It just keeps happening in every sport and effects star players with mega million dollar deals to journeymen who fight for every remaining cent under the salary cap. We usually focus on the headlines: $10 million dollar signing bonuses and multi million dollar contracts but don’t realize these deals are few and far between. The NFL’s minimum salary is roughly $500k, the actual average of a player’s career is down to 3 years, so the average NFL player makes $1.5 million, less taxes by state and government and agent fees. Whats left is about $900k as the round about average an NFL player makes during their on field career. The average college graduate makes 1.8 million over their career, nearly double.
When NFL players buy homes, cars, jewelry, or become a human ATM, it seems to support Hall of Famer, Dan Marino (who once went bankrupt himself), who says 78% of players will go broke or bankrupt. Furthermore, 40% of NFL players will have chronic injuries which makes adjusting to work in the real world even more challenging. Now this isn’t a pity party, but the league has to develop programs to educate players so they at least know how to manage their money, to stop spending at amazingly excessive rates, and how to save.
Many NFL players are assumed to be bankrupt but aren’t. Muhsin Muhammad, Michael Vick, and others were able to reinvent themselves and their reputations and change their habits that made them easy scores. But many are not that lucky and fall victim to the party and sexual lifestyle, the glamour, and support fair weather friends who don’t have their best intentions in mind. These 15 NFLers once owned the league, were awesome and dominant, but their reputations and wallets have been broken. They might fall back on the cliche that their choices made them who they are, and that might make this pill easier to swallow, but they can’t really believe it.
15. JaMarcus Russell
JaMarcus Trenell Russell was the 1st overall pick by the Raiders where he played for three years. He killed it as a college QB, but many players can’t understand why being a great college player doesn’t transfer to being just as good in the NFL. While Russell played, his net worth reached over $20 million, but by 2010, fitting the estimated average career length precisely, he was out of the NFL. Unfortunately, injuries hampered his projection to be a dominant quarterback.
He was arrested for possessing codeine syrup, but was not indicted, and he’s now “estimated” to be worth about $1 million, despite signing a contract back in 2007 that guaranteed him over $30 million. He’s still young enough to get back on track, but his so called friends need to be friends and encourage him to change his career goals.
14. Travis Henry
The deal Henry signed with Denver in 2007, a 5 year contract worth $22.5 million, is gone. When you’re an athlete, the easiest way to bleed cash, and Henry bled $20,000,000, is by fathering 11 children by 10 women! It’s unbelievable and NO JOKE! He racked up a child support bill of almost $200k per year and was jailed for falling $16k behind on his payments. While he played, he was suspended over smoking marijuana at least two times and missing practice, thus causing the Broncos to let him go in 2009. He turned to drugs and was convicted to 3 years in jail for funding a cocaine ring. He was released from prison in 2012, and hopefully he can find some kind of relationship with his children and rebuild his life.
13. Warren Sapp
Warren Sapp was a dominant presence and huge personality on and off the field. He was a first-round pick by the Buccaneers in 1995 and played 13 seasons, nine with the Bucs, and four with Oakland. He was the defensive player of the year in 1999 and won a Super Bowl with Tampa in 2002. But just 10 years later, Sapp filed for bankruptcy. He owes $7 million to the IRS, child support to four different women (where did you hear that before), and medical bills.
Though he was starting to get his life together and worked for the NFL Network, in 2015 he was arrested for allegedly soliciting a prostitute and assault after Super Bowl XLIX. Sapp has since come out and admitted that he needs help, as he’s beginning to suffer from memory loss. He has offered to donate his brain to science when he passes.
12. Chris McAlister
Chris McAlister played cornerback for 11 seasons after being taken by the Baltimore Ravens, tenth overall, in the 1999 NFL Draft. He was a three-time Pro Bowler and earned one Super Bowl ring. In 2004, he signed a 7 year, $55 million contract, but was cut lose after 5 years. He squandered the $10 million signing bonus and the $7.5 million roster bonus and has nothing to show for it. By 2011, he came out and admitted he was broke.
