In NFL Player Agent circles, there is a term called a "runner." A runner is someone who helps an Agent or Agency recruit players for them to represent. Specifically, a runner targets underclassmen or Juniors. This is because there are rules that prevent Agents from soliciting or talking to underclassmen. They can say hello, but that's about it. Underclassmen are taboo. This is where a runner comes in.
A runner could be an intern, a paid assistant, or a third party such as a classmate at a particular College or University that is being scouted for recruitment. You could say a runner is an agent for an Agent.
Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com said runners are considered:
"Slimeball trolls who work on behalf of agents to help recruit -- a generous word -- football prospects by illegally giving them cash (or cars or money for family members or rent for a nice house) so the player then signs with the agent upon turning pro. It's one of the most despicable practices in college sports and has soiled almost every corner of football for decades."
The runner's job is to secure a commitment from a player. For an underclassmen that could be extending loans or other enticements to lure said player to their Boss. This can ruin a player's college eligibility. Each player who hires an NFL certified Agent, signs a Standard Representation Agreement. Once they hire an Agent, a player's college career on the field is over. And if that player hasn't been out of High School for 3 years, he's stuck in limbo. This is why the rules were put in place.
In 2007, after the Reggie Bush fiasco at USC, the NFLPA altered the rules pertaining to Agent contact with college underclassmen. The problem was, NFLPA-regulated agents weren’t responsible for the cash and/or benefits Bush received while playing for the Trojans. Marketing agents (runners), who don’t fall within the jurisdiction of the NFLPA, were the culprits. The idea of the rule was to limit agents' access to college players who were not eligible to enter the draft.
Darren Heitner, chief executive of Dynasty Athlete Representation, a sports attorney and the head guy at SportsAgentBlog.com said,
Runners are usually the first form of contact between an agent and a player, and tend to be in the same demographic and close in age so they can relate more easily.
The NFL union oversees player agents and for years has talked about the problem.
About 2 weeks ago, the NFL players' union voted to eliminate the "Junior Rule" prohibiting certified agents from having contact with college players until the student-athletes have been out of high school for three years. Now, all persons involved in the recruitment of a player must be NFLPA-certified Agents and the dirty Agents and the clean Agents are on a level playing field.
On April 10th, a memo went out to Player Agents explaining the changes made by the NFLPA Board of Player Representatives to the amendments of the NFLPA Regulations Governing Contract Advisors. The memo outlined the changes and asked agents to pay particular attention to Resolution 1.
In voting to repeal the "Junior Rule," contained in Section 3B(30) of the Regulations Governing Contract Advisors, the Board eliminated a section of the resolutions that had previously barred agents from contact with college juniors before their last game in their junior year has been played.
Section 3 (30)(a) Communicating either directly or indirectly with (including but not limited to in person, telephonic or electronic communication) a prospective player who is ineligible for the NFL Draft pursuant to Article XVI of the CBA or communicating with(including but not limited to in person, telephonic or electronic communication) any person in a position to inﬂuence a prospective player who is ineligible to be drafted pursuant to article XVI of the CBA until the prospective player becomes eligible for the NFL Draft.(b) speaking or presenting to groups of prospective players in a setting where prospective players who are ineligible for the NFL Draft pursuant to Article XVI of the CBA are present at such presentation
The resolution was enacted to specifically take care of "runners" and other persons outside the regulations of the NFL Players Association. That resolution was passed to address the contingent of "runners" and other individuals not regulated by the NFL Players Association, some of whom have run afoul of NCAA regulations.
A second resolution addressed the topic of agent disputes over fees. The NFLPA Regulations Governing Contract Advisors was amended to add a provision that deals with arbitration procedures and disputes.
In several recent cases, agents working together in the same firm and representing the same players have decided to go their separate ways, resulting in disputes between them over fees due from their player-clients. According to the union, such a dispute puts the player in the middle of a conflict that is not of his creation, and puts him at risk if he pays the fee to one agent instead of the other.
The amendment to the regulations reads: "In such cases, at player’s option any fees paid or payable by the player after the dispute arises shall be placed in escrow pending final resolution of such dispute, and paid out of escrow in accordance with the Arbitrator’s final decision."
A third resolution passed by the Board deals with the requirement that agents must have an undergraduate college degree and a post-graduate degree, with the only exception being for a person who has "sufficient negotiating experience." The players voted to specify and quantify the amount of negotiating experience an applicant must have to qualify for this exception.
According to the amendment, the requirement for agents with "sufficient negotiating experience" is now defined as at least seven years. An applicant can be credited one year of negotiating experience for each Credited Season he earned as a player in the NFL under the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan.
All these amendments are set to take effect on June 1st, 2012.