Paschal hopes to be an agent of change

Staff WriterMay 1, 2011 

Not that Mark Paschal was ever much of an NFL draft prospect during his senior season at North Carolina - too slow and small, despite leading the Tar Heels in tackles - but when he suffered a career-ending spinal injury against N.C. State in 2008, he didn't even get the chance to participate in the post-draft free-agent scramble.

Two years later, he went through the draft for the first time, in a completely different way. A rookie agent with Ayrault Sports in his hometown of Charlotte, Paschal's clients include former North Carolina teammates T.J. Yates and Zach Pianalto and former N.C. State opponent Owen Spencer.

As they waited through the second and third days of the draft, Paschal suffered with them, living vicariously through their agony and, he hopes, eventual success.

Yates went to the Houston Texans in the fifth round with the 152nd overall pick, but Pianalto and Spencer went undrafted. Now, they will have to wait for the lockout to end before they can pursue free-agent opportunities.

"I've told the guys to enjoy it," Paschal said Friday, before the second round of the draft began. "It only happens to 255 guys a year. They've got an opportunity here, but being drafted is not the ending point. It's just the beginning. They've got a lot of work to do."

It's no coincidence that a player from North Carolina, where the investigation into improper contact with agents by some of his former teamcast a significant shadow over this entire football season, became an agent himself.

Bad decisions by players and agents alike put the Tar Heels in that position, and during his playing days, Paschal thought about trying to address both sides of that equation.

"I really started feeling that I wanted to be involved on player-representation side when I'd see lot of these guys, my teammates, making choices for their future that I thought could impact them in a negative way," Paschal said. "Being a captain on the team, I wanted more for those guys. I really thought long and hard about it. I tried every way I could to get into the business out of school."

It didn't work out that way, and after Paschal finished his studies in Chapel Hill, he took a sales job in Raleigh. He got the opportunity he wanted last February when Brian Ayrault offered him a job doing things, as Paschal put it, "the right way, by the book."

"The perception of sports agents is definitely a negative one, especially in the North Carolina area with everything that happened at UNC," Paschal said. "I never felt really comfortable with some of the people I met with until I met with Brian."

He didn't have much of a role in last year's draft, but this year Paschal was able to help bring in players he knew and whose character he respected. He watched Yates develop as a quarterback and a leader during Paschal's junior and senior years. The same for Pianalto, whose work ethic he admired. And Spencer, Paschal noted, was a Chuck Amato recruit who flourished under Tom O'Brien.

Ayrault Sports' top NFL client is Cleveland Browns wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, a Charlotte native, and the agency also had Auburn offensive tackle Lee Ziemba, a seventh-round pick of the Carolina Panthers, in this draft. As Paschal embarks on his new career, and his clients embark on theirs, he would have liked more.

"I've seen so many people make a bad decision who I feel like I could have made a difference in their lives," Paschal said. "I wish we could have signed more North Carolina guys. I think they made some bad choices."

In that respect, he's speaking as a former player, an agent and a UNC fan. He's all of the above., or 919-829-8947

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