Three Alumni Embrace the Pigskin

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Sports law has always been a strong interest for students at the law school, and if Miami Law wanted to do some gridiron trash talking, they certainly have the alumni to do so: among the most prominent are NFL Coach Marc Trestman, J.D. ’82, NFL General Counsel Dennis Curran, J.D. ’75, and sports superagent Jason Rosenhaus, J.D. ’95.

Though the three represent different decades at the School of Law, all spoke to the tools they were given by professors that prepared them for their rise to the top of their respective fields.

Jason Rosenhaus, J.D. ’95, Top Sports Agent

Jason RosenhausIn 1992, a young man from Miami started law school. Jason Rosenhaus already had a degree in accounting from the University of Miami and would shortly pass his CPA exam. A 1995 Juris Doctor and passing The Florida Bar exam in 1996 would complete the package that the intense, fast-talking then-26-year-old had carefully assembled.

The men in Rosenhaus’s family were longtime and hardcore Miami Dolphins fans. The family moved to Miami from South Orange, New Jersey, in the early 1970s. They were enthralled in 1972 during the Dolphins “perfect season,” when Coach Don Shula would lead quarterback Bob Griese and the mustachioed fullback Larry Csonka to a 14-0 campaign, three post-season games, and on to win Super Bowl VII against the Washington Redskins 17-0.

His father, Robert Rosenhaus, enjoyed playing tennis at the Jockey Club, the then chic North Miami complex of discos, restaurants, and condominiums, back when Miami was a one-professional-sport town. There Robert became friends with many of the Dolphins’ players in the 1970s and 1980s, including tight end Joe Rose, receiver Duriel Harris, return man Fulton Walker, and running back Benny Malone, often hosting them for good, home-cooked dinners at the Rosenhauses. “The guys would come over on Thursday nights, then we would watch them play football in the NFL on TV on Sundays,” Rosenhaus said. “My brother, Drew, and I looked up to these players as superheroes.

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“We had great respect and admiration for these tremendously tough guys. Drew was a natural at striking up conversations with them and we both really had a knack for getting along with players, not as fans but as friends,” Rosenhaus said. “In 1983 when Drew went to UM for college, it was just our natural evolution from my dad having players over.”

Drew became pals with several Miami Hurricanes football players including wide receiver (and future Dancing with the Stars contestant) Michael Irvin. “Irvin and the others told Drew he should become an agent. As Drew went off to law school, his goal was to become an agent. I was an entering freshman at UM, and I wanted to be an agent, too,” he said. “We were natural-born agents. We knew it was what we were put here to do.”

Rosenhaus kept in close touch with his older brother while they were living in different cities. “I had great guidance and leadership from my brother while he was at Duke,” he said. “He would tell me that being tough, being a warrior, being like Rocky Balboa or Conan the Barbarian meant showing real mental toughness. And sometimes that meant in college spending Friday nights in the library studying while everyone else is out at the parties.”

Rosenhaus and his brother carefully plotted a path from loyal followers to talented negotiators. As undergraduates, both Rosenhauses were close to UM football players. Before the younger Rosenhaus graduated from Miami Law, he and his brother had already launched the beginnings of Rosenhaus Sports Representation.

The year after Drew started at Duke University School of Law, the Rosenhaus brothers represented their first client in the 1989 NFL Draft: cornerback Robert Massey, the second-round draft pick of the New Orleans Saints from North Carolina Central University. Drew became the youngest-working sports agent in the NFL; Jason became a certified National Football League Players Association Contract Advisor in 1991. By the next year, they signed former UM Hurricane wide receiver Brett Perriman, who was playing for the New Orleans Saints.

“That’s how we got our start,” Rosenhaus said. “Our first Hurricane rookies were in 1990 with middle linebacker Bernard ‘Tiger’ Clark who played for the Cincinnati Bengals and defensive tackle Jimmie Jones, who would play for the Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams, and Philadelphia Eagles.”

By the time Rosenhaus arrived at Miami Law he and his brother were both full-blown agents. “My first year of law school was a huge test for me,” he said. “I wanted to match up against other bright young legal minds and see where I stood. I viewed it as the ultimate challenge.” At the same time he was spending his weekends watching football, in meetings with players, and on assignment for the company.

