It has become a subject of a plethora of articles, investigative reports and television specials. National Football League players who cash in on millions of dollars from contracts, endorsement deals and other business opportunities have gone from riches to rags for a variety of reasons after they retire. The National Bureau of Economic Research released a report in August of 2015 that claimed that roughly 16 percent of NFL players are forced to declare bankruptcy at some point during the twelve years after they had retired from active duty. Several factors played into why these players went broke following their NFL careers.
Former Cleveland Browns Bernie Kosar is a beloved figure in northeast Ohio, a player who still makes appearances on local radio stations and during certain broadcasts that are produced by the Browns. Kosar theoretically should have been able to retire comfortably following his days in the NFL, but that was not the case due to business decisions and personal problems that he has had to deal with over the years. The former signal-caller may not be living the life that he envisioned once he was finished playing, but Kosar would have to be considered to be one of the lucky ones when you examine the fates of other former players.
Far too many former NFL players went from living in mansions and being able to, in their eyes, buy happiness to finding themselves behind bars. O.J. Simpson chose to waste his second chance at freedom and a new life, and he will never again have an opportunity to reclaim his riches when he is a free man.
Every up-and-coming NFL player should remember these riches-to-rags examples before they think about buying cars and homes that, years down the road, may not be worth much to them.
The truth of the matter is that former Cleveland Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar should have been set for life. He made millions of dollars as a NFL player and the beloved athlete could have, at worst, made a solid living as an employee of the Browns following his career. Kosar lost it all during the 2000s, as poor business decisions, the collapse of the real estate market and regrettable stock market decisions found the former quarterback buried in millions upon millions of dollars in debt. He reportedly only had $44 in his checking account when he filed for bankruptcy in 2009. Salt was poured into an open wound when Kosar was fired as a preseason Browns analyst after he hit out at then-St. Louis Rams backup quarterback Kellen Clemens. Kosar and the Browns have since kissed and made up and the hope moving forward is that he has learned how to be wiser with his money.
Terry Tautolo played in the NFL for nine seasons and was a solid player. Problems stemming from several issues, including concussions that he suffered during his playing days, resulted in Tautolo living on the streets after he retired. Former teammates and his former head coach Dick Vermeil sprung into action upon learning of Tautolo's state, and Vermeil along with the NFL Players Association helped Tautolo get back on his feet. Tautolo has, among other activities, worked with children who are living with autism since receiving help.
Former running back Travis Henry had three vices that saw him go from riches to rags: He (allegedly) had unprotected sex with multiple partners, he put certain hobbies ahead of his NFL career, and he used marijuana. All three turned a running back who was set to make over $20 million off of one contract into a broken shell of his former self who was sent to prison due to his involvement in a drug trafficking case. Things could have gone worse for Henry in that his three-year sentence could have been tripled if not for the mercy of the court. Along with that case, Henry has reportedly fathered at least 11 children with 10 different women. Wow.
The first Mark Ingram from this football family to play in the NFL was a popular figure among fans of the New York Giants. Ingram was a wide receiver for the Giants team that stunned the Buffalo Bills to win Super Bowl XXV. It was less than two decades after that monumental evening that Ingram was sentenced to seven years behind bars because of his involvement in a case that included charges of money laundering and also fraud. Ingram earned additional time in prison when he thought it wise to jump bail just so that he could watch his son, Mark Ingram Jr., play in the 2009 Sugar Bowl.
Former defensive tackle Warren Sapp is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He had a great job analyzing football for the NFL Network. Sapp reportedly made over $82 million during his playing career. All of that, minus the plaque that honors him in Canton, is now gone. Sapp reportedly had hundreds of dollars in his bank account when he filed for bankruptcy in 2012, and it was later learned that he owed over $6.5 million in debts. The first half of 2015 was not much kinder to Sapp, who has thus far been involved in a prostitution case and an incident that resulted in the former player facing domestic violence charges. Sapp has reportedly defeated his bankruptcy issues, but the life that he once had is now but a thing of the past.
Those running the Minnesota Vikings likely believed in 1980 that the team had a cornerstone of its offensive line in guard Brent Boyd, who was a standout player as a rookie. Life and fate, it turns out, had bigger plans for Boyd. Boyd survived in the NFL through seven regular seasons, but the damage that he took as a pro football player impacted him into his retirement. He has publicly talked about his battles with brain damage and also about the times that he lived homeless. Boyd is now a well-known advocate for retired pro football players and he has testified before Congress about the struggles many like him have faced after retiring from the NFL.
