So congratulations, you’ve made it into the NFL. All your football dreams have come true, and you’re about to make more money than you’ve ever imagined. You would think that you’d try to be responsible with this money, right? Maybe that’s what these NFL stars had planned — but unfortunately, their ventures didn’t exactly work out. Here’s how they managed to burn through their millions and eventually lose just about everything.
The Tennessee Titans quarterback was a powerhouse during his stint in the NFL, earning a $25 million contract for his talents. Seven years after he signed that contract, however, Sports Illustrated reported that he had declared for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. At the time, his assets were roughly between $500,000 and $1 million — which paled in comparison to the $1 million to $10 million he had amassed in debt.
The main crux of Young’s financial woes had to do with a string of bad investments, and putting all of his trust into his financial advisor and uncle. But a lot of the blame can also be placed on Young’s frivolous spending. For example, apparently he had a habit of spending $5,000 per week at the Cheesecake Factory.
Many people consider Terrell Owens to be one of the best wide receivers to ever grace a football field, but that doesn’t mean he knows how to adequately handle his money. The former Dallas Cowboy told all when he appeared on Dr. Phil in 2012, explaining how he lost the $100 million that he had earned throughout his career.
Unfortunately, Owens placed his money in a series of bad investments ($2 million in electronic bingo, for instance), which capped off dramatically when the 2008 financial market crash happened, affecting millions of people. In addition, he lent a lot of money to family and friends, and today he still has to pay child support to four different women.
The situation Michael Vick got himself involved in is hard to discuss, and yet it’s something that people will always sadly associate with his legacy. After playing multiple transcendent seasons for the Atlanta Falcons, it was discovered that the quarterback had gotten himself involved in illegal dogfight operations.
The Falcons then tried to recover the near-$20 million bonuses they had paid him in previous years, claiming he’d used that money to finance his illegal activities. Eventually they recovered most of it, and one year later Vick was forced to file for bankruptcy. At that point he owed creditors $17.6 million — however, he finally managed to pay off nearly all of it by the year 2017.
Sports Illustrated reported that Clinton Portis’ eight year, $50.5 million contract with the Washington Redskins back in 2004 made him the highest-paid NFL player of all time. Seems like a pretty great start to a career, and everything went rather swimmingly for most of his time in the league. But there was strife looming around the corner where he least expected it.
His financial advisors didn’t do a great job keeping his assets in check, and by year 2015 Portis had declared bankruptcy. In 2017, it was reported that he was living in a two-bedroom apartment in Northern Virginia. Portis reflected on his dealings with his former advisors: “The complication begins because you don’t understand it. You don’t know what they’re saying, but you just get involved.”
Throughout his respectable career as a running back for the New York Giants, Tiki Barber made $25 million. By the time he retired, he was so beloved that NBC hired him to be a sports analyst and talk-show host. Alas, everything came crashing down after that, when it was discovered that he was having relations with Traci Lynn Johnson, a 23-year-old intern at the office.
Ginny Cha, his wife of 13 years, wasn’t too pleased about that, and neither was NBC, who fired him under contractual grounds of a morality clause. In the hefty divorce settlement, it was reported that Barber was struggling to come up with money to pay her — and then of course, there were child support payments as well.
JaMarcus Russell is widely considered by football fans to be one of the biggest busts in NFL history. Coming off an exceptional college football stint at LSU, the promising quarterback was selected first in the 2007 NFL draft by the Oakland Raiders. That came flanked by a fat $61 million contract. The only problem was, Russell didn’t seem to have that “it” quality in the big leagues like he did in college.
Although he was now rich, he couldn’t really play with the big boys, and two years later he was out of the league. Now, you might think that at least he still had plenty of money saved up from the contract, but unfortunately, this would not come to pass. Russell’s spending habits were said to be even worse than his playing habits, and he blew through it all surprisingly quickly.
Ray Rice’s first chapter in the NFL was a fantastic one, becoming the second all-time leading rusher in Baltimore Ravens history. But in 2014, after playing in the league for six years, his time to shine came to an abrupt halt. An elevator camera caught a disturbing video of him attacking his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer — and that was the beginning of the end.
Not only was Rice’s contract with the Ravens terminated, but his endorsement deals with companies like EA Sports and Nike also disappeared. Then, of course, there were all the legal fees he had to pay, which basically ate away at most of the money he had left.
Mark Brunell, the former quarterback and Super Bowl champion, made about $50 million throughout his impressive 18-year football career. Like many NFL players who ended up losing their fortunes, he opted to invest his money into various companies that seemed promising at the time. But out of the nine businesses Brunell poured his money into, five went bankrupt.
Most notable of these losses was Champion LLC, a real estate investment company that suffered heavily from the market crash. The former football star also invested in a hamburger restaurant chain called “Whataburger,” yet another venture that didn’t really work too well for him, leading him to declare bankruptcy in 2010.
