The wealth of professional football players is being put into clearer perspective like never before. It may not be new to everyone, but it is an idea that seems absurd to the general public. How can someone who gets paid millions of dollars for a number of years, retire and almost immediately become broke.
“It’s easy,” former safety for the Dallas Cowboys Darren Woodson said to a group of young journalists at SMU last Wednesday. “The agent gets his three percent off the top. Uncle Sam is taking another 40 percent, off the top. Then you have living expenses and family. I’d say family is by far the worst because they are greedy.”
The reality is that the average life span for an NFL career is less than four years. According to Sports Illustrated 78 percent of NFL players were bankrupt or in a financial crisis in 2009.
“[Football players] have always been catered too and people have been kept from you,” Woodson said. “So you don’t really get to experience the real world and what’s really going on.
The one thing about being an athlete you are always in that world of not knowing. When the time comes to make a decision at the end of your career you say, ‘Well all I’ve ever been is a football player. That’s all I’ve ever known.’ That’s why certain guys go broke.”
Woodson says there are two types of athletes, both types never had money before, but one holds onto it while the other does almost everything imaginable to spend it.
“They aren’t thinking about football, the sport, being a short life,” Woodson said. “I lost relationships because I wasn’t giving out money.”
Woodson says that former teammate and Hall of Famer Troy Aikman played an intricate role in his financial stability. Aikman was the highest paid player on the roster, but for 12 years he drove the same white ford pick-up truck.
Aikman knew how to handle his money and had the guidance of a good agent. Woodson was unhappy with his agent at the time and was seeking new representation.
“[Aikman] came to me and talked to me about money,” Woodson said. “He asked me who represented me and the first thing Troy said to me was they are going to put you on a budget. You aren’t going to be able to spend all your money so understand they are going to teach you how money works. I thought that was the best piece of advice I could get.”