“For me, law school was a peaceful, relaxing exercise,” he said. “It was almost like meditation to be in a world where everything is fair and makes sense; where if you work hard, you will do well. In the real world, it doesn’t always work that way.

“Law school showed me how to be street smart, how to see angles, how to find solutions to problems, how to deal with adversity,” he said. “That was a lifelong skill, and every year in this business just sharpens the tool. So much of negotiations is forming persuasive arguments. While Drew is a charismatic and dynamic speaker, I am more the analyst, the writer, the strategic thinker, and the planner. Together we complement each other, and that is a big reason we have been very successful.”

Fast forward twenty seven years later, and the pair represent more than 100 NFL players. Jason co-wrote his brother’s two autobiographies, A Shark Never Sleeps: Wheeling and Dealing with the NFL’s Most Ruthless Agent, as well as the sequel, Next Question. Jason also co-authored a weekly sports column in the New York Post with former Hurricane tight end Jeremy Shockey who went on to play for the New York Giants. He also co-wrote TO, the autobiography of Terrell Owens, the six-time Pro Bowl wide receiver, and this summer’s It’s Good to Be Gronk with New England tight end Rob Gronkowski.

All of the other elite sports agents today are incorporated within large organizations where there are scores of agents and many fields of representation. “We are the last of the big-time independent agents,” he said. “The last of the Jerry McGuires.”

As a measure of the Rosenhaus recipe for success, on April 30, 2015, they represented a young wide receiver from the University of Central Florida, a first-round draft pick. The young player went to the Baltimore Ravens, twenty-five years after the Rosenhauses had represented another member of the same family. “We represented Brett Perriman in 1990, and now we just represented his son, Breshad Perriman. That’s what I call repeat business.”

Marc Trestman, J.D. ’82, NFL football coach

Marc Trestman

“V-I-K-I-N-G-S, SKOL VIKINGS, LET’S GO!”

The Minnesota Vikings fight song was the background music of Marc Trestman’s youth, and it was the team that bonded father to son. And it was football and father that provided the keystone to Trestman’s future.

When other boys were running newspaper routes, Trestman was being schooled in the ways of the world washing dishes and bussing tables at Danny’s, his father’s bar and grill.

“I learned so many life lessons from the respectful way he treated customers and employees,” Trestman said. “I am certain that the foundation of my blue collar work ethic was fostered during that time.”

While weekdays were for school and sports, Sundays were for football. For away games, father and son would take to their “war room,” stocked with soda pop and chips, and root for their team. Even though the family didn’t have much in the way of discretionary funds, Jerry Trestman always bought season tickets for the two of them. On home game days, regardless of the weather, the pair would arrive early to watch the pre-game warm-up from their seats in the second row, often dragging insulated sleeping bags and thermoses of hot beverages in 20 below Minnesota weather.

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Looking back, Trestman realizes that he always watched the games with a coach’s keen eye, even though all he consciously wanted to do was play football.

“I could never just watch and enjoy the game,” he said. “I had to see what the quarterback was doing, what the receivers were doing, and how the defense was reacting accordingly.

“I am sort of a quarterback historian to this very day and can remember the smallest details about them dating back to when I was eight years old,” he said. “I remember what numbers they wore, their big plays and even their stats. I was really into it, even as a little kid.”

Trestman worshiped the Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton as well as the Pittsburgh Steeler’s Terry Bradshaw and the New York Jet’s quarterback Joe Namath.

Trestman would start playing tackle football as an eight year old; the neighborhood team called themselves the “dirty dozen plus one,” since there were only thirteen boys on the team. He marks the day his coach moved him into the quarterback position as the day that changed his life forever; he became consumed with the game. He laid awake nights envisioning plays and diagramming them on notepads. He would run his plays in the backyard with his pals, hauling around a playbook he had fashioned out of an old notebook.

His parents had instilled in Trestman a commitment to working hard, dreaming big, and never giving up. Even though he didn’t love school, his work ethic was such that he would always excel academically and soar athletically. He would play football, basketball, and baseball in the local park well into high school. He played American Legion baseball in the summers, making it to the state championship game his senior year. His All-State status in football earned him the notice of a handful of colleges—he met Joe Theismann at a visit to Notre Dame—and he accepted a full scholarship with his top choice: the University of Minnesota. It would allow him to stay close enough to home for his parents to attend his games. In hindsight, injury and less playing time than he had hoped for, while disappointing, also gave him the time and distance to become a true scholar of the sport.

