One year ago, I got a phone call from a California area code. I picked up and agent Gary Wichard, in his unmistakable Brooklyn accent, was on the other end of the line getting ready to go into one of his classic schmooze sessions.
"What kind of trouble are you stirring down there, Armando," he told me with no anger in his voice. "You think if that (bleep) Bill Parcells doesn't want Jason Taylor, I'm going to have any trouble finding him a place to play? (Bleep) Bill Parcells! I can have Jason on three teams within a week if he gives me the go-ahead. The thing is he doesn't want to do that. So stop writing stuff that might make the Dolphins uncomfortable.
"Even if it's true."
That, in a nutshell, is my lasting impression of Gary Wichard. Cool. Collected. Tough. Succinct. Always came with a plan. Always planned a few moves ahead. He loved the truth as long as it suited him. And he didn't care what exactly the truth was when it came to Jason Taylor.
That's because Wichard didn't always see straight when it came to Jason Taylor.
Don't hold that against Gary Wichard. Most fathers find it hard seeing straight when it comes to their sons. And Wichard loved Taylor like a son. The man represented stars such as Dwight Freeney and Terrell Suggs and Antonio Cromartie, but the apple of Wichard's eye was always Jason Taylor.
On Friday, just one year since that conversation I just shared, Wichard passed away -- reportedly of diabetes and pancreatic cancer. He was 60. Only 60.
"Gary was far more than just an agent in my eyes," Taylor said in a statement released to me moments ago. "...he really and truly was like a father to me. He built my career, but it was so much more than that. Gary was by far the most positive person I've ever met and every person he came into contact with was touched in a positive way. I mean, the guy never had a bad day, or if he did, we certainly never knew it.
"I love him, and I miss him already."
I miss him, too. Obviously, I didn't know Wichard like Taylor did. But he was always professional with me. He always took my calls. He was often blunt. I like blunt. I relate to blunt. I understand blunt.
I got Gary Wichard.
No, he didn't like Parcells because he indentified Parcells as the man who ran Taylor out of Miami. He did like Jeff Ireland, Miami's general manager.
As Taylor's Dolphins days were winding down, Wichard got a call from Ireland one morning. The Miami GM had apparently just finished reading Dolphins In Depth and was apparently complaining about a post that included details of phone calls between Wichard and him that Ireland didn't want made public.
Ireland asked Wichard if he had told me those details. "Yeah, I told him," Wichard replied. And then Wichard hung up with Ireland and called me and told me Ireland was upset because he was starting to look bad.
I found that kind of funny, really. I also found it refreshing. Open. And downright gutsy.
I cannot vouch for Gary Wichard's business dealings. At his passing, he was serving an NFLPA suspension of his agent license. There were allegations -- unproven -- about his tactics for recruiting players being shady.
That is not my concern today. Today I feel rocked. I never would have believed if you had told me a year ago that within the year, Gary Wichard would be gone. It was, after all, only a year ago that this wiseguy agent was full of fight, full of nerve, full of life.
And now he's gone.
Rest in peace, Gary.