If what Puff Daddy told us in the 90s is true, then more money does indeed equal more problems and NFL athletes are about to encounter a world of more “problems” in the coming years. As contracts skyrocket to unprecedented levels that make retired footballers roll over in their graves, the sport is cashing in on its fame and popularity like never before. Catching, running, tackling and throwing the pigskin has never been more lucrative.
The American Dream is predicated on the idea that wealth can be achieved through sheer endeavor and hard work. While there are inspiring examples of this happening, industries like the NFL are the best vehicles to keep wealth and assets in the family. Much like an investment portfolio, family names tied to a franchise can reap multiple dividends if the players and their advisers are smart enough to exploit the opportunities at hand.
Getting a head start in this business is not everything. More often than not, sheer talent and application will bring a lot of Draftees through the door to create the beginnings of a new dynasty. But as this list of 15 NFL athletes that had it good before turning professional will demonstrate, it certainly doesn’t hurt their chances or prospects.
With moneymaking money, footballers are best positioned to lay the foundations for future footballers.
15 Josh Harper
Having a father that was a 10-year veteran of the famous San Francisco 49ers will help your cause. Willie Harper, a member of the Super Bowl XVI champions, retired in 1985 after 12 years at the top level to leave for the ministry of all places. While Harper wasn't a Pro Bowler, he was a solid players for the 49ers during his time in the Bay Area.
A career decorated by a winning attitude to life as much as football encouraged his next of kin, Josh Harper, to flourish without financial pressure. The Oakland Raiders picked up Josh in 2015 as an undrafted rookie from Fresno State University before letting him go, leaving him miles behind where his father went in the sport. Sadly, he hasn't been heard from since, though we'll assume he's still working to make it back to the NFL.
His sister Qiava Harper is a premium seating executive for the Raiders, with older brother Matthew Harper working the Philadelphia Eagles as an assistant coach. Quite simply, the Harper’s love their football.
14 Chris Long
Perhaps the championship window with the New England Patriots has closed, leaving Chris Long in the unenviable position of going from the Rams to Boston without getting the on field benefit of enjoying the ultimate success, though it is entirely possible that the Patriots are dominant again this season and go on to win the Lombardi Trophy. One of the sons of Howie Long, a Fox Sports analyst who won a Super Bowl during a dozen decorated years with the Raiders, Chris saw his father shine in the limelight, even seeing him partake in a career in Hollywood. If that's not motivating then what is?
Before being released by the Rams in early 2016, Long had played eight years with the Rams, leaving a huge impact on the team before dealing with injuries over the last two years. His best years came in 2011 and 2012, as he had 13 and 11 sacks respectively, help lead a solid Rams defense that lacked support from the offense. A career resurgence under the watchful eye of Bill Belichick is definitely not out of the question, as he'll find a way to use Kong effectively.
13 Kyle Long
If the NFL can’t facilitate sibling rivalry, then the sport may as well give up. In 2013, Kyle Long came head-to-head with older brother Chris when the Bears played the Rams. With Kyle being flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, the bigger and wiser Chris intervened with a shove that started something of a melee but looked to have stopped Kyle from losing his mind. Kyle was actually drafted by the White Sox in 2008 and could have pursued a life in the MLB, given the privilege of starting life in comfortable surroundings before leaving for the University of Oregon. Money is supposed to civilize people, yet the competitive nature passed through the Long genes seems to usurp the rich lifestyle.
Kyle has only been in the league for three years, but it's arguable that he's already better than his older brother. He's made the Pro Bowl in each of his two years, while starting in every game except for one. He's provided exception protection for Jay Cutler, who should take advantage of all the time that Kyle is giving him to throw the ball!
12 Casey Matthews
Starting all the way back with H.L. “Matty” Matthews, a coach that applied himself across baseball, track and field running and boxing in the 1920s and beyond, a dynasty was created. His son Clay Matthews Sr. gave way to a new generation of football players, one of those being Casey Mathews. The free agent linebacker is the youngest of the pack, being picked up by the Eagles in 2011 before being cut by the Vikings last year. Most wealthy footballers come through as second generation, but Casey has the distinction of being third generation talent.
Casey hasn't been as successful in the league as some of his family members, but he was a decent role player for the four years he spent in the league. He was also solid on special teams, making him a valuable contributor. He started in 11 games in his last season with the Eagles, registering 1.5 sacks and 53 tackles, along with a single fumble recovery. Casey didn't make it with any teams last year and his NFL career might be over.
11 Clay Matthews III
The most famous of the modern day Matthews clan, Clay the third is cashing in big time on his talent and affinity to the Green Bay Packers with a staggering $66 million contract. The flowing blonde locks defy Clay’s ferocity on the field but the tough no-nonsense attitude has been passed down by blood, with his grandfather Clay Sr. suffering in his late age from ongoing dementia. Now Clay III is one of the richest linebackers in the NFL, opening the possibility for the next generation to have a high profile presence in the sport.
