Fay: The day Dave Lapham schooled Donald Trump in the art of the deal

Former Bengal played on Trump's USFL team
Posted at 9:00 AM, Oct 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-30 17:32:44-04

CINCINNATI -- Dave Lapham once sat across the table from the man who parlayed his ability to make a deal into the Republican nomination for the U.S. presidency.

And Lapham got the deal he wanted from Donald Trump. 

Back then, Trump owned the New Jersey Generals of the old United States Football League.

Lapham, who's been a Bengals radio color commentator for the last 30 years, had been a star offensive lineman with the Bengals for 10 years -- including the 1981 Super Bowl team.

In 1984, Lapham decided to jump to Trump's USFL.The fledgling league was paying big bucks to get NFL players.

Trump had tried to hire Don Shula from the Miami Dolphins, and he signed Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Sipe and Bengals linebacker Jim LeClair along with a handful of other NFLers. 

Lapham was willing to sign, but not a standard contract.

Bengals color commentator Dave Lapham. (Photo provided by the Cincinnati Bengals)

"It was pretty interesting," Lapham said. "What we talked about was doing a personal-services contract. I didn't trust the league finances. I wasn't going to necessarily make that move if I didn't have some sort of reason to make that kind of move. I got a two-year, personal-services contract, where the money was guaranteed for two years. 

"At that point, it's like a 10-year annuity coming due. I felt like it was the best thing to do for me and my family to take that deal."

The personal-services contract was Lapham's idea.

"Myself and my attorney came up with the idea," Lapham said. "I said it would have to be something a little unusual, something that the NFL wouldn't do for a 10-year player. That's what we came up with. (Trump) agreed to it. At that point, it was a done deal."

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - CIRCA 1983: Team Owner Donald Trump announces he has signed Herschel Walker to play running back for the New Jersey Generals in New Jersey. Walker played for the General form 1983-85. (Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images)E

Lapham knew he was dealing with an owner worlds apart from the Bengals' Paul Brown as soon as the contract was signed.

"They had me go down to the lobby to judge the cheerleaders," Lapham said. "I was sitting next to Andy Warhol, judging cheerleaders. I thought, 'Only in New York, New York.' He's scribbling sketches of the cheerleaders. I wish I had grabbed those napkins. I could sell them on eBay."  

Trump was involved in the football operation a bit. 

"But he wasn't like Jerry Jones," Lapham said. "He was a great owner to play for. He always asked if the travel was up to NFL standards. ‘Are you doing things like the NFL?' He was really concerned about that."

CLEVELAND - NOVEMBER 6: Offensive lineman Dave Lapham #62 of the Cincinnati Bengals blocks defensive lineman Earl Edwards #66 of the Cleveland Browns during a game at Municipal Stadium on November 6, 1977 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

A lot has been written lately about Trump not paying contractors for work at his properties. But that wasn't the case with his USFL players, Lapham said.

"I don't know of anybody who didn't get their full deal," Lapham said. "I can't say that about everybody in that league."

Trump was good to deal with, a nice guy, Lapham says.

"You could detect ego, obviously. There's no doubt about that. As I recall, behind him there was a full portrait of himself. It was in the upper level of the Trump Tower."

Lapham is keeping his political views to himself, but if the election goes Trump's way, Lapham can tell everyone about the time he got what he wanted from the President of the United States.