He was reportedly so destitute he couldn’t pay child support and was forced to move in with his parents. In 2014, Chris worked for the Buffalo Bills’ training camp staff as a coaching intern. He seems to be heading on the right track and is thinking about returning to school and coaching.
11. Vince Young
Vince Young was amazing to watch at the University of Texas as he shredded defenses with his game breaking speed and power. But his game didn’t transfer into the pro game, though at the peak of his career during the 2007-08 season, he earned an annual salary of $13.1 million. In his four years of professional football (so close to that dastardly average), he was nearly broke.
Vince filed for bankruptcy in 2014 and was in debt. He was also being sued by Pro Player Funding for a $2 million loan that allegedly went unpaid. The man who in college couldn’t be stopped, couldn’t stop spending, and has left himself in a terrible financial hole. He landed a job at his alma mater, but decided to attempt a pro football comeback by venturing north of the border in the CFL. A torn hamstring cut his comeback short, as the Saskatchewan Roughriders released him shortly before the season began.
10. Bernie Kosar
Bernie Kosar made about $19 million during his career and lost it piece by piece. His story wasn’t about wasting money on million dollar homes or planes, but he was used and exploited. His own father, his ex-wife, his financial advisors, and his inability to say “no” to “friends” cost him almost all his money. He filed for bankruptcy in 2009 as his financial advisors mismanaged his money and lost him millions more.
Kosar tried to get back on his feet and worked for his former team, the Cleveland Browns, as he became a color commentator in 2006. But in 2014, Kosar was let go and has to start all over again. Unfortunately, Kosar has also stated that he’s suffered from concussion problems in retirement.
9. Andre Rison
Andre Rison’s best years came with the Atlanta Falcons, but he also played for the Browns, Jaguars, Packers, Chiefs, the Raiders, and in the Canadian League. He was a five-time Pro-Bowl selection and played on the Super Bowl XXXI champion, Green Bay Packers. Rison earned over $20 million in salary and endorsements but spent wildly on mansions, cars, clothes, and partied like few others. Rison would travel around the world with an entourage of 40-50 people, and celebrated life while surrounded by musicians, celebrities, and other athletes. Sure enough, he lost it all, and I doubt any of the people who surrounded him then are reaching out now. His story was one of the highlighted NFL cases in the ESPN 30 For 30 documentary Broke.
8. Raghib Ismail
In 1991, former Notre Dame wide receiver/kick returner Raghib “Rocket” Ismail electrified college football with his game-breaking ability and dramatic plays. Shockingly, the “superstar” bypassed the NFL to sign a $26 million contract with the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts. By the time he went to the NFL, his game never materialized at the professional level and his money was almost gone.
After he retired, he invested in phone card dispensers, restaurants, and other businesses that went belly up. Now, he is a motivational speaker about financial literacy, the importance of teamwork, and makes appearances for the Dallas Cowboys. His son has become a wide receiver, playing at TCU and Ismail will undoubtedly try to help his son avoid the same mistakes he made.
7. Mark Brunell
Brunnel was a great college quarterback for the University of Washington, where he lead the Huskies to two Rose Bowls. After being drafted by the Packers and then traded to the Jags, he became a three time Pro-Bowler. He went on to be traded to quite a few teams, but was worth an estimated $50,000,000 by 2010. That’s $50 MILLION DOLLARS! But after retiring, Brunell invested in real estate, hamburger franchises, and lost it all. He declared bankruptcy and owed $20 million in commercial real estate loans and other debts. His net worth is under $1 million, and while over $49 million is gone, he talks to the media and NFL players to try and educate them. At least Brunell is trying to help others in the wake of his misfortune.
6. Dermontii Dawson
Dermontti Farra Dawson played his entire career with the Pittsburgh Steelers and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012. He was a 7× Pro Bowler, 6× First-team All Pro, 1990’s All Decade Team, and on the All Time Pittsburgh Steelers Team. But all the “All” teams didn’t follow him into retirement as an All Time Businessman. Away from the game, he spent several years as a real estate developer. He filed for bankruptcy protection in 2010 with $69 million in liabilities. However, he must be watching a lot of tape on Mark Cuban and is now a sales executive for a promotional products company. He is also a part owner of the Washington Wild Things, and Independent League Baseball team.
