ESPN recently aired a documentary entitled “Broke” as part of their “30 For 30” Series commemorating their 30th year of sports programming. The documentary profiles dozens of high profile professional athletes who, after earning millions of dollars during their playing days, now find themselves retired from their sports and for all practical purposes, completely broke.
Several of my former NFL teammates were profiled. Although each shared the unique details of their own financial demise, some common themes emerged: sudden wealth, outlandish spending, expensive entourages, massive mortgages, multiple children to support, financial mismanagement, poor advice, crooked advisors, failed investments, and divorce. Many outcomes became pathetically predictable from the outset as athletes described their lust for expensive cars, lavish vacations, and regular $10,000 nights at the clubs.
But I was truly surprised at the empathy I felt toward many of these guys as they gave voice and emotion to their very human stories. Quite a few admitted to being made to feel obligated to be overly generous with friends and family members. Others placed blind trust with their agents and advisors, never even considering the possibility that they would be taken advantage of. And a surprising number remained fiercely loyal to others long after it became painfully clear they did not have their best interest at heart. Bernie Kosar’s admission that he allowed his abusive father to continue to mismanage his financial affairs in hopes of repairing their childhood relationship was particularly difficult to watch.
Much like those in the military, we athletes live by an unwritten code which includes things like generosity, trust, and loyalty. These are admirable traits which help us to excel both on the field and in our lives. As player after player revealed how those closest to them contributed to their downfall, I could not help but recall the pain and disbelief in William Wallace’s eyes the moment he realized that Robert the Bruce had betrayed him on the battlefield in Braveheart.
To their credit, none of the players interviewed blamed others for their demise, revealing yet another trait we athletes hold dear: accountability. Most took full responsibility for their decisions and the resulting consequences. And most expressed regret at not taking the time to educate themselves about their financial and business affairs rather than blindly trusting others.
But there is an untold flip side to this documentary. Many professional athletes resisted temptation, planned wisely, and invested intelligently during their careers. As a result, many have gone on to be very successful in both their financial and personal lives after their playing days:
- John Jurkovic was a fiercely competitive nose tackle for ten years who has parlayed incredibly broad based sports knowledge, dynamic personality, and clever wit into a flourishing radio broadcasting career in Chicago.
- Fifteen year cornerback Troy Vincent followed up his Pro Bowl career by serving as the Director of Player Engagement for the NFL League Office in New York City.
- Despite the brutal economic climate, eight year veteran Jeff Novak is thriving as a real estate developer in Austin, Texas.
- Seven year NFL veteran Ty Hallock is a partner in a commercial real estate brokerage firm near his hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
- Ten year Packer and Falcon Lester Archambeau now looks after athletes’ best interests as a sports agent.
- Nine year veteran center James Campen has elevated himself from the high school ranks to one of the premier offensive line coaches in the NFL with the World Champion Green Bay Packers.
- Pro Bowl receiver Al Toon now manages his diverse investments back in his college town of Madison, Wisconsin.
How about a piece on these guys to even the score Billy Corben?
For more about former NFL Player and Pro Player Insider Don Davey click here.
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