Making it into the NFL is the stuff of dreams for most college football players. They know that the chances of becoming a millionaire is substantial. But the number of players who end up bankrupt is substantial. Sports Illustrated once estimated that 78% of NFL stars have lost their fortunes.
Three factors constantly occur. Firstly, players often trust the wrong people and make awful investments in different areas. Divorces and the cost of child support are another major issue that drains athletes’ finances. Then you have the crazy lifestyle of athletes that they ‘invest’ in instead of saving for later.
Even the biggest contracts in the NFL don’t guarantee an easy life. Remember, they have to pay taxes, mortgages, and many other expenses. Today let’s take a look at 30 NFL stars who lost everything. Check out the list below via Yahoo! Finance.
30. Dan Marino
The Miami Dolphins’ quarterback was more than just a great quarterback. He was also one of the biggest cultural icons of his era. After eight All-Pro and nine Pro Bowl selections, the Hall of Famer established himself as an all-time great and appeared in movies like Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Furthermore, he earned a massive fortune during this period with over $50 million in salary alone.
However, he proceeded to lose everything when a company called Digital Domain Media Group went bankrupt. Famous for producing a hologram of Tupac Shakur at a music festival, Marino had a massive stake in this company. Shares plummeted dramatically and the legendary quarterback lost millions. He ‘only’ had $850,000 left when it all ended which meant he had to change his lifestyle dramatically.
Griffin is the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner in history, effectively making him one of the most successful college football players ever. He spent seven seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals but never made the same impact in the NFL. However, he did make a lot of money from his exploits as a professional football player. Unfortunately, he lost it all at the age of 30 after his investments failed.
It wasn’t that Griffin was a crazy spender or bought loads of houses. Instead he engaged in a six-year venture into the sneaker industry with his brother and ended up opening six stores. However, they all failed and left the brothers with debts of over a million dollars. Meanwhile, they only had assets worth $200,000 to their name. Later, Griffin worked with the Ohio State Athletic Department.
Peterson is the classic example of an NFL star who made a fortune but couldn’t pay his debts. Furthermore, he is also a great recent case study. Before he lost all of his money, Peterson was worth about $100 million. Obviously, that’s a lot of money to squander, but somehow he managed it. Throwing birthday parties with 320 guests, ice sculptures, and camel rides probably didn’t help.
Of course, a $100 million contract doesn’t take tax into account. In 2019, he failed to repay a $5 million loan, and the interest piled up. It resulted in a messy court battle after the bank called in their debt. Peterson trusted the wrong people and paid the price. Luckily, he was still an active player so he can make some money and be wiser for the future. If he was retired it could have totally ruined his life.
The father of the Alabama Heisman Trophy winner was a great NFL player in his own right. Ingram Sr. played for the Giants for several years and scored the game-winning touchdown in Super Bowl XXV. That was way back in 1991, but it was all downhill from there for the former wide receiver. However, he didn’t manage his money properly and looked for other avenues to bring in dollars when he retired.
Unfortunately, he turned to crime. A combination of defrauding the IRS and money-laundering is definitely enough to land you several years behind bars. The law caught up to him when he was hiding out in a hotel room and was just about to watch his son play on TV in the Sugar Bowl. Furthermore, as well as the jail time, they handed him a massive fine.
If you’re buying all of the seats on a plane so that you can have it to yourself, you might want to take a look at your spending habits. However, Young didn’t care about balancing the books when he was a young man, and he paid for it in later life. After enjoying six seasons in the NFL that included two Pro Bowl appearances, the quarterback left the game quite early as his life spiraled out of control.
Green Bay told him to pack his bags because he was just too much trouble. Meanwhile, his debts mounted higher and higher. One problem was that he trusted his disastrous uncle with his finances. Then he splurged on everything under the sun for himself and family members. In sum, he had no concept of saving for anything and was more interested in making it rain. But he paid the price as he lost over $10 million.