There were two main reasons Travis Henry was unable to hold on to his $20 million fortune. One of them had to do with child support fees that amounted up to an estimated $170,000 a year. This was due to Henry having had 11 children with ten different women. The other issue directly affecting his ability to maintain his finances had to do with illicit substances.
After failing multiple tests for illicit substances, Henry ended up being released from the league — but his troubles didn’t end there. He was later arrested for using funds towards drug trafficking, leading to a three-year stay in prison. Years later, he was jailed once again for falling behind on some of his child support payments.
Dermontti Dawson followed a fate common to NFL players whose bank accounts dwindled, having placed his money in the faith of companies that failed miserably. In Dawson’s case, he’d put his faith in real estate: “I certainly wish things had turned out differently,” said the Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Famer to NBC Sports.
Dawson blamed the loss in large part on the withering “economic conditions,” but he also dug a bit deeper into how things went down. He continued, “I own non-controlling minority interests in the entities which own the real estate, left me with limited options.” In 2010, the former Pro-Bowler declared for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, due to the $69 million in liabilities he owed to business partners, with only $1.5 million in assets.
Chris McAlister got drafted by the Baltimore Ravens as the 20th century was coming to a close, and in the coming years he showed the viewers of the new millennium how talented he was. A three-time Pro-Bowler, the cornerback eventually ended his NFL career having earned a whopping $45 million. By contrast, by the time 2011 rolled around, it was reported that McAlister was living with his parents.
His folks were providing him with “basic living expenses,” because he was already overwhelmed by other payments, which included his $11,000 monthly child support obligations. You might notice this amount is nothing compared to the millions he made, which goes to show just how big of a spender he was.
William Perry’s nickname “The Refrigerator” might be one of the most recognizable of all time — and it reflected appropriately on the way he hulked over his opponents, easily tackling them. A strong defensive tackle for the Chicago Bears in the ’80s, he made tons of money from contracts and endorsement deals. But things would later take a sad turn.
Perry became a diabetic, developed an illness called Guillain-Barré Syndrome, and apparently got into some trouble with the IRS as well. In 2011, Perry announced to the world that he was broke. This was an unfortunate result of the mountain of debt he owed in medical bills along with his IRS payments. To add insult to injury, he was forced to auction off his beloved 1985 Super Bowl ring.
The usual culprits were at it again when it came to former Detroit Lions defensive tackle Luther Elliss. He made at least $11.6 million during his time in the NFL in the late ’90s, but by 2010 he was getting donations from his local church group. This was because he had declared for bankruptcy in 2009, after making some ill-advised business choices.
Elliss explained the story of his losses to Deseret News: “Most of it was bad investments, good money chasing bad money, trying to save it instead of cutting your losses. Before we knew it, I put up the houses and guaranteed the loans.” Naturally, those loans came due, and the payments Elliss had to make to the banks sank him under.
Andre “Bad Moon” Rison made such an impact in the NFL that he was offered a contract worth $17 million with the Cleveland Browns back in the ’90s. As a five-time Pro-Bowler and Super Bowl champion, things were looking pretty good for the wide receiver. But as you probably can guess, his bank account would eventually shrink.
It was reported that Rison spent hefty sums of money after retirement, including having purchased $1 million worth of jewelry. Eventually, the consequences of his countless years of spending came back to bite him. When you add the child support payments into the mix, a 2007 bankruptcy declaration was waiting for him.
When Bernie Kosar signed a 1985 contract with the Cleveland Browns worth $6 million, he knew he should put it somewhere safe. The quarterback ended up entrusting his own father with the money, which to most people would seem harmless enough. However, this wasn’t the case for Kosar, who claimed that his father instead used the money to buy cars and pay off his mortgage.
Between the money he’d entrusted to his father, and other unrequited loans he gave friends and family over the years, Kosar lost around an estimated $15 million. By the time 2009 came around, Kosar filed for bankruptcy, finding himself nearly $19 million in debt.
To most people in the world, $70 million is the kind of money that would last a lifetime, and even be around for future children and grandchildren to enjoy as well. But not so for former New Orleans Saints running back Deuce McAllister. He managed to jet through it all in one year. Yes, you read that correctly: $70 million, gone in one year.
But even after all that, he decided to start his very own Nissan car dealership. This new venture ultimately put him $7 million in debt. McAllister’s car dealership eventually would end up filing for bankruptcy, leading him to later get sued by both Nissan and Whitney National Bank for the money he owed them.
Here’s a NFL Baltimore Colts legend from the ’60s who was one of the first legendary NFL players to lose all his money. Also known as “The Golden Arm” and “Johnny U,” he held the record for 53 years for most consecutive games in which he threw for a touchdown. Over the years, Unitas developed bonds with multiple business partners, undoubtedly hoping to grow his wealth.