A first-round pick and a defensive back who once signed a contract worth over $50 million, former Baltimore Ravens star Chris McAlister was a riches-to-rags story in September of 2011. It was then when McAlister, while in the middle of a child support battle, claimed that he was broke beyond broke, to the point that he was living with his parents in order to survive. McAlister has since made a return to NFL sidelines, this time as a coach. He has twice interned with the coaching staff of the Buffalo Bills. NFL coaches can make a lot of money, Mr. McAlister. Save up.
Dexter Manley was, in his prime, a nightmare for quarterbacks around the NFL. Manley was also a man haunted by drug addictions, issues that resulted in the defensive end being banned from the NFL in 1991. His problems followed him after he played his last down in the league, as Manley sold a Super Bowl ring so that he could fund a cocaine habit. He even, through his own admissions, found himself homeless in his hometown for a time. The NFL Network has featured the rise and fall of Manley in an edition of the popular A Football Life series. That program made its debut on September 25, 2015.
NFL riches-to-rags stories don't get much sadder than that of Stanley Wilson Sr.. Wilson was so lost to a cocaine addiction during his NFL career that he missed playing in Super Bowl XXIII with the Cincinnati Bengals because he was found high on the drug the night before the game. Being banned from the NFL could not help Wilson stabilize his life. He was sentenced to 22 years in prison in 1999 after he robbed a house just so that he could help feed the drug habit that had forever altered his life. Wilson may one day get clean, but the riches that he could have had as a pro athlete will never be recovered.
A member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Mike Webster could have gone down as one of the best centers to ever play the position. The former member of the Pittsburgh Steelers has instead become a talking point in discussions regarding player safety and brain injuries that NFL players suffer. Webster was left reeling from brain injuries and psychological disorders following his NFL career. He was without a home at times even though former teammates offered to help him. Webster died at the age of 50, but his legacy and story will live on. He is one of the former players portrayed in the upcoming movie Concussion, which is set to be released on Christmas Day 2015.
Sam Hurd was once a promising wide receiver with the Dallas Cowboys who burned the New York Giants during a Sunday Night Football contest back in the fall of 2007. Multiple legal problems ended his career in December 2011, though, and any NFL money that Hurd once had in the bank has been spent on other activities and court cases. Hurd was just 28-years old in November of 2013 when he received a prison sentence of 15 years after he was found guilty of conspiring to distribute illegal drugs across multiple states. That romp he made against the Giants in front of a national television audience has to feel like a lifetime ago for Hurd.
It can only be estimated how much money Art Schlichter has stolen, gambled away, stolen and then gambled away during his adult life. The quarterback out of Ohio State was the fourth overall pick of the 1982 NFL Draft, but the money he received from being such a high draft selection only poured fuel onto the fire that was his gambling addiction. Schlichter was out of the NFL by 1987 and any money that he had made from pro football had been squandered before he was sent to prison in 2012 because of his involvement in a sports-ticket scam.
Even a casual football fan who stumbled upon this piece after accidentally clicking on a link is likely somewhat familiar with the life and times of Ryan Leaf. Leaf was the second overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, but he was a mess as a player and as a person before he ever took his first professional snap. Leaf was out of the league four years after he was drafted and he has since found himself in prison multiple times. Among his many issues have been addictions to substances such as painkillers. Leaf is a free man, one regarded as one of the worst busts in the history of the NFL.
The truth of the matter is that Aaron Hernandez could be the ultimate riches-to-rags story in the history of the NFL. A proven commodity with All-Pro talent, Hernandez was well on his way to making around $100 million in NFL salaries and endorsements when it was learned that Odin Lloyd, an associate of Hernandez, had been murdered in June of 2013. Hernandez's mansion was converted to a tiny cell located in a maximum security prison after he was found guilty of that crime, and he has also been accused of committing at least two other murders. The massive house, the luxury cars, and the millions of dollars are all gone. What a waste of talent and of a life that could have been something positive.
How is it that a popular athlete such as O.J. Simpson could get involved in a burglary case roughly a decade after he was found not guilty of murdering two innocent people? For starters, Simpson was, as of 2007, on the hook for the majority of the $33.5 million judgment against him that stemmed from a civil suit which followed the murder trial. Simpson was in the news that same year because of his involvement with an alleged robbery that occurred at a Las Vegas hotel. Simpson claimed that he was attempting to retrieve his memorabilia, but luck was not on his side this time around. A lengthy jail sentence has since been reduced and Simpson could be out of prison before the end of the decade. He will have little from his previous life, if anything at all, once he is released.