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Wichard, longtime NFL player agent, passes away at age 60

Gary Wichard, a longtime sports agent who represented some of the NFL's biggest stars, died Friday morning at the age of 60.

Wichard passed away from complications brought on by diabetes and pancreatic cancer at his home in Westlake Village, Calif., according to a statement released by public-relations firm Rogers & Cowan.

The Brooklyn, N.Y., native opened his sports agency, Protect Management, in 1980, building it into one of the most successful of its kind. He represented numerous NFL stars, including former New York Jets linebacker Jason Taylor, Denver Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil, Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney and Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs.

Wichard had an especially strong bond with Taylor, who regularly called his agent after games during his celebrated career. Taylor had Wichard's initials inscribed on his wrist tape during the Jets' run to the AFC Championship Game in January.

"Gary was far more than just an agent in my eyes," Taylor said in a statement sent to *The Miami Herald* on Friday. "... 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."

Wichard's business practices had been scrutinized in recent months.

Wichard was suspended for nine months by the NFL Players Association in December for his involvement with former North Carolina player Marvin Austin, who had been dismissed from the team in October. The union said Wichard had "impermissible communication" with Austin at a time when the player wasn't eligible for the NFL draft under the labor agreement.

Wichard also was investigated last year by the NCAA. The governing body looked into the agent's longtime friendship with former Tar Heels assistant coach John Blake, who resigned in September.

Investigators have issued a search warrant for Wichard's financial records, looking into whether or not North Carolina's sports agent laws were broken. Wichard spoke with investigators in October.

"We were looking in other avenues as well, so the investigation will remain open," George Jeter, spokesman for N.C. Secretary of State's office, said Friday.

Wichard is survived by his wife, Maire, and daughters Dana and Jessica. Funeral arrangements are pending.

"Gary was a family man first and foremost," Maire Wichard said in a statement. "He also considered his clients to be like family as well."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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