Rob Rudolph admits he’s enjoyed watching Johnny Manziel’s struggles this offseason. The 46-year-old from Tampa says on the subject of Manziel’s off-field headlines, “it’s kinda funny.” He suspects a whole bunch of other people in his business, memorabilia dealers around the country, are getting a kick out of the Texas A&M star’s issues with being investigated by the NCAA too.
Rudolph has a company called First and Goal Sports and has been hawking items, mostly signed football memorabilia, for a dozen years on eBay, he says. In January, Rudolph says eBay suspended his account for two weeks, just like it did for many, many other memorabilia dealers.
“When his family filed to patent his name, ‘Johnny Football,’ all of us dealers, and I’m talking like 500 of us, had items on eBay related to Johnny Manziel,” Rudolph told CBSSports.com Wednesday. “They weren’t necessarily signed by him. I had Heisman programs from where he won the Heisman. So on that listing it would say, ‘Johnny Manziel, Johnny Football, Texas A&M Heisman Program.’ eBay swiped across the country and took all of those items down. All of ’em. And, in addition to that, they banned everyone who had done it for two weeks. No prior warning or nothing.
“I had 400 items up. I had six or eight related to Manziel and they pulled all of ’em. I called [eBay]. I said, ‘I’ve never had any trouble on eBay whatsoever.’ They said, ‘This is a legal thing and you violated a legal code so you’re suspended for two weeks.’ For me, I’m small time. That was an irritating thing because for two weeks, I couldn’t sell anything. I am quite sure for people whose livelihood are this business, that was crippling.
“If there’s anybody who has an ax to grind, pick any of those people.”
Rudolph says his company has paid many pro athletes for the signing of items, but says when it comes to college athletes, “it gets a little sketchy. … we’ve had arrangements to sign memorabilia for us as soon as their bowl game ends. We have many bowl games down here in Florida. It may be two hours after the game ends, we’re gonna meet at this hotel room. We’ll buy their used game jerseys, their cleats. They’ll sign stuff for us. That’s a gray area because the moment they’re signing and getting their money, their eligibility is done, but when the arrangement is made before their eligibility. … that’s what I can say. I have never had a paid signing with an eligible player, but I know that is going on all the time. All the time.”
Rudolph met Manziel in New York City during Heisman week, he says. “I go every year. The Heisman people keep the candidates extremely sheltered by the New York people. We met Manziel. Took pictures with…