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Monday, April 11, 2005
Updated: April 12, 12:02 PM ET
Reality show pairs Cody with agent

By Marcus Vanderberg
Special to ESPN.com

You knew it was only a matter of time.

First, it was Donald Trump with the now famous words of "you're fired" as contestants competed to become the next employee of the multi-millionaire executive.

Now, athletes could be the next to utter the phrase. And first to play the role of "The Donald" is University of Southern California defensive lineman Shaun Cody.

"Super Agent," sort of "The Apprentice" meets "The Bachelor" with a hint of "Dream Job" is an eight-week reality show looking at the process Cody goes through in selecting an agent.

The brainchild of NFL agent Jack Bechta and former Women's Tennis Association chief operation officer Josh Ripple, "Super Agent" features nine prospective agents looking for a marquee client.

Cody, who is projected to be a late first-round draft pick, signed on to do the show shortly after the Trojans' victory over Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.

When first approached about the idea, Cody was focused on finishing his senior season. But he received another phone call one day after the Orange Bowl and accepted the offer.

"I thought it was a good idea initially," said Cody, a first-team Associated Press All-American last season. "They changed a few things around and I thought it was a good thing."

The eight-week series, scheduled to begin airing on July 20 on Spike TV, will have agents competing in a series of challenges in order to convince Cody they're best suited for the right to be his agent.

"Jack put an all-points bulletin out to all of his agent friends and we went through hundreds and hundreds of prospective candidates," Jordan Harman, the show's executive producer, said. "We picked people who represented all aspects of the agent world to give Shaun a fair representation."

One of the agents who received word of the show was Tim McIlwain, based out of Manhattan Beach, Calif., who currently represents free-agent center Jason Starkey and Arizona Cardinals receiver Nathan Poole.

McIlwain, who admits it's hard to recruit against higher-profile agents, couldn't pass on the opportunity.

"The reality is I don't watch a lot of television, but anytime you're going to bring me a first-round draft pick, I'll take a shot at him," McIlwain said.

Coincidentally, before learning about the show, McIlwain spent time rooting against Cody on the playing field as an alumnus of the University of California.

Taping began in late January at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., where Cody met the nine agents along with the show's host, Kansas City tight end Tony Gonzalez for the first time. Besides serving as the show's host, Gonzalez became a mentor for Cody, providing advice from his own experiences in hiring an agent.

Gonzalez has had two agents, signing with Leigh Steinberg when he started his NFL career in 1997, and later hiring local agent Tom Condon at IMG Football.

"Tony was awesome … when he signed on I was pretty much in," Cody said. "I was a fan of his growing up because I wanted to be a tight end and I remember watching a lot of game tape on him in college."

Along with Gonzalez's advice, Cody relied a lot on his family to come up with his final decision.

"My family was a big factor in a lot of the decisions I made," Cody said. "They had a chance to have dinner with all the agents and speak to them on a one-on-one basis."

Competition between the agents included mock contract negotiations with a former NFL general manager and pitching Cody as a spokesman for Reebok.

As with any reality show, there was a wide assortment of personalities.

"There's a woman, someone from the Midwest, someone from Texas, myself who is from New Jersey," McIlwain said. "Everyone got along for the most part but there were a couple people who were more annoying than others."

In the end, Cody's decision came down to three agents.

"It was tough because they were all such great agents," Cody said. "It comes down to that gut feeling."

Shaun Cody
DT Shaun Cody is projected to be a first-round pick.

With taping concluded, Cody has signed with an agent though the representative's identity is being undisclosed until the final episode by the executives at Spike TV.

"If you really wanted to know the winner, you could find out," Harman said. "We like to keep it under wraps and the show is less about the winner but more about the process of selecting an agent." Win or lose, McIlwain is not sure what the show's impact will have on his career.

"I gotta tell you … I don't know if it's going to help or not," McIlwain said. "Name recognition, it helps but it all comes down to how I'm portrayed on television. I had a tendency to come across as cocky sometimes."

If the show's a success, Harman could see producing similar shows in the future.

"We would love to do this again with different agents but the first one is always the hardest," Harman said. "This is not 'Fear Factor.' This is really true to the process of trying to be an agent."

Marcus Vanderberg is a contributor to ESPN.com.