5. Clinton Portis
Portis earned more than $43.1 million over nine NFL seasons. He retired only 77 rushing yards shy of 10,000, 648 short of John Riggins’s all-time Redskins mark, and he ranks sixth in NFL history in rushing yards per game. In 2004, he inked an 8 year, $50.5 million contract. All is good, right? Not. He bought mansions he flaunted on MTV with waterfalls, stripper poles, and a fleet of cars. He took lavish vacations with friends and women, many women. What was left of his money disappeared when a former University of Miami teammate, Rod Mack, introduced Portis to scamming advisors such as Jinesh Brahmbhatt, of the firm Stratton Oakmont, that inspired “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
Incredibly, the firm was registered with the NFL Players Association, and they picked the the bones dry. Portis also dealt with the tragedy of a fallen teammate, and is now working his way back through broadcasting and appearance fees.
Nate Newton was not drafted but signed as a free agent with the Washington Redskins in 1983. He was cut during training camp and injured in a serious car accident the next day. Newton joined the Tampa Bay Bandits in the United States Football League (remember that?) and signed as a free agent with the Dallas Cowboys in 1986. Then the magic came alive and he blossomed into a 3 time Super Bowl Champion, 6 time Pro Bowler, and 2 time All-Pro. After retiring, in 2001, the problems and debts arrived. Newton was arrested for having over 200 pounds of marijuana and then five weeks later with another 175 pounds. Newton was sentenced to 30 months in a federal prison. He’s also trying to change, and started with vertical gastrectomy and lost 175 pounds, not even close to the amount of pot with which he was caught.
3. Alonzo Spellman
When Alonzo Spellman was 15, he was 6’3″, 250-pounds. and after playing at Ohio State, he made himself eligible for the ’92 NFL draft. Mike Ditka made the 20-year-old physical beast the Bears’ first-round pick, 22nd overall. But despite all his promise, Spellman was too into the party scene, women, rolling and spending, fighting with teammates, and the law. Problems also came front and center at the end of 1996 when he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Though treatable with medication, Spellman refused to take it, a common problem with people who don’t understand such diseases. Sadly, much of his $10 million plus is gone, and in 2014, he was arrested for spitting on a police officer. Let’s hope Spellman is able to get the help he needs.
2. Lawrence Taylor
If you take what Vince Young did at college and multiplied it by 1 million, it doesn;t even begin to describe how awesome Lawrence Taylor was at the professional level. The ex-New York Giant line backer was a ten-time All-Pro, 2 time Super Bowl champ, NFL MVP, 3 time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and FORGET ALL THAT. Watch video and you’ll see a Bengal Tiger on the field who could chase down any player, sack anyone, and dominate any game. But the man who was voted as the 3rd Greatest Player in the NFL has has mutilated his reputation and accolades. He is almost broke, faced cocaine addiction, terrible investments, and tax evasion. In 2011, Taylor plead guilty to third-degree statutory rape for allegedly having sex with a minor. He lives in Florida with his third wife, and it’s really unbelievable how far he’s fallen.
1. Terrell Owens
Former NFL superstar Terrell Owens, now mired in debt, was one of the most polarizing players in NFL history. The future Hall of Famer had earned around $70 million but lost most of his fortune spending extravagantly on his many homes and failed real estate ventures.
In 2011, he appeared before child support courts saying that he has no means of income because he stopped playing in the NFL. Funny thing is if he ever really looked in the mirror and didn’t see what he wanted to see and checked his ego, it wouldn’t have wrecked him.
Today, TO hosts a podcast called Timeout With T.O. with comedian Alonzo Bodden and Rob Cesternino, formerly of Survivor. He’s also unveiled a new men’s fashion sports line that he hopes will grow into a source of income for him.
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