Pockets of sports fans automatically assume famous athletes such as well-known National Football League players have millions of dollars in bank accounts, mansions and everything else that comes with being successful in such a business. While there are certainly a plethora of current and former players who have done well to make and save large amounts of money, so many lost their fame and fortunes in different ways. In some cases, players either trusted the wrong people with their money or they made unwise investments that ended up being disastrous and cost them large sums of cash. Others, however, were their own worst enemies and got themselves into trouble in one way or another. It turns out being rich and famous cannot, in fact, always buy your way out of legal situations.
In some instances, an NFL player who loses his fame and fortune can, eventually, pick himself up, dust himself off, get his life back together and even obtain a job in the sports industry as an analyst or commentator. Others, however, are never the same once they land in financial or legal troubles. Probably the most famous instance of an NFL player who lost everything involves a strange and bizarre tale of that person allegedly being a troubled individual who reportedly committed heinous acts. It's astonishing to think that he was in an NFL locker room and close to being a Super Bowl Champion before he ended up behind bars. Even individuals working for the franchise at the time apparently didn't know his true nature.
15 Michael Vick - Arrest
We start with Michael Vick if only because it appears his story has a happy ending. Vick was a Superstar quarterback during the height of his popularity with the Atlanta Falcons, but he lost his fame and fortune because of his alleged involvement in a dog fighting ring that landed him in jail, cost him years of his career and resulted in him owing roughly $18 million to creditors.
Fortunately, Vick eventually enjoyed a return to the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles, and it was reported in December 2014 that he had paid off the majority of the previously mentioned debt. Over the years, Vick has publicly advocated against illegal animal fighting, and the 37-year-old was given the opportunity to retire as a member of the Falcons in June 2017.
14 Raghib Ismail - Bad Investments
Theoretically speaking, Raghib “Rocket” Ismail had everything necessary to be wealthy beyond his wildest dreams. Ismail was a speedster who starred in nationally televised games while at Notre Dame, and he spent roughly a decade playing pro football in the CFL and then in the NFL.
Unfortunately, Ismail apparently also never met an investment he didn’t like. A religious movie, restaurants, phone cards and a record label were all once in what became a notorious portfolio. While Ismail never technically filed for bankruptcy, he has stated he blew through millions of dollars and squandered much of his fortune serving as an investor for failed endeavors. One can only imagine how much money Ismail would have today had he been conservative and played the stock market or just kept his money in multiple protected bank accounts.
13 JaMarcus Russell - No Savings
Quarterback JaMarcus Russell will likely go down as the biggest bust in NFL history. The first overall selection of the 2007 NFL Draft was a complete flop during his brief stint with the Oakland Raiders, and it was reported in 2011 his mansion fell into foreclosure proceedings.
Since that time, Russell has attempted multiple NFL comebacks, most notably in the spring of 2016 when he apparently wrote letters to every franchise essentially begging for one final opportunity. Not surprisingly, the QB who struggled remaining in shape during his short tenure in the league and who last played in 2009 received little to no interest from any club. His career is over even though he is 31 years old, and he’ll likely never again receive an opportunity to reclaim his fortune.
12 Vince Young - Bad Investments
Former NFL quarterback Vince Young was good enough to earn Offensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2006, but he found himself filing for bankruptcy protection in 2014 after he reportedly blew through well over $25 million he earned during his pro career.
Young apparently spent much of that money on bad investments and other unwise purchases, and he didn’t realize he faced financial issues until after the best days of his career were over. That probably explains why Young has attempted multiple NFL comebacks, most notably with the Cleveland Browns in the spring of 2014. Young’s last football contract came from the Canadian Football League, but his run up north ended prematurely after he suffered a torn hamstring in June 2017. The 34-year-old may now be out of playing options.
11 Chris McAlister - No Savings
Cornerback Chris McAlister was selected by the Baltimore Ravens with the tenth overall pick of the 1999 NFL Draft, and he found so much success during the first several years of his time with the club that the Ravens offered him a seven-year deal that could’ve been worth up to $55 million in 2004.
That, obviously, should have been more than enough money for McAlister to be set for life, but it was learned in September 2011 that he was supposedly broke only two years after he last played in the NFL. In fact, things got so bad for McAlister he had to move back in with his parents, and he claimed in 2011 his parents provided him with “basic living expenses.” It turns out financial security is more about what you save than what you make.
10 Mark Ingram Sr. - Multiple Arrests
Mark Ingram Sr. should have always been known as a key contributor for the New York Giants side that defeated the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV and for being the father of current NFL RB Mark Ingram Jr.. Something obviously went wrong with the elder Ingram’s finances, however, as it was reported in September 2008 he had earned a third stint behind bars for bank fraud and money laundering.
If that wasn’t bad enough, he picked up an additional two years in jail after he thought it wise to jump bail to see his son play for the University of Alabama in the 2009 Sugar Bowl. Ingram was released from prison in 2015, and the hope is that both he and his son learned a lot about how costly mistakes can affect more than just bank accounts.
9 Johnny Unitas - Owed Money/Bankruptcy
When you think of former quarterback Johnny Unitas, you may envision black-and-white video highlights, his association with “The Greatest Game Ever Played” or his historic and legendary encounter with the New York Jets in Super Bowl III. Somewhat sadly, Unitas became yet another statistic in February 1991 when he reportedly filed for bankruptcy because he and several business partners allegedly owed up to $4 million on loans.
