Once again, Sasha Ghavami has a rooting interest in the Super Bowl.
For the second straight year, the Montreal-based agent has a client heading to the NFL's marquee game. Canadian Antony Auclair is a fourth-year tight end with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who face the defending-champion Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
Last year, guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, another Ghavami client, helped Kansas City beat San Francisco 31-20 in the Super Bowl. Offensive lineman Ryan Hunter of North Bay, Ont., also represented by Ghavami, was on the Chiefs' 53-man roster but inactive for the Super Bowl and is now with the L.A. Chargers.
"It's surreal," Ghavami said during a telephone interview. "When you dream about trying to find a way to work in this field and by some crazy way things work out where you're working in it, ultimately to be able to live the Super Bowl last year was amazing.
"You think, 'Wow I better enjoy every second of this because it might not ever happen again.' Then the year after you get another guy who's really, really deserving in Antony, it's really surreal. I'm really privileged to work with great athletes and great people."
Ghavami, 29, got on to the field to enjoy the moment with Duvernay-Tardif and even held the Lombardi Trophy. But thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, he'll watch Sunday's contest on television.
Duvernay-Tardif and Auclair are both Quebec natives who attended Canadian universities — McGill and Laval, respectively. But while Duvernay-Tardif was a '14 sixth-round draft pick, the six-foot-six, 256-pound Auclair signed with Tampa Bay as a free agent after attracting 17 NFL teams to his pro day.
Auclair, 27, has started 20-of-40 career NFL games. He has only 10 catches for 84 yards but cracked the Bucs' roster based on his blocking ability.
It was Auclair's physical tools and focus that convinced Ghavami the former Laval star could make the jump to the NFL despite a deep tight end class in that year's draft.
"He's as tough a player I've ever met," Ghavami said. "You don't see that size often and that athletic ability to go with it.
"That was similar to Laurent, they both have size and athletic ability and that's hard to come by."
Ghavami also represents approximately 30 CFL players.
Auclair's future in Tampa appeared tenuous when the club signed Rob Gronkowski, a three-time Super Bowl champion with New England, as a free agent. But Ghavami wasn't concerned.
"That's because what Antony can do is so unique," Ghavami said. "Around the league when you talk to teams, they'll say Tampa Bay has the deepest tight end room and having Antony on the team with the deepest tight end room says a lot.
"He's not a guy who's going to catch 20-30 balls a year, that's not his style. But they (Buccaneers) value what he can bring."
Ghavami has a law degree from the University of Montreal and operates his own practice. But he knew early he wanted to be a player agent.
"I'm very lucky to be able to work in this business because it's very hard to make it," he said. "There are many good agents out there and a lot of good players.
"Ultimately, good players and good people have helped me have success, I really owe it to them. I don't think there's a secret recipe about how I do things, I really do my best for my guys, represent them to the best of my abilities and represent their interests. My success is their success, ultimately that's really what it is."
There's a huge discrepancy in player salaries between the CFL and NFL. Although the Canadian league doesn't reveal salaries, its minimum stipend this year — according to the current CBA — is $65,000 while the NFL minimum in 2020 was US$610,000.
In February 2017, Ghavami negotiated a five-year, $42.36-million extension for Duvernay-Tardif that included $20.20 million guaranteed and a $10-million signing bonus. But Ghavami said he approaches each negotiation the same way.
"I think people kind of get intimidated by the number of zeroes," he said. "I don't really focus on the number of zeroes because I don't decide on how much a starting offensive lineman or starting safety is, that's decided by the market that is pro football.
"I work within that market and my job is to make sure players get paid what they're worth (fair market value). Working in the CFL and NFL, negotiations are very similar, it's just the number of zeroes."
Ghavami's training as a lawyer helps in negotiations.
"I've always compared negotiations to going to trial as a trial lawyer," he said. "If you go into negotiations prepared the same way you'd go into a trial prepared, ultimately you'll come out feeling good about what you did.
"I think when you go into negotiations, be it with NFL or CFL teams, I have to be prepared. I have to know my client. I have to know the market, I have to know what I'm working with and how can I get the best value. Not only for it to be a good deal for my client . . . but also one that has a chance of having an affect long-term and making sure we're setting up the player for a good opportunity down the road."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 5. 2021.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press