When you’re desperate enough to write to every NFL team and tell them that you’ll pay for free, then you know things are bad. But it should never have got to this stage for Russell, who signed a massive contract when he entered the NFL. The former Oakland Raiders star embraced the lavish lifestyle that came with his $61 million deal and effectively stopped trying. Finally, the Raiders released him because he was overweight and unmotivated.
Furthermore, he also had issues with codeine that didn’t help his situation. The LSU product made himself extremely unappealing in the eyes of NFL scouts. With no income and a massive mansion to pay for, Russell quickly started to struggle. In the end, he was one of the biggest draft busts in NFL history and lost everything. It was extremely disappointing from a man with a huge level of talent.
NFL players need to learn that throwing millions into massive, unsustainable mega-mansions just isn’t a good idea. Unfortunately, Detroit Lions’ legend Ellis was another athlete who fell into this trap. Furthermore, he invested like a wildman in various dubious companies including an internet provider. In the end, the two-time Pro Bowl selection declared bankruptcy after he lost at least four million dollars.
However, Ellis has rebounded since. The former defensive lineman is now a coach for the Idaho Vandals, but probably didn’t expect this when he was living the glamorous life of an NFL star. In short, athletes need to be careful with their money and lifestyle when a professional athletic career is so short. Meanwhile, having 11 children as Ellis did probably won’t help your situation.
McAllister spent his entire nine-year NFL career with the New Orleans Saints. That’s decently long for a running back as players in this position typically endure more hits. In 2005, the Saints recognized his brilliance with a contract worth up to $53.2 million. The Ole Miss star became the second-highest-paid running back in the NFL.
But he developed a very unhealthy relationship with Nissan that ended up costing him his entire fortune. The Saints RB opened his own dealership and He also lost his home after the sheriff’s office auctioned it off for $880,000. The problem was that McAllister defaulted on several loans and repayments. This also cost him dearly in other areas of his life and he lost almost everything. In the end, his $70 million fortune dropped to about $50,000.
This one is a major step back in time but also proves that crazy spending from NFL stars is nothing new. ‘Night Train’ spent 14 years in the NFL and was a seven-time Pro Bowler. While the Hall of Famer was brilliant on the field, his lifestyle outside was problematic, to say the least. His crazy habits resulted in him losing most of his fortune from the same age-old stories.
Lane developed drug problems and drank like a fish. Then some snake oil salesmen took advantage of him with some bad business deals. Furthermore, three marriages didn’t help matters because those divorce deals aren’t cheap. If you wanted to make a case study of what not to do with your money as an NFL player and compare it to the modern day, you would see very little had changed.
A Super Bowl winner with the Green Bay Packers, Rison had an outstanding career. However, he also loved the good life a bit too much. He spent over one million dollars on jewelry and millions more on flashy cars. Unfortunately, he experienced a culture of constant one-upmanship that affected a lot of players very badly. Terrible spending habits combined with maternity suits resulted in him going bankrupt.
He used to bring tens of thousands of dollars in his pockets to nightclubs just to show off and buy the most expensive bottles. But of course, this wasn’t sustainable. Overdue child support debts were the straw that broke the camel’s back. Furthermore, he admitted that he had no understanding of how taxes worked or anything to do with daily expenses. Finally, he lost around $20 million.
One of the most beloved players of his era, Perry’s life has been a rollercoaster. However, it is sadly plummeting off a cliff. He won a Super Bowl with the Chicago Bears and enjoyed a 10-season career in the NFL. A cultural phenomenon because of his massive size, Perry was a huge unit. He even appeared at WWE events and made many television appearances during his heyday. But massive problems soon arose.
Despite enjoying varied endorsement deals, Perry fell on hard times because of his lifestyle and frivolous spending. Meanwhile, he suffered from alcoholism, diabetes, and nerval inflammation. Sadly, Perry now resides in an assisted-living center and lives off of monthly social security checks because of debts to the IRS and medical bills. Furthermore, he sold his massive Super Bowl ring – the biggest ever – because he had no assets left.
Unitas went from playing semi-professional football for six dollars a game to being the biggest star in the NFL. Furthermore, he enjoyed rare longevity as his career lasted for 18 seasons and he passed for over 40,000 passing yards. One of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time, the Super Bowl winner also made 10 Pro Bowl appearances. Furthermore, he went from making almost nothing to counting millions.
