By Tran Longmoore
-April 30, 2012

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After one of his clients was drafted Friday, Saline resident and NFL agent Dr. Da-I Ping went to work to land contracts for two more of his clients.

Over the weekend, hundreds of thousands of diehard football fans dreamed of the future at NFL Draft parties.

The draft party held at the home of Saline resident Dr. D.S. Ping was a little more stressful than most.

Ping, a holistic practitioner - turned-sports agent - spent Friday and Saturday working the phones for his three clients, Tyrone Crawford, Chase Baker and Rod Streater.

The three young athletes are more than clients to Ping. Since January, they’ve lived at Ping’s Golfview Drive residence, using local facilities, such as the Saline Rec Center and Saline High School to reach top physical condition for the challenges ahead.

Late Saturday afternoon, as the draft entered the late rounds, family and friends of Ping and his clients gathered for the NFL draft party.

Crawford was still in a celebratory mode. Friday night, the 6-foot-4-inch, 285-pound defensive end from Windsor, Ontario, was drafted in the third round by the Dallas Cowboys. Crawford, 22, who began playing football in ninth grade, played as a junior at Boise State University in 2011, racking up seven sacks and 13.5 tackles for a loss.

“It was a dream come true,” said Crawford. “But now I want to see where Chase and Rod go.”

Baker, a 6-foot-1-inch, 300-pound defensive tackle from Rocklin, CA, was a teammate of Crawford’s at Boise State, where he started since his sophomore year. He recorded 22 tackles and was an All-Mountain West honorable mention despite missing three games with injuries.

Streater, a 6’4 wide receiver from Burlington, NJ, played 25 games over his two years at Temple University after two years in junior college. He finished his senior year with 19 catches for 401 yards and three touchdowns, including a 61-yard touchdown catch in the New Mexico Bowl.

Last Saturday afternoon, after a week of phone calls from dozens of NFL coaches and team officials, the draft board was filling up, and Baker and Streater began to get anxious.

As the athletes and friends dined on party food around the television in the living room, Ping was alone in a home office with the door closed. Surprisingly, there was no computer on his desk or television on his wall. He received his draft updates from those who came into his room.

“I like it quiet. It’s going to get crazy and I need to be able to think,” said Ping, who has been in the sports agent business since 1983.

Ping's Foray in to the Sports Agent Business

Ping never planned on this career. The son of a general in the Chinese army, Ping emigrated from China to Thailand when he was nine to escape the communist government. A short time later, he came to the United States. After serving with the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War, Ping settled in Ypsilanti, started a family and launched a martial arts studio and holistic practitioner business. While coaching a little league team in Ypsilanti, Ping invited a youngster named Rodney Holman to come out and play baseball. Holman became an All-American tight end in high school.

He came to Ping to ask where he should play college football. Ping told him to avoid Michigan and Ohio, where he’d get stuck blocking, and to try a school in the south. After four years at Tulane, Holman was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals, where he became an All-Pro tight end. Ping became his agent and a new career was launched.

Draft Board Filling Up

Early in the fifth round Saturday, Ping received a text from the Detroit Lions, advising him that team had interest in his players once the draft is over. Hopeful that Baker and Streater were going to be drafted, it wasn’t what Ping wanted to hear.

Ping’s studies of recent rookie NFL classes show that seventh round picks are more likely than undrafted free agents to make the big show.  There are also financial implications to consider. A rookie free agent and a rookie seventh-round pick will generally receive the same salary of $375,000. But a seventh-rounder receives a $40,000 signing bonus, while a team might sign 15 undrafted free agents who must split a $75,000 signing bonus pool.

Still, Ping wanted his players to be ready, so he asked them to prioritize where they wanted to play.

Baker’s list included Minnesota, Atlanta and Green Bay. Streater chose Tampa, Oakland, San Francisco and the New York Giants.

In the sixth round, the calls and texts from coaches and team officials began flooding the phones of Ping, Streater and Baker.

An official from San Francisco texted Streater to ask him how much he’d like to play for the 49ers, using a scale of 1-10. Ping reviewed Streater’s response and then told him to add, “And I want $17,000.”

By the seventh round, Ping and Streater had several conversations with Oakland, New York, San Francisco and Tampa.

“People are lining up for him. But if you want, draft him, and all this headache goes away,” Ping told a coach from one of the teams.

Baker and Ping, meanwhile, were zeroing in on the Minnesota Vikings, who liked what they saw of Baker during a visit. The Vikings had three picks in the seventh, but traded one away and used the other two on other players. If Baker was disappointed, he didn’t show it. The Vikings had already told Ping that they’d sign Baker and offer a $10,000 signing bonus.

The All-Important Signing Bonus

That doesn’t sound a lot like a lot of money, next to the $375,000 salary. But when a team has only $75,000 to spend on 12-18 bonuses for 12-18 free agents, a signing bonus can tell a player a lot about how they think he’ll fit into the organization.

“If you’re willing to spend $10,000 on one player, that doesn’t leave much for the rest of the guys. So that says something about how much they want you,” Ping said.

Immediately following the draft, Ping sealed the deal with Viking officials and handed the phone off to a beaming Baker, who told the Minnesota general manager that he was ready to go.

“From the beginning, realistically, I knew I was on the bubble. Obviously, I would have loved to have heard my name called. But I am excited. I took the trip to Minnesota and I loved everything about it,” Baker said. “They’re known for a great D-line, so this is exciting.”

Ping, meanwhile, was negotiating a $10,000 bonus for Streater to sign with the Oakland Raiders. But Streater felt slightly torn because of allegiances to personal friends in the Giants’ organization.

“I’m just looking for a place to prove myself. They know me and what I’m about,” Streater told Ping.

But Ping noted that the Giants were only offering a $1,000 signing bonus. And Streater understood what that meant.

"The proof is in the pudding," Ping said.

The Raiders called again, and the person on the other end of the phone seemed to sense hesitation in Ping’s voice.

“No. He wants to be a Raider. But he’s a good kid. He feels loyalty to people he knows,” Ping told the club official.

Ping handed the phone to Streater and then took a late call from Tampa. As Ping negotiated with Tampa, Streater made it official and agreed to sign with the Raiders.

Signed, Sealed and Delivered

When it was over, Streater was excited, but also relieved it was over.

“It’s exciting, but stressful. You hear from a lot of coaches and they tell you that you’re great. But it comes down to who wants you in the end,” Streater said.

The $10,000 signing bonus showed Streater that Oakland was serious.

“With the new salary cap on undrafted free agents, when a team offers you $10,000 it really means that they want you, so I feel good about that,” Streater said. “I made the right decision going with the Raiders. I’m going to work hard and it’s going to be a great year.”

Crawford said he was glad to see that all three billets at the Ping household found someplace to go compete for jobs.

“All that hard work paid off for us,” Crawford said.

He was impressed with watching Ping in action during draft weekend.

“I love to see Doc at work. I knew he was a dog when it came down to the fight. That’s why I picked him and that’s why I love him,” Crawford said.

Ping said he couldn't have been happier with the way his big weekend turned out.

"(NFL Draft weekend) is everything. This is my Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year's all rolled up into one," Ping said.

Now, he admitted, the house will be a little empty when his players leave his home and go off to camp.

"I'm going to have a little bit of the empty next syndrome, I think," Ping said.

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