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Former Steelers Great Leon Searcy On NFL Free Agency, Agents, And Franchise Loyalty Post-Playing Career

I was tipped off to this interview with former Steelers and Miami Hurricanes DL Leon Searcy in the comments section of a previous post. The subject at hand then I believe was agent Drew Rosenhaus. Anyway, below is a chunk of a recent interview conducted by Miami Hurricanes website ProCanes with Searcy that touches upon the difference between how the Steelers organization treated him and his family after his playing days, and the advice he'd give to young players in their mid 20s about to sign their second contract in the league.

pC; You went to the Steelers, the Jaguars, Ravens and Dolphins. What was your favorite stop?

LS: My favorite stop was Pittsburgh. I love being a Steeler. Everything about it. The hard-nosed, tough, hardhat, coming to work everyday lunch pail attitude, the Steelers exempted, I loved everything about it. Coach Cowher was an awesome coach, very player friendly. He loved winning, hated losing, tough, hard-nosed. I came in with Cowher, I was his first pick in 1992. Everything about being a Steeler, I enjoy.

pC: Do you follow the NFL now? You follow a team?

LS: I follow the Steelers. I played for a couple of teams but the Steelers seem to be the only ones interested in me after football. They contacted me last year because it was the 75th anniversary of the Steelers franchise and they called me and said that I made the all 90s team and they wanted me to come. They send my son stuff and stay in contact with him. The Jaguars, I have yet to hear from them and they were my most recent team.

pC: Why did you end up going to the Jaguars?

LS: This is a funny story. I’m a free agent just out of the Super Bowl. My agent is Drew Rosenhaus, enough said there. I’m a little cocky and I’m in the Bahamas. I’m resting. Drew Rosenhaus calls me and says ‘Leon we have a deal on the table.’ I say from the Steelers? And he says ‘no from Jaguars.’ And I said the Jaguars? Come on now.

This is why I left Pittsburgh. Drew Rosenhaus got the Steelers on the phone. Drew told me at the time that the money we were asking from Pittsburgh didn’t think I deserved it. You’ve got to remember at the time, I am 24, 25, a pro bowler and teams are telling me that I don’t deserve [the money]. He said ‘Pittsburgh doesn’t think you deserve the kind money you are asking for.’ They said you’re too young. I said I don’t believe you, you’re lying. So Drew got them on the phone, and I am on the phone listening. Drew is ranting and raving and saying Leon is going to leave and they’re saying we don’t care we have someone to replace him. So that was probably the worst thing that could have happened to me.

pC: They didn’t know you were on the phone?

LS: No. They didn’t. They didn’t know I was on the phone and Drew negotiated with them. You don’t want to hear negotiations. For one, I’m 25 years old, you don’t understand the business. His job is to get as much money as he can and their job is to keep as much and we’re supposed to meet somewhere in the middle. But Drew did not explain that to me. He just explained that they don’t want you for the money you’re asking for. So, I’m on the phone and I’m hearing them say Leon is only a starter for us for 3 years and we can’t give him that kind of money because Dermontti Dawson is this and he will be a future Hall of Famer. We love the kid but we can’t pay him to be the highest offensive lineman.

So I am listening to this. I am fuming mad. I said the hell with Pittsburgh. I’ll go somewhere else and prove myself. As soon as we hung up the phone, Drew had the Jaguars right there. He had already staged the whole thing because the Jaguars wanted to make me the highest paid offensive linemen in the NFL at that time. So, Drew said don’t worry about them, I’ve got a team that wants to make you the highest paid offensive lineman in the NFL and I said who’s that? He said the Jacksonville Jaguars. I said, let’s go. I was fuming mad from that point on but I didn’t understand the nature of the business. That’s how the business is. I would advise any guy who is a free agent, that is young to not listen to the negotiations between your agent and the team. They want to strip you down and he’s going to build you up and they’ve got to meet somewhere in the middle. You couldn’t tell me that, not at the time. The way they were stripping me down. He can’t do this, he can’t do that, he’s got limitations. It was so tempting to just say something on the phone. I was holding it in.


Click here to read the rest of the very interesting and candid interview with Searcy - much of which is about his thoughts on The U, but also containing a few other Steelers related anecdots.