The Steelers’ legendary quarterback went down the classic route of pouring an insane amount of money into poorly-conceived business ideas. Also, he guaranteed all of his loans, which made him responsible for the bills if his companies went bust. Needless to say, most of them did and he lost over six million dollars. Just don’t buy real estate in Florida. It’s simply a terrible idea.
It turns out hitting your fiancee in public is very bad for your image. In 2014, video footage of Rice committing this exact act went viral. This resulted in him losing most of his endorsements and his life spiraled out of control. We’re talking about deals with the likes of Nike and EA Sports. After an earlier two-game ban, the NFL suspended him indefinitely after the video of his crime surfaced, although they eventually lifted this.
But it effectively ended his career because no team wanted to touch him. Furthermore, after leaving the Ravens in disgrace, he never collected $10 million that he expected. Taxes, legal fees, mortgages, and shocking spending fees mounted up and he lost everything. However, he did receive a claim from the Ravens after they refused to pay him. Nonetheless, the amount of money he lost was scandalous.
There are a lot of hedge fund managers out there ready to sink their claws into NFL players. Even Elway fell foul of this in his days as a younger businessman. The Denver Broncos icon poured millions into a Ponzi scheme back in the day but lost almost all of his investment because it fell apart. Elway and his partner were two of about 65 people who invested in Sean Muller’s shady scam.
Of course, Elway is doing very well for himself these days, but he also missed a massive investment opportunity back in 1998. Broncos owner Pat Bowlen offered him a 10% stake for $15 million. He turned it down but it must be painful to look back because it would be worth about $400 million today. NFL players, both present and past, need to be so careful who they give their money to.
The one-time Pro Bowl running back was better at running on the gridiron than he was at running from the law. Henry’s career went downhill after his second season with the Buffalo Bills. Injuries decimated his ability on the playing field, but he still picked up big contracts wherever he went. But when it came to money, Henry was no Rob Gronkowski. In fact, he built up massive debts.
Henry has 11 known children by 10 women. Unfortunately, this also means that he has a lot of child welfare to pay. In sum, he has an annual bill of about $200,000. Needless to say, this fiscally irresponsible star fell behind. But then he turned to drug trafficking to garner enough cash to pay his debts. This didn’t work out, and he ended up behind bars after he lost it all.
Barber spent 10 seasons with the New York Giants in the NFL. A three-time Pro Bowler, the running back was a consistent and destructive force for the New York franchise during his time in the league. Then, when he retired, he moved into broadcasting. But that was where his troubles inadvertently began.
He decided to cheat on his wife when she pregnant with twins with a 23-year-old intern. He later married the intern but lost a lot of money because of the divorce settlement. Meanwhile, he also has to pay child support because of the kids he left behind. However, Barber rebounded and has a company in the cannabis industry amongst other business ventures. Furthermore, the tarnished star still appears on TV.
Portis enjoyed seven seasons with the Washington Redskins after playing for the Denver Broncos. A two-time Pro Bowl selection, he had superb physicality and power on the playing field, amassing over 12,000 yards in his career. Furthermore, he brought home bags of cash from a productive career that saw him make over $50 million in salaries alone. However, the age-old story of bad investments brought him to his knees.
The IRS, dependent women, and casino debts all piled up and punished Portis. Things got so back for the former NFL star that he even confessed that he considered killing his snake-oil salesmen financial advisors. Luckily for him, he was able to control this impulse. It wouldn’t have helped him regain the millions of dollars that he had lost anyway. But he paid a heavy price.
Former San Diego Chargers linebacker Merriman enjoyed three Pro Bowl seasons in his first three years in the NFL. After that, injuries took their toll long enough but he stuck around the league long enough to make millions. He also dated the reality TV and internet celebrity Tia Tequila. But it all fell apart for a variety of reasons. First of all, the mortgages on his properties began to pile up.
