- Shannon Cross, Talent Integration
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Many athletes are sucked into bad financial decisions after years of living the high life. The 30 for 30 film "Broke," (8 p.m. ET, ESPN) tells a story of the dark side of success.
We asked some former pro athletes about their experiences with spending in excess and things they've witnessed during their time in the league.
Phil Hansen told my teammates and I as rookies that, "A dollar saved today is 10 dollars tomorrow." Since none of us knew the true value of money, we ignored his advice. And after a career where I've purchased extravagant things, seen guys with seven cars, a car wash purchased in the winter of Buffalo, $32,000 dinners, buying cars for girlfriends that you break up with, past child support payments north of $200K. After all of this, all I can say is, "I feel you Phil!"
When rookies come in the league they bring "luggage" with them. They have family members or friends they feel an obligation to. I understand that. But there comes a point where their finances can't support their decisions. They become the breadwinner for an extended family and it's hard for them to say no. As a coach it's very hard to talk to players about these things. Many times half way through the season these guys tap out because they've over-extended themselves and it ends up affecting how they play. Typically after their third year, guys start to figure it all out.
I bought a car before I actually got signed by the Detroit Lions in 1985. I bought my mom a house and spent a lot more money than I needed to. When you're young you think you're invincible and you're going to play the game forever. You don't think about planning an exit strategy. Fortunately, I played for a long time and was able to make a lot of money.
It's somewhat offensive to talk about broke athletes because we're talking about young people. Many times those athletes are young minorities. Everyone sits back and says they don't have the proper people around them making decisions when, in fact, a lot of the people hurting them are people they should trust like managers or agents. I think the majority of athletes today aren't spending excessive amounts of money on sneakers and diamonds -- someone is stealing that money. It's not that these guys aren't bright, it's a cultural thing. In the end, I think being broke is an issue that touches everyone, not just pro athletes. I don't care who you are, in this economy anyone can wake up and be broke.
I have heard stories about guys asking teammates for loans when the NFL lockout was coming and guys leasing fancy cars they would later have to sell to stay afloat. I would turn my head when I heard stuff like that because I didn't want to hear it. I went through that phase, but I was cheap and I knew if I tried to keep up with that lifestyle I would be broke one day.
You can run through money fast being the sole provider for your family and friends. The lifestyle is a gift and a curse. My third year in the league I had a Pro Bowl player ask me to borrow money. It can happen. You have to be smart with your money because the big paydays don't last forever.
In 1992, I was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys and I'd say 80 percent of my team from that year is now broke. Clayton Holmes was selected in the same draft. He experienced a poor upbringing but went on to win three Super Bowl rings over the next four years. Unfortunately, he got caught up running with guys who made more money than him. He started drinking, using drugs and buying a car and home he couldn't afford. After being cut by the Cowboys and the Miami Dolphins he found himself back on the streets of Florence, S.C. The best thing someone can do for rookies when they are new to the NFL is educate them. My mother and Troy Aikman were both influential in guiding me in the right direction.
Various pro athletes share their firsthand accounts of what it's like to be signed to play in the league and almost lose everything in the blink of an eye.