Of the entire Matthews' clan, Clay might be the most successful of the lot. He's been in the league for seven years and, in that time, he's made six Pro Bowl teams and one All-Pro team. He also was a huge part of the Packers' 2010 Super Bowl winning team, registering 3.5 sacks and 16 tackles during their run to the Lombardi Trophy. He's also an extremely versatile player, making the move to middle linebacker in 2015 and absolutely excelling there. There's no doubt that every team in the NFL would love to have him.
10 Maxx Williams
Don’t expect to cruise by if you’re a member of the Williams family. They are high earners but do it on the back of becoming high achievers. 22-year old Maxx, a name that just oozes wealth, is on the books of the Baltimore Ravens as a tight end having come through the ranks at the University of Minnesota via the infamous Gophers. Both his father Brian and grandfather Robert made the grade in the NFL, with his dad playing a decade for the Giants. Sports are apart of the Williams DNA, as his mother Rochelle played four years as a volleyball player and her brother Ron playing fullback for the Gophers in his day.
Maxx, with two x's in his name, has only been in the league for a year, but many experts are pegging him to breakout over the next couple of years. He played in 14 games in 2015, starting seven, where he did enough to considered an intriguing prospect for the Ravens. He only had 268 yards and a single touchdown, but the Ravens are still hoping he can fill Dennis Pitta's shoes as he continues to struggle with injury problems.
9 DaVaris Daniels
It’s tough to fill the boots of a legend, sometimes the father can set the bar too high for a son in sporting parlors and for DaVaris Daniels this is certainly the case. The 23-year old is flirting around as a free agent having been released from the Vikings and Patriots in 2015. The Notre Dame product has had every advantage with his dad, Phillip, having spent 15 years as a pro with the Seahawks, Bears and Redskins, likely made more than enough during his NFL career to have his family living comfortably. DaVaris admitted that he only started listening to his famous father a number of years into his College career, but it seems that advice came too little, too late.
Daniels still hasn't got into a single game in the NFL, though he'll likely hope that he can impress North of the border to get another shot in the big show. He recently signed with the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL, hoping to add to their passing attack and earn himself some looks from NFL scouts. We wish him the best in his pursuits!
8 Chris Borland
The Borland name will go down in NFL history, hopefully for the right reasons. One season and 108 tackles into his San Francisco 49ers career, Chris Borland walked away from a promising career sighting head trauma in 2014. Fortunately for Chris, his family were there as a safety net, allowing him to walk into a real estate investment business titled The Borland Group. Others that have to retire won’t always be as lucky.
While Borland only played one season in the NFL, it was enough for him to make a major impact as many fans were anticipating that he'd be one of the premier linebackers in the league. In 14 games, he started eight games and improved as the season went on. He finished with more than 100 tackles and a sack, showing glimpses of his talent before he decided to prematurely retire.
It's hard to blame Borland for retiring early. It's not an easy profession to take part in and the potential for serious injury is high. Borland had a tangible backup plan with his family and he took it. It's impossible to blame him for it.
7 Matt Simms
One of the most maligned second generation NFL players of them all, Matt Simms described growing up as son of Phil Simms as having a “little target on my back.” That was before his father became an NFL commentator, something that would have made his childhood taunting even worse. Phil was a Super Bowl winning quarterback with the Giants while Matt grew up in the afterglow of everything that success brought about. While he struggled with the mental pressures of following his footsteps, that inability to cope translated directly to his NFL career. It didn’t work out at the Jets or Bills. At 27, he might be better off taking the family coin and starting a business. Anything that isn’t in the shadow of Phil would be advisable.
Matt Simms doesn't have a lot of stats to discuss, but we'll do our best with it anyway. He's only played in four games NFL games, completing 19 of 39 passes, throwing one touchdown and one interception in the process. He managed a QBR of 61.4, which isn't something to get overly excited about. He's currently with the Atlanta Falcons, where he'll hope to main a roster spot while backing up Matt Ryan, one of the better passers in the league.
6 Nick Foles
A $3.5 million net worth is remarkable, but over at the Foles family dinner table it won’t cause people to put down their ham and turkey to ask for a handout. Nick comes from the richest of stock, with the former Eagles and current Rams quarterback being born into a household run by Larry Foles, a self-made multimillionaire through the restaurant business. Cashing in their chips for $59 million allowed Nick to live the life of the rich and famous and while his football is not setting the world on fire, the bank account is overflowing in credit.
