Plaxico Burress has a message for the 2017 NFL Draft class: “You’re not as special as you think you are.”
The former New York Giants wide receiver penned an open letter to rookies published on The Player’s Tribune. It’s a part of his mission to educate players coming into the league about the perils and pitfalls of instant fame and wealth.
“You’re not as special as you think you are. You’re not more important than anybody else just because you play in the NFL,” Burress wrote.
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He also reflected on his own journey from winning a Super Bowl to doing time.
“I had worked my whole life to get to where I was and I threw it all away with one stupid decision,” Burress wrote of the night in Dec. 2008 where he brought a gun into a nightclub and accidentally shot himself in the leg.
Burress began carrying a gun in his rookie season. He said it gave him a false sense of security. After the shooting, he believed he was invincible.
“I’m good. I’m Plaxico Burress,” he wrote. “I’m an NFL player, a Super Bowl hero. It’s not like they’re gonna throw me in jail, right?
Burress served 22 months. He said he lost count of the nights he cried. Burress described life in prison as “basically being put in a cage for 17 hours a day”. He mopped floors, cleaned toilets, and served food in the cafeteria.
He recalled family members who he had taken care of financially turn their back on him. There was more loss to speak of.
“I learned some lessons the hard way, and that’s ok,” he wrote. “But at the end of the day, I lost two years of playing the game I love when I was in my prime. I lost millions of dollars, I lost valuable time with my wife and children. I even missed the birth of my daughter, who was born when I was in prison. I basically lost everything all because of one stupid decision.”
Burress always wants to educate incoming players about finances. He urged players to educate themselves about money management. Burress said when the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted him “they basically handed $5.5 million to a kid who never had a bank account”. He thought someone in the NFL would teach about managing his money.
Instead, the rookie symposium focused on other things.
“It felt like they spent more time teaching us about STDs and how to conduct ourselves in public than about how to protect ourselves from scams, risky investment, and other financial dangers.”
Burress didn’t blame the NFL for what happened to him.
“It was my life and my money,” he wrote. “And I should have taken the necessary steps to educated myself and protect what I had earned—and so should you.”