, 'I need four phone lines,'" Kevin said.
The proprietor looked at Marvin Demoff like he had four heads. There probably weren't four phone lines in the entire place. But such was life for the Demoffs. Football. Phone calls. Negotiations. Deals.
Through osmosis if nothing else, Kevin Demoff learned the art of the deal. The surprising part is that he went over to the other side as an adult. Instead of representing players like his father has for decades, Kevin negotiates against agents as part of team management.
Even more surprising is that he has come so far so fast. Last January, at age 31, Demoff was named executive vice president of football operations and chief operating officer of the Rams.
It's a long title with wide-ranging responsibilities, including contract negotiations, salary cap planning and supervision of the Rams' business operations, marketing, ticketing and community relations. To a degree, Demoff is replacing both Jay Zygmunt and Bob Wallace, at an age that makes him younger than some Rams players.
Now 32, Demoff is one of the NFL's younger high-ranking executives and is part of a power trio at Rams Park that includes general manager Billy Devaney and head coach Steve Spagnuolo.
But the biggest surprise of all is that Demoff's career path at one point would have had him writing a story such as this, instead of being the subject of it.
HISTORY BUFF, SPORTSWRITER
True, there were early signs that Demoff had a flair for team-building and negotiations.
At age 6, Kevin participated in a college bowl pool — picking the winners of each bowl game that season.
"I would have won, but my father put in the wrong entry for me for the Cherry Bowl," Kevin said. "And I think maybe it was $1,000, $2,000, that would've been the pool, which when you're 6 is a fortune."
To make up for the Cherry Bowl flub, Marvin promised to take his son out to five lunches. Not that he didn't appreciate the extra time spent with his father, but ...
"Even then, I had an idea that I was getting worked over on the deal," Kevin recalled.
At age 8, Kevin and his father combined on a fantasy football league. "He was in a lawyers' league at his law firm," Kevin said. "And we used to dominate."
At age 11, Kevin was putting together his own mock drafts.
Which was all great fun, but Demoff had a different view of his future when he headed off to Dartmouth in the mid-1990s.
"I was a history major in college with a focus on colonial history," Demoff said. "So I was kind of a history buff. I always thought I'd go into sportswriting and sports broadcasting."
At Dartmouth, he covered the school's football team for the college newspaper. He broadcast Big Green baseball, basketball and football on the radio. As a junior, he had an internship at NBC Sports. He also worked as a stringer for The Associated Press.
After graduating in 1999, he went to work in a hot new media industry — the Internet — for Broadband Sports. Among other things, Broadband put together athlete websites and pitched website concepts to NFL teams.
"Because at that time, most of the teams didn't have them," Demoff said.
Broadband Sports also generated football news and content in association with a group known as The Sports Xchange, a sports information service.
On weekends, Demoff worked for Fox Sports, making calls, writing copy and doing statistical research for broadcaster Chris Myers.
"It was fun," Demoff said. "I was on a career path I anticipated. Then I started to realize that the company wasn't going to make it, that our business model was flawed."
He came to this realization when Broadband Sports cut a deal with AOL. "We were paying AOL for the right to put content on their website," Demoff said. "I didn't know much, but this seemed backwards."
TIME FOR CHANGE
The career switch took place in 2000. The Arena Football League was putting in a salary cap. Los Angeles Avengers owner Casey Wasserman was looking for a sharp young mind to help implement the cap and run the team.
Bruce Allen, then an Oakland Raiders executive, recommended Demoff, who had pitched a website to the Raiders while at Broadband.
"There's something about Kevin when you first meet him that you realize is deeper than what he's showing on the exterior," Allen said. "His analytical mind is very, very unique. To use a personnel term, it's rare. ... Very quickly, it was apparent he understood the business of football, and was someone who also understood the makeup of a football team."
Demoff had a decidedly different view of his skill set when he took the job as director of football operations for the Avengers.
"I was 23 and had no idea what I was doing," he said.
Demoff spent four seasons with the Avengers, helping them reach the playoffs three times. He began thinking about taking the next step and trying to work in the NFL. But he wanted to beef up his résumé and his job skills, so he returned to Dartmouth business school for an MBA.
While in business school, he started working as an unpaid consultant for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where Allen was working as general manager.
"I wanted him to drop out of school and come (to Tampa Bay) earlier," Allen said. "There was no doubt that if he wanted to pursue the NFL option, he would have plenty of opportunities from a number of teams."
But Allen and the Buccaneers had to wait until 2006, after Demoff received his MBA, before he started working full time for the club. In three full-time seasons in Tampa, Demoff helped the Bucs get out from under severe salary cap problems while remaining competitive. He was given more duties and responsibility under Allen and tried to learn every aspect of the game.
With the blessing and aid of the Bucs' personnel department and coaching staff, Demoff scouted college and pro ball and sat in on team meetings during training camp.
"It's truly simplistic to say he's a numbers guy," Allen said. "Kevin has a view of the big picture, while understanding that it's all the different parts that make the big picture."
OFF TO ST. LOUIS
On the same day 9 1/2 months ago that Allen and head coach Jon Gruden were fired in Tampa, Demoff was offered a job in St. Louis. The Rams were in the midst of a major offseason housecleaning. The Bucs wanted Demoff to stay.
"But this was a really unique opportunity to come and partner with Billy and Steve, and kind of implement a vision," Demoff said.
In Zygmunt, he was replacing someone who had been with the Rams organization for nearly three decades. In Wallace, who still works for the team as general counsel, he replaces someone who was very popular with the rank-and-file at Rams Park.
Demoff makes no bones about the fact that his father's name and reputation in the NFL helped open some doors. It didn't hurt either, that his father and John Shaw are good friends. Shaw, the longtime Rams' president, is now a senior adviser for the team.
"I have no disillusions that I had doors open to me because of my last name, and through connections," Demoff said. "It's my job to take advantage of that and see where it can get me. And hopefully, someday, I'll be able to stand on my own merits. The NFL is a very hard business to break into."
But Allen said Demoff had other opportunities to work for clubs besides the Rams or the Bucs.
"He's his own man," Allen said.
Marvin Demoff says he has heard glowing reports over the years from his friends and associates in the business.
"I don't think anybody that came into contact with him, from the time he started working, which is really 10 years ago, is surprised at what he's doing," Marvin said. "Now the age at which he's doing it may be surprising. But I don't think anybody is surprised at the level at which he's working."
With the Rams, Demoff had an offseason in free agency and got all the Rams' draft picks signed in time for the first full-squad practices of training camp. He is helping to maneuver the Rams out of their own salary cap difficulties as the team has parted ways with several declining stars and underachieving veterans.
"I always view my job as giving Steve and Billy the tools to help see their vision happen," Demoff said. "Never tell them you can't do this, you can't do that. You always want to be able to say yes. Or, let's figure out a way to make this work.
"Sometimes there's pain in that. The salary cap, it's a credit card. You can put off paying as long as possible, but ultimately they will come looking for your payment.
"In this year, we're paying off our credit card."
He learned from his father that negotiations don't have to be adversarial. And just because he's young and has an MBA doesn't mean he's a number-cruncher.
"That couldn't be further from the truth," Demoff said. "I firmly believe that the best way you get better is through scouting and drafting. And that the guys who go on the road have the best insight into how you do things. "
And sometimes at the negotiating table, he can't escape his father's shadow.
"I've had other agents tell me, 'I don't think your father would do this deal,'" Demoff said. "If I had a dollar for every time I heard that. ..."
Re: Kevin Demoff takes care of business for Rams
amazing article thank you
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