David Canter has a gift for negotiation.
The longtime NFL agent recently got the Dallas Cowboys to agree to a $105 million contract for defensive end Demarcus Lawrence that set a franchise record.
Los Angeles Rams Coach Sean McVay even gave him a shout out at the press conference welcoming safety Eric Weddell — Canter’s client and good friend — to the team.
Considered one of the top agents in the National Football League, Canter says he owes his success to one place: Atlantic City.
“Atlantic City is why — 100 percent — I believe I’m the man I am today,” the founder of DEC Managment told BreakingAC.
Canter could lay claim to a few “hometowns.”
Born in Florida, Canter lived in Miami Beach with his mother after his parents divorced.
Right before eighth grade, he came to his father’s home in Margate, and stayed.
There were four schools in five years, as he went back and forth between states. He graduated Eugene A. Tighe School in Margate in 1986, and was in Atlantic City High School’s Class of 1990.
When he came to Atlantic High, Canter said he was a privileged kid whose arrogance was quickly met with reality.
His recalled his first day at football practice that began with him telling the group he would be a started, and ended with him hiding in a Korean deli.
“Sometimes you need to get kicked in the teeth,” he said.
“He was funny, but a fast talker,” former teammate Hank Green recalled. “I’ve been following his career.”
Football practice is also where he met one of his biggest influences growing up: Coach Bobby Weiss.
“I owe a lot to Bobby Weiss,” Canter said.
Weiss didn’t know his former player was a successful NFL agent. But he also wasn’t surprised.
“Even as a student athlete he had this confidence about him you see in kids that can’t miss,” Weiss said.
“Confident or cocky?” Canter asked with laugh when told of his old coach’s assessment.
“As a high school student athlete, he had outstanding self-esteem,” Weiss said. “He really believed in himself. You knew, whatever he did, he’d be OK.”
In Atlantic City, Canter got to see true struggles and the resilience of people. He also had teachers who taught the true history of racial divides, he said.
“Thank God I went to Atlantic City High School and grew up in Margate and Ventnor,” Canter said. “I think it’s why I can relate to younger people. I think it’s why I can relate to a kid who may come from a broken home, who doesn’t have the means, kids who grew up without a dad.”
He recalls losing his best friend to violence, and knowing kids who had two pairs of pants: one for school, and one for church on Sunday.
“I think the biggest influence one could get from our situation was how to get along with others,” Weiss said. “All these kids had different cultures, different religions, different socioeconomic backgrounds. It’s almost like getting a master’s degree in diversity when you’re in high school.”
“I don’t think, as a human being, I really started to develop until I got there,” Canter said.
And for the past 23 years, he has taken that with him to understand the different goals of his clients. To understand that, it’s not always about getting a big paycheck, but the opportunity to get out and help better their lives and those of their families.
Canter now lives in Florida with his wife, Peri, and their three sons: Asher, 10; Austen, 7, and Axel, 4.
While he hasn’t been back to Atlantic City in a few years, Canter said it remains close to his heart.
His first job was in a casino. He worked the grave shift at Animations in Bally’s Atlantic City. That was back when the casinos closed for a few hours, so he said he would see all kinds waiting it out at the 24-hour coffee shop.
“It taught me everything I didn’t want in life,” he said.
His dad still texts him the score of the Atlantic City-Holy Spirit game every Thanksgiving.
And when asked where he’s from, he said he still proudly answers: Atlantic City.
“I think of Atlantic City as a community of people who are resilient and persevere,” he said. “We’re survivors.”