In his senior year, Trestman transferred to Minnesota State University Moorhead, a Division II team. Again, he did not get in much field time but did take away valuable friendships and coaching lessons that would serve him for many decades to come. He returned to the University of Minnesota to finish his degree, but realized that he was in need of a Plan B.

“I was going to channel all of the energy from football and move on and focus on becoming great litigator,” he said. “That was my new mission.”

He was accepted at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles but just as he settled in to life in Southern California he was called to try out as a defensive back for his beloved Minnesota Vikings. He was cut at the end of the pre-season, too late to go back to Loyola, but in time to start at another school where he had been accepted: Miami Law.

Trestman struggled with the decision once he was in the thick of his first year, learning that maybe he wasn’t cut out for law, but he stubbornly refused to quit. In the summer before his 2L year, he went back to the Vikings training camp, but an injury ended his quest by the third preseason game.

He settled comfortably into his second year. He had found his footing after learning the ropes of first-year study.

“Law school was tough. I would sit in class trying to avoid the attention of the professor,” he said. “I was a nervous wreck my first year. I had to really buckle down; long hours of study and preparation were how I had always powered through challenges, and this was not so different.”

During that period, Trestman clerked for a local attorney, Jose E. Martinez, doing research for $10 an hour. Martinez would go on to become U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Florida. Trestman also met a guy in his apartment complex who forever changed the course of his life.

That young man was the defensive back coach for the Miami Hurricanes. He introduced Trestman to legendary Hurricanes coach Howard Schnellenberger and was a key to the highly sought out position of volunteer assistant coach. (Coincidentally, Schnellenberger assumed Trestman was going to law school to become a sports agent.) Trestman joined the ’Canes coaching staff in 1981.

During Spring semester of his 2L year, Trestman was balancing all the plates—he met the team for breakfast every morning, attended classes until 2:30, managed to clerk for Martinez, and still be at practice or travel with the team, focusing on quarterback coaching or on scouting trips. He would study at night and on the road.

“I think my law school background really helped prepare me for coaching,” he said. “Law school included long hours of studying, meticulous note taking, maintaining intense focus, and possessing an overall determination to succeed. Luckily, I had those skills and was now putting them to good use.”

Trestman graduated in 1982, and passed The Florida Bar. He stayed with the Hurricanes fulltime after law school, first under Schnellenberger, then under Jimmy Johnson. In 1983, as quarterbacks coach, Bernie Kosar passed for 2,329 yards, a school record, and the team won the national championship.

The young coach took the skills he learned at Miami Law and has applied them to a career of coaching. He has been everything from offensive coordinator for the North Carolina State Wolfpacks to head coach of the Chicago Bears, where in 2012 he was one of only four head coaches to win his first game and one of only three to win his first two games—then the only coach since 1956 to win eight games in his first year coaching the franchise.

“Although I believe going to law school is primarily for those who want to be lawyers, it is undeniable that the discipline, work ethic, skill set, and perseverance necessary for getting through law school is transferable to any profession including coaching,” said Trestman, who is currently the offensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens. “Law school certainly laid the foundation for my growth and acceleration into a professional football coach.”

Dennis Curran, J.D. ’75, you can take the man out of Boston but…

Dennis CurranNever, ever call a Bostonian living in New York a New Yorker.

“That is just insulting,” said Dennis Curran. If throwing someone off his or her stride is a negotiating tactic, it’s no wonder that National Football League General Counsel Dennis Curran is a master negotiator.

And Curran, J.D. ’75, is a master. In 1987 Curran was attempting to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement with NFL players when the union declared a strike. In response, the league brought in a full roster of replacement players for one week to continue the season. In three weeks’ time, the strike was broken. The strike provided fodder for the 2000 comedy film The Replacements with Gene Hackman and Keanu Reeves as coach and quarterback.

