In 2009 Sports Illustrated released an explosive report that contextualized what we all suspected: a lot of NFL players are really bad with money. In fact, after just two years of retirement, 78 percent of NFL players find themselves bankrupt or under significant financial stress. How the heck does that happen?
The Bleacher Report says there are a myriad of contributing factors that lead to this broke epidemic including poor spending habits, ill-advised investments, survivor’s guilt and exorbitant child support payments can land the biggest revenue generators in money trouble. This can be exacerbated once they leave the league, voluntarily or involuntarily.
This isn’t everyone’s story though.
Josh Vaughan, 36, a former running back who got signed to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2009 among other teams over the course of five years, turned to a career in financial services after realizing his dream of playing in the league full time probably wouldn’t be a reality.
“I was a player who was not always on a roster, I had to fight to make the roster every year,” Vaughan told ESSENCE. “There were some years I got cut, some years I was practice squad, some years I was on active roster. So because my career was always in flux, I couldn’t depend on football to comfortably retire me.”
Vaughan got picked up by the Atlanta Falcons in 2012 and after playing for a full year, he realized he needed to make a different move for his financial security.
“Since college I’d done internships in finance, so I had that foundational understanding. So after my contract with the Falcons was up and I wasn’t getting a call from them or another team to keep playing, I had to make a tough decision.”
He was offered a job with a financial firm as a certified financial planner and hasn’t looked back.
“I still wanted to play. Man, I love football. I was still training, but I had to also face the fact that this could be it.”
Marques Anderson can relate to experiencing an “a-ha” moment that signaled the beginning of the end of his NFL career.
Anderson,43, was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the third round of the 2002 NFL Draft and went on to play for the Oakland Raiders, Denver Broncos, and San Francisco 49ers.
Despite enjoyed a successful career in the league, he decided to exit after just five years of playing. The reason? He wanted something more fulfilling.
“I always saw myself kind of outside of football, and I did great playing. I was Green Bay Rookie Of The Year. I was up for Pepsi Rookie Of The Year when I came into the league, and I did really well, and I loved football. But there was something lacking. There was something that I wanted to experience outside of football that was a little bit more intellectually stimulating, but then also where I could have a full expression of really creating solutions to problems that I saw in the world.”
He was able to make a clean transition into social entrepreneurship when he founded the World Education Foundation (WE) in 2009 while writing his Master’s thesis for the Adult Learning and Global Change program at Linkoøping University in Sweden. WE’s mission is bridging the gap between academia, technology and implementation in local communities around the world.
“I’ve been able to spread my mission across 80 countries while also continuing to invest in projects I believe in. Although I don’t regret my time playing in the league, I’m glad I focused on life and financial security outside of it.”