In terms of Nick Foles' NFL career, it's currently in-flux. While Foles has made the Pro Bowl, even winning the Pro Bowl MVP, he's had a strange few years. In 2013, he was exceptional for the Eagles, before falling off a little in 2014. He was traded to St.Louis in the summer, hoping to lead the Rams back to prominence in 2015. He faltered and the Rams moved to Los Angeles. Ouch. The Rams recently drafted Jared Goff first overall, so it's obvious that Foles isn't in their future plans. If another team needs some QB depth, they'll know where to find it.
5 Andrew Luck
What an apt name for a professional footballer. Andrew Luck’s star quarterback life has been the stuff dreams are made of, living the life of an NFL franchise icon while never having to experience struggling to pay the bills. His family circumstances were described as growing up with “substantial means.” Father Oliver managed the Frankfurt Galaxy of the World League of American football and became CEO of the Houston Sports Authority after finishing a law degree and a College football career. Fast forward to a $20 million net worth for son Andrew and you've got to assume that money isn't an obstacle in this family.
While Andrew Luck didn't necessarily have a difficult upbringing, it's impossible to question the work he's put into his craft. After being selected first overall in 2012, Luck has taken the league by storm, leading the Colts to the playoffs in his first three years, even winning three games while there. Though he hasn't been able to get over the hump in the playoffs, partially due to a lackluster defense, Luck has still emerged into an elite QB in the league, leading the NFL in touchdown passes in 2014 with 40.
4 Odell Beckham Jr.
The term “rich” might be too broad for OBJ, but he certainly had a star struck upbringing surrounded by fame and fortune. LSU was his playground, growing up with two star athletes for parents to breed in him a culture of excelling in the sports arena. His mother, Heather Van Norman was a six-time All-American while his father played running back at LSU from 1989 to 1992. Be it wealth or athletic talent, Beckham has it all.
OBJ became a huge star in the NFL during his rookie season, with one particular standing out above the rest. During a Sunday Night Game against the Dallas Cowboys, Beckham made one of the nicest catches in NFL history, all while Brandon Carr was draped all over him and fouling him. Apart from that catch, OBJ has been a stud for the Giants, topping 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns in both of his seasons. The future is bright for Beckham and if the Giants brass can surround him and Eli with more talent, then the sky is the limit for the Giants offense.
3 Johnny Manziel
Don’t feel sorry for Johnny Football. Mr. Manziel might not be good enough to stay on the Cleveland Browns roster due to his extra curricular activities, but his family remains loaded. Before the domestic violence charges, the long nights out on the town and schizophrenic performances on the football field, Johnny’s great grandfather migrated to the USA from Lebanon and created a huge amount of wealth as an oil baron. That pioneering allowed the ensuing generations to flourish with sticky, thick black riches buried deep below the surface. A rags to riches story, a piece of history and perspective clearly lacking for the troubled quarterback.
In fact, many outside observers believe that Manziel's family wealth may have aided in his lackadaisical attitude. While many athletes are playing to grow their own fortune, Manziel had one without needing to play the game or risk his neck. There's no way to know if that's actually the case, but the logic does seem solid. We only really know one thing for certain, after two poor seasons in the league, Manziel is without a team and it appears that he'll be one of the biggest busts in NFL history.
2 Eli Manning
AKA golden child number two. The Giants QB comes from good stock, with father Archie playing 13 years in the NFL before becoming a successful commentator and administrator. Those paychecks set the Manning’s up sweetly and once Peyton cracked the big time, Eli did likewise in the Big Apple. Still he's managed to accumulate an impressive amount of money playing one of the most most scrutinized positions in football in New York of all places.
While plenty of the focus is on Papa John's favorite athlete, Eli has done exceptionally well for himself on the football field. After being drafted by San Diego, and refusing to play there, he was moved to the Giants, where he's become a team legend. How did he manage that? Well, by beating Tom Brady in the Super Bowl. TWICE. Most QBs are lucky if they can beat the Patriots twice in their career, let alone beating them twice in the biggest game of the year. While Eli has had some struggles during the season, there's no denying that he's one of the best clutch quarterbacks in the history of the NFL.
1 Peyton Manning
They often say the richest people are the stingiest, but for Peyton Manning, he just knows how to make the best of a good situation. Fans are divided on the Papa John’s icon and retired NFL legend, going from a young prodigy in the 90s to one of the most iconic men to have played the sport. Growing up under the same roof as Eli, Peyton had all the advantages to get to where he was. As the elder statesman, Archie Manning has created something of a football dynasty to establish the Manning name as a major money maker.
Of all the members of this list, it's likely Peyton who has managed to surpass his parents' fortune by the largest margin. On top of his aforementioned Papa John's money, Peyton has been the spokesperson for a number of companies, while receiving lucrative contract for his time in the NFL, as he's easily one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. The great Peyton Manning had a tough year in 2015, but still managed to go out on top of the game by winning Super Bowl 50 against the Carolina Panthers.