“Although we don’t like to emphasize the wartime aspects of the job,” he said, “replacing a League’s entire professional workforce was a major labor relations accomplishment that had never been done in sports—before or since.” Another tactic, a lockout, was successfully used in 2011 when the NFL and the NFLPA were unable to reach agreement at the expiration of their Collective Bargaining Agreement.

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Those instances aside, the silver-haired Senior Vice President of Labor Litigation and Policy for the NFL Management Council has spent 35 years successfully negotiating and administering collective bargaining agreements with the NFL Players Association, representing the clubs and the league and overseeing any player-club grievances and labor-related lawsuits.

“One of our major accomplishments that I’m most proud of has been maintaining labor peace the majority of the time I’ve been here,” he said. “From 1993 through 2010 there was a series of labor strike-free years played under collective bargaining agreements. Just negotiating each consecutive extension was a major achievement for the NFL because we had strikes in 1982 and 1987 and didn’t have a collective bargaining agreement from 1987 until 1992. From 1993 on, our department has developed and maintained labor peace so the league could grow and prosper.”

Curran didn’t start out envisioning a career hammering out agreements behind locked doors for America’s most popular sport. At 5’9”, Curran didn’t even play varsity sports, although the Irish Catholic from the West Roxbury section of Boston, did play Catholic Youth League basketball and intermural sports at school: first at St. Teresa’s and at Catholic Memorial High School before attending Boston College, where he would get a degree in History.

“I thought I would be a teacher, like my dad, or something in education” he said. “No one in our family had ever gone into law.”

Curran is the youngest of four: “I was the last by ten years,” he said. “I was sort of treated as an only child, which gave me some advantages. My brothers made careers in the Army, and my sister is a nun. My dad used to say that I was the only one that didn’t go into the service.”

Curran applied to several law schools right out of Boston College but only made waiting lists that year. He spent the year painting crosswalks for the City of Boston, as he had done during summers throughout college, and did a six-month stint as a prison guard at the historic Deer Island House of Corrections, built in 1853 as a poorhouse.

Not surprisingly, neither of these occupations appealed to him as a career, so he reapplied to law schools, was accepted at several, and chose Miami Law because “it was the best school I got into. I had never been to Miami, or Florida, before then,” he said. “Coming to Miami from the northeast was a culture shock to start with, and I got married after my first year. My wife is from New Hampshire so it was a shock to both of us to go to a tropical climate. We enjoyed it.”

By his third year, he was already working. “I was basically a prosecutor for the State Attorney’s Office carrying a full case load,” he said. “Then I was hired by then-State Attorney Janet Reno as a prosecutor right out of law school.”

He stayed there for four years prosecuting misdemeanors, then felonies before switching to a division where he could argue before the Third District Court of Appeal. “Then my last year there I was in the Organized Crime Division organizing and implementing wiretap applications from Key West to Tampa on a grant from Governor Bob Graham’s Organized Crime Task Force.”

He found that he didn’t much care to make a career in criminal law and took a job at National Airlines—which was soon taken over by Pan Am. “For a year I did arbitration work until a gentleman I worked with went to work for the NFL,” he said. “About six months after he left he called and said that he would like for me to do arbitrations involving football players under their Collective Bargaining Agreement. We moved to New York, and I’ve traveled for business probably 100 nights a year ever since.”

Curran said that Miami Law gave him the tools he needed to achieve a career he finds equal parts intellectually stimulating and legally challenging. “It gave me an excellent legal education and well prepared me for a career that has turned out to be successful—as a prosecutor, an airline executive, and a general counsel in the labor legal department of a major sports league.”

Curran spends his leisure time as a spectator. “I have been a season ticket holder for Boston College sports since 1982,” he said. “My family and my in-laws get together for every home football game. I’ve been to over ten World Series, the World Cup, the Stanley Cup playoffs, the NBA playoffs and 35 Super Bowls. I enjoy going to sports events, so it’s sort of a busman’s holiday.

“I am 65 so I guess retirement will not be that far in the future,” he said. “The league has its collective bargaining agreement expiring in five years so I may continue to be involved, if not full-time, then as a consultant or advisor. That’s not much of an immediate retirement but ideally, when I do retire, I’d like to spend half the time in Cape Cod and the other half back down in Florida. My first two children were born there and my family probably would have stayed forever if the NFL opportunity had not come along.”