By Vince Agnew, Player Engagement Insider
The NFL Draft changes the lives of 253 collegiate student-athletes in the blink of an eye. Ready or not, the players and those close to them are served a fresh plate full of responsibilities.
Professional athletes falling into the perils of bankruptcy is a well documented topic, however there are countless stories of players making the most of their financial gains to set themselves and their families up for success.
This week in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, the NFL kicked off its third-annual Personal Finance Boot Camp with the Atlantic Ocean as the backdrop. Twenty-eight current and former players gathered to educate themselves on various topics geared toward creating and maintaining generational wealth.
Among those players are veteran defensive backs Eric Berry (Kansas City Chiefs) and Brandon Flowers (Kansas City Chiefs, LA Chargers). The two sweat, bled, studied and went through the gauntlet together holding down the Chiefs’ defensive secondary as teammates for four seasons (2010-2013). Now they are studying in a different setting, each looking to learn from their experiences and gain the base of knowledge to successfully execute a financial game plan.
In 2007, Flowers was a kid living out his dreams, enjoying a successful collegiate career with the Virginia Tech Hokies. In 2008, the Chiefs made him their second-round Draft selection and at that moment things would have to be different—not in terms of athletic performance, but in financial savvy.
Flowers spoke about the good, in that he could live a comfortable lifestyle instead of surviving check to check as he did in his childhood. But for him the biggest positive came after receiving his second contract when he was able to purchase homes and a car for his parents and sister—something that meant everything to him.
Flowers also spoke about the bad, how he instantly felt like he had to grow up because of the pressure he faced to bail extended family members out of tough financial situations.
He credits former NFL defensive back Patrick Surtain, who was with the Miami Dolphins at the time, for helping to mentor him through the fray of the potential financial pitfall. But he also said that the educational backing from an event like this year’s Personal Finance Camp would have been invaluable.
“I would have been more aware,” Flowers said. “I would have been more aware of what kinds of stock and bonds that I was put in. Picking up a balance sheet and really understanding. I know where every single dollar is going now because of camps like this.”
Berry, the NFL’s 2015 Comeback Player of the Year and five-time Pro-Bowl selection, could have easily been on the first jet to (insert your favorite tropical location), but he is here for many of the same reasons as Flowers.
“I just wanted to elevate,” he said. “It’s just me wanting to grow and learn more outside of football. I looked at the curriculum and saw there were a lot of interesting things and all of them pertain to me.”
Flowers, who also attended last months NFL Business Academy at the University of Michigan, remembered early in his career pretending to know what the formulas, large words and different financial lingo meant, but he actually had no clue.
Now, with mentorship and a good support group he is clued in and asking valuable questions that he and other players can learn from. However, he still easily relates to the players who may not have that base of knowledge yet and do not want to put themselves on the spot asking questions.
“The cool thing is that they offer one-on-one time with financial professionals here,” he explained. “Some guys are shy and don’t want to ask questions out in the open. You can go get individual time for an hour and become fully aware of what is going on. You can update your portfolio and they make long-term projections so that you know exactly where to be in certain years of life to financially sustainable.”
Berry agreed on the complexity of financial planning, but remarked about the complexity of preparing for a game at the professional level with the countless moving parts it contains. He stated that if guys are able to grasp all those disciplines and concepts on the field, then understanding in a different arena can be achieved when one is truly applying themselves.
“Taking that time to invest in yourself is something major, and it is free,” Berry said. “It may seem hard to find the time to make it here but the NFL makes it convenient. They pack it into one week, and put you in a really nice resort. It is easy to register, easy to check into the hotel, the classes are convenient to get to and we get fed in between. You don’t have to do anything but show up and be ready to learn.”
Although each player in attendance is at a different place on the journey towards creating and preserving generational wealth, they each have the chance of achieving it because of the unique opportunities that professional football has presented. With great power comes great responsibility. So, Flowers, Berry and many others are making the right steps this week to take ownership of their financial standing and put their families in a better place for generations to come.