Then, to make things worse, legal fees entered the picture. The family of Kimberley Fattorni, a deceased Playboy employee, sued him for wrongful death. Long story short, they accused him of slipping a date-rate drug into her drink one night. But her body reacted badly to it and she tragically passed away. In the end, he declared bankruptcy because he couldn’t afford anything anymore.
A true Jacksonville Jaguars’ legend, Brunell spent six seasons with the franchise and led them to their first-ever championship game. Furthermore, he won a Super Bowl with the New Orleans Saints in 2009. The three-time Pro Bowler passed for over 32,000 yards in his spectacular career. When you’re as brilliant as Brunell was, then you’ll make millions of dollars in salary and endorsements.
Brunell’s career ended in 2011 and he ran out of money very soon after. He was down to just over five million dollars but owed $25 million in debts. In total, he lost about $50 million including several spectacular real estate busts. It turns out that plunging your cash into mansions isn’t always a good idea. Meanwhile, his Whataburger franchise also failed.
People always think houses are safe investments because you’re pouring your money into a saleable asset. Players will either rent it out and make their money back over time, or flip it for a bigger price. But you’ve got to do your research, understand what a mortgage is, and be aware of the financial picture. In sum, Batch wasn’t. He bought a whole bunch of properties and then the recession came and squeezed him for every dime in his pocket.
A two-time Super Bowl winner with his hometown team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Batch spent most of his time as a back-up. However, when the financial crisis hit, Batch couldn’t afford to pay his mortgages and lost everything. His debts rose to almost eight million dollars but he only had about $2.3 million in assets. It was a disastrous situation for the quarterback and a warning to all NFL players.
If you know about Ismail’s early professional career, then it will be a surprise to see him on this list. He rejected the NFL draft simply because the Canadian Football League offered him almost $20 million to come and play north of the border. Ismail duly obliged and spent two years with the Toronto Argonauts on the biggest contract in football before moving to the NFL, where he enjoyed 10 seasons.
He left the sport with an obscene amount of wealth but lost it all because of a series of brutal investments. Firstly, there was a religious movie, then there was a music label. He even invested in a custom calligraphy shop chain. We’re not sure why any of these seemed like good ideas but it cost him about five million dollars. When you add in all the taxes and outside expenses, it was even more.
We all know about Simpson’s legal woes. The former NFL star’s landmark murder investigation trial and subsequent armed robbery conviction years later cost him millions of dollars. After initially walked free, Simpson expected to return to his old life. However, he soon discovered that it wasn’t that easy. He became a social pariah and this severely damaged his earning potential.
Furthermore, the judge ordered him to pay over $35 million to the victims’ families of the people that he definitely didn’t murder. While he is technically in the hole for this, he may never actually pay because of Florida. State laws enable him to keep his home from creditors and enjoy his NFL pension as well as social security payments. It could have been much worse for the notorious former star.
Most men have three pairs of shoes. But Sapp had literally thousands of shoes in his warehouse-sized closet, with an estimated 2,400 pairs at one point. This should give you a snapshot of the former defensive tackle’s spending habits. He burned through money like it’s about to go out of fashion. Sapp lost a $75 million fortune.
The seven-time Pro Bowler plunged into massive debt and owed almost seven million dollars. Furthermore, NBC fired him after he tried to pick up an illegal prostitute. He lost his house as well as other saleable assets in a significant blow to his lifestyle. But you can’t keep this Super Bowl winner down as a betting agency picked him up as a podcast host in 2020.
Credit cards are the downfall of so many people. It can be so easy and tempting to just swipe your card without thinking or checking your balance. When you lose track of the interest it’s like hooking a fish. As much as you try, there’s just no way to get escape. Muhammad suffered from this exact problem. The former Carolina Panthers receiver lost control of his spending in the most drastic manner.
The two-time Pro Bowler and one-time All-Pro selection lasted for 14 seasons in the NFL. Meanwhile, he made a lot of money as one of the best in his position in the league. But his typical spending was out of control. This resulted in Wachovia Bank coming after him. They sued him and Muhammad lost a huge amount of cash. Maybe he should have kept his money under his bed. At least he would have known how much he had left.
