I was asked to keep an eye on a rookie who showed strong potential. While his college record was impressive, he carried plenty of off-field demons.
After our first-morning practice session, we decided to break bread off-site, and he rolled up to my car reeking of marijuana. I loved my herb too, but there was a time and place for everything, and the first week of camp was not it. I sensed he might be in for a bumpy ride.
We hit the bank on our way to lunch, where he fiddled around in his pocket as if looking for spare change. After an awkward minute at the teller counter, he pulled out a wadded-up clump that must have served as a bar napkin given its condition. As it turns out, it was a check for three hundred fifty thousand dollars. The cashier and I gasped in unison. The flighty treatment of such a large sum blew my mind, as all he wanted was twenty dollars of cash for lunch.
Another veteran shared a similar story with a rookie he took under his wing that same year. While helping carry his bags, he discovered a check for seven hundred seventy thousand dollars tossed alongside candy wrappers in the recesses of the kid’s truck. All the rookie said was, “Ah man, I’ve been looking for that,” as he collected it along with a half-eaten Snickers bar.
While most of us did not enter the league with money, there was something about the environment that distorted most players’ financial management practices. It was an alternate reality with plenty of money flying around, so players started to believe there was a never-ending supply. As careers abruptly ended or slowly fizzled, a hard lesson accompanied the fall.
Like all things in life, the time on the field and compensation were finite. Yet, with plenty of resources at the ready, it is still far too common to hear about wealthy athletes going broke in retirement. If managed correctly, nearly all these guys could spend the rest of their lives never worrying about a cent.
More on this topic and others in my forthcoming memoir, Aggressively Human, to be released on all platforms in November 2023.