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Life After the NFL

October, 2016

BOSTON― Football players spend their whole lives working and training to have a shot at making the pros, yet most will spend more time in high school than in the NFL. The average NFL career right now is about four years. The focus is always on the glory of the game and very little time is spent thinking about what happens to players once they hang up their cleats.
According to a 2009 Sports Illustrated article, 78 percent of former NFL players go bankrupt or suffered financial stress after two years of retirement. A National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) study showed that 16 percent of players file for bankruptcy within twelve years of retiring. Recent stories about players like Warren Sapp and Vince Young have called public attention to this issue and begged the question, why does this happen? There are a lot of factors that can contribute, but a common one is a lack of planning.
However, players do not have to be unprepared nor should they be short sighted in their planning. Super Bowl champion Steve DeOssie had a different and practical view of the league and his career. “I always looked at it like a job… I knew in year nine I didn’t have much playing left so I started thinking about jobs after football.” DeOssie, who is now an analyst for 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston and NBC Boston Channel 7, started thinking about commentating as early as his time in Dallas, where he was able to guest host for several shows. DeOssie said the hardest thing about leaving the NFL was that, “there’s no one telling you where to go and when to be there. A lot of guys have a problem with no structure.” He added that his advice to players would be to, “take advantage of the programs the league offers for managing your future.”
Currently, the league has several programs in place to help current and former athletes prepare for the future. Per the NFL Player Association website, The NFL Player Engagement program guides players through “personal and professional development, on and off the field.” This program, and others like it, is designed to steer players in the right direction after they retire. The aim is to help players complete their education and further their career development. DeOssie’s son Zak, a long snapper with the New York Giants and a participant in these programs, is simultaneously working on an MBA while playing in the NFL. This kind of approach is becoming more common for players looking to secure a career after football.
The statistics about former player’s financials right now are disheartening; however, with the growing spotlight and the league’s progress on the issue the future’s looking brighter. Because former players like DeOssie are advocating for a continued focus on the importance of planning for post-football careers soon hanging up their cleats will be a beginning, not an end, for NFL players.

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