What’s noteworthy about this story is that Unitas played at a time when top-tier quarterbacks did not earn millions upon millions of dollars in guaranteed money from NFL contracts, alone, and yet he still fell into the types of investment traps that capture many modern-day athletes. Unitas may have been a legend on the field, but that couldn’t protect him in the business world.
8 Mark Brunell - Bad Investments
Quarterback Mark Brunell remains one of the best and most important offensive players in the history of the Jacksonville Jaguars, and he even won a Super Bowl ring serving as a backup to Drew Brees with the New Orleans Saints. Brunell easily should have been financially set for life with a positive legacy intact, but it was reported in June 2010 he owed over $24 million in liabilities.
Other stories that eventually emerged claimed Brunell blew through roughly $50 million on a wide variety of failed business endeavors that he probably should have passed on. Perhaps harshest of all is that Brunell was still attempting to hang onto life in the NFL as a backup with the New York Jets when stories of his financial problems went public. He, thus, never had any real opportunity to reclaim his lost fortune.
7 Travis Henry - 11 Children/Arrest
Former running back Travis Henry spent seven seasons as an active NFL player, but it was reported in March 2009 that he was broke roughly two years after he last featured for any club.
The bulk of Henry’s supposed financial woes apparently arose because of the fact he allegedly fathered 11 children with up to ten different women, which resulted in him owing roughly $170,000 per year in child support payments. Henry’s off-the-field problems went beyond having unprotected sex, as he was sentenced to three years in prison in the summer of 2009 due to his supposed involvement in a cocaine trafficking ring. At this point, Henry serves as a cautionary tale for every young future sports superstar who finds himself involved with multiple partners.
6 Andre Rison - No Savings/Child Support
Andre Rison was one of several former football players to appear on the ESPN Broke documentary and speak candidly about how he lost his fame and fortune. According to Rison’s own words in 2012, he spent as least $1 million on, among other things, jewelry. That doesn’t include the other ways Rison found to blow through millions of dollars he earned during what should’ve been a successful career.
Instead, Rison reportedly filed for bankruptcy in 2007 after he fell behind in paying child support debts. Those issues apparently still plagued him as of August 2016, as it reported at that time a warrant had been taken out for his arrest because he allegedly violated probation in a child support case. Rison claimed he used “marijuana candy,” which violated his probation, to deal with injuries he accumulated during his playing days.
5 Lawrence Taylor - Drugs & Alcohol Abuse
Lawrence Taylor should be remembered as one of the greatest overall players to ever play the sport, but his legacy has taken numerous hits because of different legal problems and other stories. Taylor, to his credit, has been open about his issues with drugs and alcohol over the years, and he once claimed he spent “thousands” of dollars per day on such substances.
It was reported in 2009 Taylor had filed for bankruptcy in an attempt to avoid foreclosure on his personal home. Despite the fact Taylor has seemingly been his own worst enemy for decades, pockets of New York Giants fans still applaud him whenever he makes a public appearance at MetLife Stadium. Some Big Blue supporters wish to only remember Taylor for being a dominant force on championship-caliber defenses.
4 Warren Sapp - No Savings/Arrest
Some football fans out there may more so remember defensive tackle Warren Sapp for issues off the field than for the fact he’s in the Hall of Fame. It was reported in April 2012 Sapp filed for bankruptcy after he found himself $6.7 million in debt, and also that he had lost his college and NFL championship rings.
His financial problems would prove to be only the beginning. In February 2015, Sapp was arrested and charged with soliciting a prostitute. That was not Sapp’s first run-in with the law, but this particular alleged incident did cost him his on-the-air job with NFL Network. In June 2017, Sapp publicly stated he plans to donate his brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation and also that he has struggled with memory difficulties since his playing days.
3 Bernie Kosar - No Savings
While he hasn’t played for the Cleveland Browns since the early 1990s, former quarterback Bernie Kosar remains one of the most popular figures in that region’s sports scene. That may be one reason why so many fans were shocked to learn Kosar had lost his fortune in 2009 following multiple bad business deals and other choices.
In fact, Kosar reportedly had only $44 in his checking account when he filed for bankruptcy. If that wasn’t bad enough, he encountered another embarrassing moment when he was fired from being a preseason commentator for the Browns in the spring of 2014 because of comments he made about then-St. Louis Rams QB Kellen Clemens during a game that occurred in August 2013. Kosar still does local radio segments, particularly during football seasons, as of the summer of 2017.
2 Terrell Owens - No Savings
When in his physical prime and at his absolute best, former NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens was a dominant presence on the field and a braggadocios personality who talked the talk and walked the walk during games.
In 2012, however, it was reported Owens was broke even though he had earned no less than $80 million from his player deals. He also found he couldn’t get a gig in the league even though he believed he could still play. If all of that wasn’t bad enough, Owens has failed to receive enough votes to get into the Hall of Fame on multiple occasions despite the fact his statistics show he was one of the best wideouts in NFL history. The man once known as T.O. will eventually receive his day at Canton, and we imagine he’ll have a lot to say during that ceremony.
1 Aaron Hernandez - Arrest
History will likely remember former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez as an alleged murderer who supposedly killed his friend, Odin Lloyd, and not as a talented player who could've one day been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Hernandez never went through the full appeals process available to him before he was found dead in prison after he reportedly hanged himself in April 2017, and so he, technically, passed away an innocent man who also happened to be broke.
Per reports that surfaced after Hernandez was found dead, his estate was worth literally nothing at the time of his passing. The potential future Super Bowl Champion who could have earned well over $40 million from NFL contracts alone died broke and alone, and he will forever be seen by many as a sociopath and a man responsible for at least one person’s death.
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