Unfortunately, the opposite effect took place. Unitas took out a multi-million dollar loan to purchase a promising circuit board manufacturing company — but the company didn’t yield substantial returns. In 1991, he was unable to pay the bank back for the loans they gave him, and he was then forced to declare for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Before there was LaDainian Tomlinson, the original “L.T.” was Lawrence Taylor, often considered to be one of the most feared linebackers of all time. The former New York Giant and ten-time Pro-Bowler made an estimated $50 million over his career, an amount that should’ve been conserved for many long years to come.
Unfortunately, Taylor was a very liberal spender, and it was also said that he had a big problem with certain illicit substances. This wore down his bank account, but the straw that broke the camel’s back was the IRS discovering that he was committing tax fraud. Taylor had no choice but to file for bankruptcy.
When Dan Marino saw a hologram of Tupac Shakur materialize at the Coachella Music Festival even though the rapper had passed away over a decade earlier, he got inspired. The legendary ex-quarterback of the Miami Dolphins decided to invest heavily in the company that produced the technology, Digital Domain Media Group — to the tune of 1.6 million shares, to be exact.
This company was actually founded by iconic Oscar-winning filmmaker James Cameron, and it had produced the special effects for Titanic and Transformers. Seemed like a promising investment, right? Well, not quite. The company actually ended up going bankrupt, making Marino’s initial investment, which was worth $14 million, worth close to nothing.
Warren Sapp is best known for being a Hall of Fame-caliber defensive tackle, winning a Super Bowl, and playing multiple seasons for both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Oakland Raiders. Unfortunately, another part of his legacy is what ended up happening to his $40 million fortune.
Let’s just say that Sapp is one guy who enjoys his material possessions. From $6,000 worth of Jordan shoes, to a $1,200 lion-skin rug, to a $2,250 watch, he often used his paychecks towards lavish accessories. When he filed for bankruptcy in 2012, it was reported that he was $6.7 million in debt. Eventually he was forced to sell a lot of his assets, including his 15,000 square-foot mansion.
Even while Charlie Batch was still throwing Hail Mary passes for the Pittsburgh Steelers, he was already interested in investing his money. At the time, like so many other NFL players who followed a similar trajectory, he believed that his actions would ultimately help his fortune grow.
Unfortunately, the two-time Super Bowl champion got hit hard by the Great Recession, and most of his real estate investments fell through. That left him unable to pay the mortgages either. In 2011, Batch had a handful of assets worth $2.3 million, but they were four times less than the liabilities he owed. He too was eventually forced to declare bankruptcy, after defaulting on 25 properties.
Nicknamed “Rocket”, Raghib Ismail made his mark in the ’90s NFL scene as a quick wide receiver and kick returner for multiple teams. Over his career, it was estimated that he made around $18 million. But a series of bad investments caused him to lose nearly everything. In the case of Rocket, he seemed to have a flair for the flashy businesses, including a knock-off Hard Rock Café called Rock n’ Roll Café.
And then there was the cosmetic procedure he invested in, which was said to help people absorb oxygen better into their skin. He also put his money into a movie, a record company, and a handful of other ventures. As you can probably guess, none of them panned out, and he lost almost all of his investments.
Not to be confused with the active three-time Pro-Bowler running back, his father Mark Ingram Sr. was the wide receiver who helped the New York Giants win the 1991 Super Bowl against the Buffalo Bills. He then got into his share of financial (and legal) issues when his career was up in 1996.
Ingram got involved in a money-laundering scene and also tried to defraud the IRS. Once he got caught, he was sentenced to seven years in prison. In addition to his sentence, he was obligated to pay $250,000, which took another hefty chunk out of his bank account.
Muhsin “Moose” Muhammad, an NFL wideout who enjoyed a successful career on teams like the Carolina Panthers and the Chicago Bears, proved to have far less success when it came to credit cards. It was reported that Muhammad ran his Visa Business Rewards credit card so deep into debt that Wachovia Bank sued him.
The two-time Pro-Bowler was forced to then sell his house to pay off this debt, leaving him with considerably less than he had before. However, he eventually managed to clean his finances up a bit, and was able to co-found Axum Capital Partners, a private equity firm where he works today.
Those who know their college football history will definitely remember Archie Griffin, a two-time Heisman Trophy winner for Ohio State (the only player ever to win it twice). However, he also had a stint playing in the NFL after he’d finished school.
Drafted in the first round by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1976, he received a nice contract, but it didn’t reflect on his impact on the pro field. In fact, he only scored seven touchdowns for the entirety of his seven-year career. Once he retired, he put the money he had into a shoe business. When that venture failed in 1982, he declared bankruptcy.
Sources: Mind Your Dollars, Go Banking Rates, The Sportster