Andrew Brandt has made a career of getting what he wants. Two careers, actually.
In February 1999, Brandt was hired as the Packers' director of player finance/ football operations after two separate stints as a high-profile agent. Now entering his third season with the team, his primary responsibilities include negotiating player contracts and interacting with player representatives. In other words, he now sits on the exact opposite side of the table from his former peers.
The native of Washington, D.C., has traveled an intriguing road to find himself nestled in Northeast Wisconsin.
After graduating from Stanford University, Brandt, a competitive tennis player, thought about playing professionally on the satellite circuit until a change of heart led him to Georgetown University Law School.
"My tennis opponents convinced me I better do something else with my life," Brandt jokes.
He immediately put his law degree to use and obtained employment with ProServ, Inc., one of the leading sports management and marketing firms, where he learned under "super agent" David Faulk. There, he helped manage the likes of basketball stars Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing and Muggsy Bogues, as well as football pros James Lofton, Boomer Esiason and Chris Doleman.
Nearly having mastered the art of negotiation, Brandt found a new challenge in 1992 when he became the first general manager of the World League of American Football's Barcelona Dragons. In spearheading the start-up franchise within football's uncharted territory of Europe, he oversaw every aspect of the team, including player personnel, contract issues, marketing and public relations.
"What was great about that was we had to start a team from scratch and learn how to sell a product," he says. "The Spanish people then had no understanding of what our game was. They cheered at the wrong time and did the wave all game long, but it was a great challenge and a lot of fun."
Although the league lasted just two seasons before play was suspended (later to be restarted in 1995), Brandt's initial foray into football administration would leave an indelible impression that would resurface five years later.
"Since my World League days, I've felt that being on the management side was the long-term option for me," he says. "It was sort of always in the back of my mind that one day I would like to be on the team side again."
But before joining the Packers, Brandt would find himself back in the agent business.
After leaving Spain, he moved home to teach sports law and sports business at George Washington and American universities, and in 1996 he joined Bob Woolf Associates, another of the industry leaders in player representation.
It was there that he developed a relationship with two-sport star and future Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams.
Williams, a running back at the University of Texas, hired Woolf Associates in 1997 to represent him as a minor league baseball player, but by Williams' senior year of 1998-99, it became clear he would bypass his future in baseball and enter the NFL draft.
As the new NCAA Division I all-time rushing leader, Williams was being courted by several top agents but, in January 1999, decided to continue his partnership with his baseball representative and trusted friend, Brandt.
However, only weeks after signing with Brandt, Williams asked the agent to part from Woolf Associates and join forces with rapper Master P (Percy Miller), who was in the process of forming a new sports management firm, No Limit Sports. Master P, a renowned music entrepreneur, had sold Williams on the prospects of the new venture, and Williams wanted Brandt to be a part of the package.
With his loyalties split and his career at a crossroads, Brandt received a phone call that would provide an unexpected but perfect solution.
When he took the call from Packers General Manager Ron Wolf, Brandt figured it would be a routine inquiry concerning quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, Brandt's client who became a free agent after spending the 1998 season on the Packers' practice squad.
But instead, Wolf offered him a job. The two had become acquainted through Hasselbeck's negotiations, and Wolf thought highly enough of the agent to offer the position that was created when the team's previous negotiator, Michael Reinfeldt, left for Seattle with coach Mike Holmgren.
"Through the business dealings, you develop a rapport, and you think you know somebody," says Wolf. "We took it from having never met, to meeting and then -- boom -- hired him just like that. He's a highly intelligent young man."
Brandt accepted, and Williams agreed on a deal with Master P. The running back became the fifth overall selection in the 1999 NFL draft but severed his ties with No Limit Sports in March 2000 in the midst of a heated dispute over the merit of his current contract.
Despite all that has happened, Brandt remains one of Williams' biggest fans.
"I always will have a soft spot in my heart for Ricky Williams," he says. "I got to know him and his family very well for two years, and he's a good person and will be a great player in the NFL."
Two years into his role with the Packers, Brandt has never looked back.
"The nuts and bolts of negotiation are similar on either side of the table," he says. "What's different is the agent business has become mostly about recruiting. That means phone calls every night and time on the road away from your family, chasing players. In fact, negotiating contracts has become maybe 20-30% of the agent business as opposed to a much higher percentage on this side.
"The other thing that's different about this job is you're part of something here. I like to be part of a team and help in whatever small way I can to make us successful. In the agent business, you're rooting for players on different teams, and your loyalties become frayed.
"I enjoy this organization tremendously," he continues. "I think it's as important who you work with as what you do. Ron (Wolf) has been great. He is one of those people who just see things a little clearer than the rest of us. (Senior vice president of administration) John Jones and I work well together, and his experience in the NFL is invaluable, and (team president) Bob Harlan is the epitome of class."
Brandt has earned their praise as well. While his duties may not directly affect the outcome of an individual football game, his exploits determine the quality of players that can be kept or added legally to the roster under the league's salary cap policy, which limits the total amount of money a team can spend on player paychecks.
"The most important position in football today next to the head football coach is someone who understands the salary cap and understands all the ramifications and nuances within the salary cap system," says Wolf regarding the job of a team's chief negotiator.
The trump card held by Brandt is his experience as an agent.
With his working knowledge of both sides of negotiation issues, he's able to slice through the periphery of important bargains and understand the core issues of what both parties are after.
"It's not hard to determine what about a deal is important to the player and/or the agent," he says. "Getting to that point within the constraints of our system is the challenge. Having been on both sides, maybe I'm a poster child for harmonious labor/management relations in the NFL. It doesn't have to be contentious. This is not war."
A deceptively gentle presence at the contract table, the easy-spoken Brandt now maneuvers the Packers into the best possible position for salary cap success.
His employment in Green Bay seemed destined to happen, even through the most unique circumstances, but at the same time, he reached out and took what was in front of him. That's a habit he's developed after years of negotiations.