Gary also used his contacts in the media to help him recruit. In 2000, before a meeting with Stanford defensive lineman Willie Howard, Gary arranged for ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper to call. Gary and I were talking to Willie in Gary’s office when Gary’s phone rang, and he put it on speakerphone.
“Viper, how are you?” Gary said. That’s what he called Mel, Viper or Vipe. “Viper, I’m sitting here with the best defensive lineman in college football. Do you know who that is?”
“You must be with Willie Howard,” Mel said.
Gary used Mel like that all the time. In the agent business, people know Gary and Mel are close, and some people suspect that Mel ranks players more favorably if they are Gary’s clients.
• Mel Kiper denied that it was prearranged for him to call during the Willie Howard meeting or any other. “I would never have called Gary, but Gary and other agents often call me and ask me to speak to players,” said Kiper. “Gary is my friend, but I do that all the time for many different agents. I give players my opinion of them as football players. But I would never promote Gary or any other agent to a player.” As for the belief among some agents that he favors Wichard’s clients, Kiper said, “My player ratings are not related to my relationship with Gary or any other agent. There are many examples of players Gary represented who I have not ranked highly.” (Howard confirmed to SI Luchs’s account of Kiper’s calling during Howard’s meeting with Luchs and Wichard.)
Even though he denies the story, Mel needs to be cleaner than Caesar’s wife since he’s built his entire image(and career) on a pretense that he’s a fully independent operator, even from his ESPN employers, draft wise. If he’s helping out agents in any way, even if its just with recruiting pitches like this, ESPN needs to fire him immediately. How many times do you see Kiper pimping a player who either is a total bust out of a player or you’re mystified why he’s so high on him? Bad enough having Todd “Major head trauma” McShay looking about as clueless about college/pro football as possible, but Kiper looks to be just a whore who’s fattening himself in the industry he helped create. He needs to come clean about his connections to agents and anything he’s done to help them. If he’s helping them with recruiting pitches, it doesn’t take much to be helping them when he offers his supposedly honest assessment of players.