Rookie Symposium delivers hard messages for Cardinals rookies


There’s two sides to the life of an NFL player. One side is on the field where touchdowns are celebrated and sacks are followed by dances that might make the highlight reel.  The other side is what happens when the clock hits zero. It would be more important to learn how to live outside of the stadium than to make plays in it.

That’s what the Arizona Cardinals rookie class learned at this year’s Rookie Symposium held this past week in Aurora, Ohio according to a Kyle Odegard article on the team’s official website.

The rookies learned from second-year players about how to keep themselves in shape to survive through the end of an NFL season. The financial advice had to hit home for the rookies as well. They have signed contracts worth millions of dollars ans those millions can go away just as quickly as they come in.

Donte Stallworth spoke about his DUI and how it changed his life forever. Hopefully it serves as a cautionary tale to the rookies and makes them think twice before they go out and have a good time. We know there’s plenty of nightlife in the Phoenix metropolitan area so it could be easy to find trouble.

The two biggest takeaways the rookies should take involve money and lifestyle. These are men under the age of 25 who will be getting more money on their first game check than they may have seen in their life to that point. The question is how will they spend it.Who will be the first to buy a 2015 car? Who will be the first to throw cash around at a club like it was Kleenex? Will some of them have baby mama drama now that they have cash?

We’ve seen some athletes go horribly bankrupt after their playing days ended. According to, these former players have two things in common. They are all bankrupt and each made at least $35,000,000 playing football.

Tiki Barber was fired from NBC for breaching the morality clause in his contract. Mark Brunell lost money on real estate in Michigan and faces millions in lawsuits. Lawrence Taylor reportedly filed a false tax return. Chris McAllister went from the NFL to living in his parents basement when he went broke. Warren Sapp had multiple baby mama drama and he went under financially. Deuce McAllister had the quickest downfall after investing everything he had in a car dealership that failed.

So why does it happen?

The National Football Post tackled that same question and came away with several takeaways that rookies would be wise to learn from.

The gross amount isn’t the same as the net amount of the paycheck.

 It never fails; when my clients get their first NFL check they call me and say something is wrong. They are floored by how much is taken out for taxes and other deductions. Unfortunately, the shock doesn’t resonate long enough. I would say 90% of players have some type of direct deposit or their check gets mailed to their investment advisor and the players never see the net amount. Thus, they think they always are making more money (in gross numbers) than they actually are.

Vanity is expensive:

 I tell my friends that if I opened a specialized rim shop serving pro athletes, instead of being an agent, I would be a rich man. The same goes for custom jewelry. Unfortunately, I noticed that many athletes associate wealth with material possession. So they feel like the more they have, the richer they are. I would say 90% of all athletes are getting ripped off on auto and jewelry purchases. I had one client have a watch appraised that he thought was worth over the $20,000 that he paid for it. The appraiser valued it at $1,500. The diamonds he thought he had on the watch weren’t real. I did it to teach him a lesson. The obsession to have the latest and greatest toys, the biggest house, the newest car(s) and most expensive clothes is probably the number one wealth killer for professional athletes. As I always say, “rich people have things, wealthy people have investments”.

.Family and guilt:

It’s amazing the number of NFL players who come from single parent homes. Many grew up with the help of the entire extended family, who is usually poor. When all resources are shared in helping one another, things are copasetic. However, when the athlete starts earning there is a feeling of guilt and a desire to help those who helped him. Unfortunately, it’s never just a one-time event. Once the pipeline of fiscal aid is spread about it’s hard to turn the faucet off. It’s difficult to say “no” to the brother who is about to lose his house or the uncle who is behind on the car payment. There are ways to help the family but there is usually not a realistic plan in place to do so. I have a client who paid off his parent’s home loan of $200,000 to find out two years later they refinanced and borrowed $150,000 against the house that was once free and clear of any debt. Of course they got behind again in their payments and had little to show for the $150,000 they spent. And of course, my client was upset but he paid it off as well. After all, it’s mom and dad.

Divorce is an instant wealth killer.

50% gone! When a player retires he goes from having a structured environment (which he has had his whole life), status, fame and a steady income, to trying to figure out how to add value to the household that worked around him and his routine for the last several years. He will struggle with developing a role in his own family, the workplace and society. A lot of athletes get depressed and a near majority of them hideout in a bottle and/or on the golf course. No longer the breadwinner, many wives of NFL players have told me they feel like their husband is another child they have to take care of. Many of these situations end in divorces with no prenuptial in place.

A prenuptial agreement saves much of the headache of the last one.

You can sum up the lessons these rookies hopefully learned in this one sentence.

As bright as the lights can be in your life from playing in the NFL, there can be just as much darkness in your life when it ends.




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