McAlister went from signing a $55 million contract to living with his parents because he lost all of his money. You almost have to appreciate the sheer frivolity of his ability to spend money. McAlister’s marriage lasted for just three months before the divorce and he also had a child, which didn’t help matters. In the end, he struggled to pay $3000 per month in child benefits.
A Super Bowl champion with the Baltimore Ravens, the former corner played for 11 seasons in the NFL. As we previously stated, he made a fortune but his hard-living ways played havoc with his bank balance. Finally, he depended on his parents to give him an allowance for basic daily living expenses after squandering his massive fortune. It’s a unique and miserable tale.
Kosar was an excellent quarterback for the Cleveland Browns. Furthermore, he won a Super Bowl with the Dallas Cowboys back in the day. The two-time Pro Bowl selection enjoyed a lengthy career and held many records until Tom Brady came along. Furthermore, because of the longevity of his time in the NFL, Kosar made a lot of money. In fact, his millions of dollars in income should have set him up for life.
Unfortunately, Kosar lost almost everything in 2009 when he declared bankruptcy. To sum up, this was like a box-ticking exercise in bad decisions. Firstly, there was a messy divorce that cost him about three million dollars. Then there were some terrible real estate investments and finally, his steakhouse went out of business. In the end, he lost about $15 million and had only about $44 left to his name.
Many regard Taylor as the greatest defensive player in NFL history, but he definitely wasn’t the most fiscally responsible. If you had a choice between leaving your wallet on the sidewalk and giving it to Taylor to look after, the former would definitely be much safer. A two-time Super Bowl winner with the New York Giants, this linebacker was a force. But his everyday life was very controversial.
Taylor partied hard and went through cocaine like it was sugar. He even claimed that he spent $1,000 per day on drugs alone. That’s not counting his penchant for alcohol or prostitutes. Meanwhile, his company All-Pro Products went bust, while he also served house arrest for tax avoidance. Overall, Taylor’s spending habits and bad investments meant that he lost almost everything.
An obnoxious teammate but an excellent player, Owens was a superb wide receiver. Sure, he hated almost every quarterback he lined up beside him but he still made the Hall of Fame after a brilliant career. The six-time Pro Bowler was as flamboyant on the field as he was off it. Meanwhile, he made a massive fortune including an estimated $80 million in salaries from six NFL teams.
However, Owens lost almost all of his massive fortune after living too large. He spent so much money on properties that he ended up paying $750,000 per month on mortgages alone. When the housing market crashed, he couldn’t find renters. Then there was a disastrous entertainment complex in Alabama that was a hammer blow. Owens also made all of the mistakes involving jewelry and fancy cars, but high-risk investments were his biggest problem.
$70 million. That’s how much Dawson lost in disclosed career earnings. It’s a staggering sum of money, earned from a brilliant NFL career. To be able to lose a fortune that big should almost be admired because the closest most people will come to that amount of money is if they stand outside Fort Knox. However, the seven-time Pro Bowler somehow managed to do exactly that.
When a court declared him bankrupt in 2010, Dawson had debts of over $70 million. But the big problem was that he had less than $1.5 million left in his bank account. Unfortunately, you can’t just pay with a credit card and worry about it later. The housing crash decimated his fortune because the Hall of Famer unwisely put a lot of cash into unsustainable properties. To sum up, it’s the same, sad story.
Vick’s downfall was one of the most dramatic in sporting history. The former Atlanta Hawks’ superstar changed the quarterback position. However, being brilliant on the field doesn’t necessarily translate to being a great person. After a federal investigation uncovered his dog-fighting ring, Vick served almost two years in prison. Obviously, being in jail doesn’t help you raise the numbers in your bank balance.
Meanwhile, Vick lost all of his major endorsements and had to pay massive legal fees. Furthermore, he had all the mortgages, scandalous purchases, and family support that you come to expect from NFL players. He lost over $130 million before he got out of prison. After leaving jail, he found redemption with a $100 million deal with the Eagles. He cleared most of his debts but was no longer the mega-rich star of old.