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NFL History: 6 Players that went broke

From Hall of Famers to perennial Pro Bowl studs, experiencing sudden wealth can be catastrophic at a young age. Between their own poor financial decisions, family pressures, and bad actors around them, NFL history is full of players that went broke and lost everything.

Getting drafted is the first step in making NFL history. What follows is about hard work and taking chances. The better you are, the more opportunity to make life-changing money. Especially for professional athletes who reach the peak of their profession.

Unfortunately, most pro athletes go broke and many NFL stars experience financial ruin.

From Hall of Famers to perennial Pro Bowl studs, experiencing sudden wealth can be catastrophic at a young age. Between their own poor financial decisions, family pressures, and bad actors around them, NFL history is full of players that went broke and lost everything.

NFL History: How many NFL players go broke?

Many assume that making it to the big leagues practically guarantees a player will live a comfortable life for the rest of their days, making tens of millions each year. In reality, few athletes see that level of wealth, and many of the few that do experience it for a short time.

The average NFL career lasts less than four seasons, per Statista. Meanwhile, per The Los Angeles Times, the average NFL salary was $2.7 million in 2017 and that is inflated by the high-end players.

Sports Illustrated estimated in 2009 that 78% of NFL players go broke within two years after their career ends. As athletes have described, young people enter professional sports without little guidance on managing their money. As a result, countless athletes spend recklessly, give away countless sums to close family members, and are led to make poor investments.

Players who only last a few years in the league aren’t the only ones who fall into bankruptcy. In fact, many stars and even Hall of Famers have gone from being part of NFL history as the highest-paid players to being broke in a matter of years.

Warren Sapp: From All-Pro To Bankruptcy

Warren Sapp: Players That Went Broke
CHAMPAIGN, IL – DECEMBER 29: Warren Sapp #99 of the Bucs looks on from the sideline against the Chicago Bears during the NFL game on December 29, 2002 at Memorial Stadium at the University of Illinois in Champaign, Illinois. The Bucs defeated the Bears 15-0. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The No. 12 overall pick in the 1995 NFL Draft, Sapp achieved success almost instantly upon stepping foot in the NFL. A seven-time Pro Bowl selection (1997-’03) and a member of the NFL’s All-Decades Team for the 1990s, Sapp tore through opponents during a 13-year career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders.

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Vince Young – $40-Million Draft Bust

Vince Young: Players That Went Broke
14 December 2008: Quarterback Vince Young #10 of the Tennessee Titans on the sidelines against the Houston Texans in the first half on December 14, 2008 at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Thomas B. Shea /Icon SMI/Icon Sport Media via Getty Images)

When Young broke the USC Trojans’ heart in the 2006 Rose Bowl and was later selected by the Tennessee Titans with the No. 3 pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, many thought he’d make NFL history. Instead, he became one of the biggest NFL draft busts of all time and financial ruin soon followed.

Young signed a $25.74 million contract before taking the field and earned more than $40 million, including endorsements, throughout his short career. As he detailed to Sports Illustrated, though, he filed for bankruptcy in ’14. He tried to salvage his career, but the damage was already done with less than $1 million in assets and even further in debt. Between his own poor spending habits and a shady adviser, Young’s money is now gone.

Bernie Kosar – Bankrupt Owing $20-Million

Bernie Kosar: Players That Went Broke
ORCHARD PARK, NY – AUGUST 24: Quarterback Bernie Kosar #19 of the Cleveland Browns on the sideline during a preseason game against the Buffalo Bills at Rich Stadium on August 24, 1985 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

A first-round pick in the 1985 Supplemental Draft, Kosar became a part of Cleveland Browns NFL history. Meanwhile, he got to live out his dream by playing near his family in Ohio and became one of the richest players in his era. Unfortunately, as many professional athletes have learned, friends and family members will take advantage of their wealth.

Between multiple investments that backfired, his father swindling millions from him and personal debts, it all backfired. When he filed for bankruptcy in 2009, he owed millions to his ex-wife, multiple banks and former teammates, Kosar was down nearly $20 million.

Clinton Portis – Lost $50.5-Million

Clinton Portis: Players That Went Broke
LANDOVER, MD – AUGUST 22: Clinton Portis #26 of the Washington Redskins watches the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Fed Ex Field on August 22, 2009 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

Just two decades ago, Portis was one of the top running backs. Making NFL history and carrying Washington’s offense every Sunday. He became the highest-paid back in 2004 with a $50.5 million deal. Years of prolific spending on luxury items and more than $400,000 in domestic support put Portis on the brink of financial ruin. Yet, it was financial managers who nearly drove him to commit murder.

Portis shared with Sports Illustrated how a few of his financial advisors defrauded him out of millions. Fortunately, he backed away from taking revenge. Sadly, the 38-year-old is now facing charges of health care fraud. Along with several other former NFL players for fraudulent use of the NFL’s Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Plan.

Michael Vick – An NFL History Story Of Redemption

NFL History: 5 Players That Went Broke And Lost Everything
Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick during the second half of the Falcons 10-3 loss to Carolina Sunday, December 24, 2006, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

At the peak of his NFL career, there were few athletes more beloved or popular than Vick. He was one of the highest-paid athletes in sports after signing a $130 million contract in 2004. Then, everything fell apart when he was arrested for his role in a dogfighting ring.

Vick filed for bankruptcy while in Leavenworth, revealing that he owed tens of millions of dollars in debt. Making it out of that financial hold seemed impossible. Especially with no shot at endorsement money and only a small NFL contract. Yet, he pulled off what many believed would be impossible. Vick reimbursed his creditors in 2017 and now works for FOX Sports. He is also making an impact through various charities and volunteer work.

Mark Brunell – A cautionary tale on investments

Syndication: Detroit Free Press
Junfu Han via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Former NFL quarterback Mark Brunell enjoyed a successful NFL career and it all began as a fifth-round pick. Selected with the 118th overall pick in the NFL Draft, Brunell went on to became a three-time Pro Bowl selection who won Super Bowl XLIV and posted some impressive stats with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Washington Commanders and others.

However, a bankruptcy finding revealed in 2010 that Brunell had nearly $27 million in liabilities. In the filings, he stated that he and his wife had a combined take-home income each month of $8,780, with monthly expenditures of $24,879.

Brunell, along with former teammates, faced multiple lawsuits against their company Champions LLC. It failed to make repayments of a $2.2 million loan, in addition to an unpaid $1.1 million loan with Select Bank in Michigan. Brunell lost more than $50 million because of failed investments in multiple companies, including Whataburger, which burned through his savings and left him severely in debt.

Years later, Brunell is starting to turn things around. After serving as the head coach for the Episcopal School of Jacksonville (2013-’20), Brunell now serves as the Detroit Lions quarterbacks coach.