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Kamara’s financial savviness breaks from a sad NFL archetype

NFL players like Warren Sapp, Vince Young, Bernie Kosar, Clinton Portis, and Lawrence Taylor made multi million dollar fortunes playing football, and then lost it all. Alvin Kamara is part of a new generation of superstars who refuse to make the same mistakes.

Wild Card Round - Chicago Bears v New Orleans Saints Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Maybe you have heard the statistics about professional athletes losing entire fortunes or maybe you saw the ESPN 30-for-30 film Broke, in which several retired NFL players candidly dished on their financial woes post retirement. The fact is 78% of NFL players either “go bankrupt or are severely stressed financially within two years after retirement.”

That’s why stories like this one from CNBC, are refreshing and uplifting to hear. In an interview Alvin Kamara gave on the Uninterrupted’s Kneading Dough series, the star running back revealed he hasn’t spent a dime from either his rookie contract or recent $75 million extension.

“I’m like, ‘Okay, this is more than I’ve ever had. My mom ain’t never had this much,’” Kamara said. “It would be a shame if I got this and lost it. I’m gonna keep doing the same thing I’ve been doing — [spending on] what I need and that’s it. I’m not about to go over the top, I’m not gonna live beyond my means.”

Kamara has been living off his carefully considered endorsements instead of dipping into his NFL salary earnings. Another NFL star, Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski revealed in his 2015 book, It’s Good to be Gronk, that he too has never touched his NFL earnings, instead living off of endorsements as well.

“Financially, I just say: Keep it simple,” Gronk told CNBC’s Make It. “Get what you need to live comfortably but don’t go crazy with splurging until you feel comfortable in the league.”

Kamara, for one, makes keeping it simple look very smooth and stylish. The blinged-out diamond grill he sported this past season had me fooled. I thought Kamara had started to splurge following his large contract extension. Next thing I know, Kamara was sharing videos of himself shredding the slopes of Montana and apparently laying down some roots there too.

This spendthrift behavior seemed a far cry from Kamara’s spending tactics following the reception of his rookie contract bonus money, which was highlighted in Sports Illustrated’s 2018 article on the running back’s emergence in the Big Easy. A rookie at the time, Kamara famously said, “I got my signing bonus and I put that s--- in the bank and I went and got some motherf---ing wings,”

Exactly 20 years ago, former NFL linebacker Bart Scott instead took a different approach with managing his rookie bonus check; the only guaranteed money he would see up to that point in his career.

Since Scott didn’t have a bank account, or know how to start one, he took his bonus check for $300,000 to a check cashing business, which took a fee to cash the check, and then bought himself a full-length fox hair coat he wore just twice. Luckily, Scott was good enough to physically and financially survive into a second contract, at which point, he had become at least marginally more financially savvy.

Because the average NFL career length is only 2.5 years and 70% of players who enter the league won’t earn a second contract, Scott can consider himself fortunate to have been able to continue making money long enough to give him time to learn how to properly manage it.

Two former Saints players were not so lucky, however. Despite playing for 18 NFL seasons and making more than $50 million in career earnings, primarily as a backup quarterback, Mark Brunell is currently worth $400,000.

When the housing market crashed, he lost all of the $11 million in investments he made while starting a real estate company called Champion LLC. The three-time Pro-Bowler also lost $9 million in investments in 11 different Whataburger franchises.

The year after winning Super Bowl XLIV with the Saints, Brunell, then a member of the New York Jets, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. At the time, he faced six lawsuits over unpaid liabilities totaling a whopping $24.7 million, while owing $24.8 million in debt in contrast to only $5.5 million in assets.

A devout Christian, Brunell also has strong ties with Champions for Christ, a controversial campus ministry organization that has been under investigation by the NFL over concerns that the organization was taking advantage of players financially. From start to finish, Brunell would have been better off putting every dollar in the bank and just living off the interest, but these are the financial lessons too many players don’t learn until it’s too late.

Another former Saint, running back Deuce McAllister, has been another NFL financial cautionary tale. Though he “only” played for eight seasons, McAllister’s hefty 2005 contract extension allowed him to make at least around $35 million before being unceremoniously cut from the team in 2008.

In keeping with the 78% of players who also go bankrupt within two years of retirement, McAllister filed for bankruptcy protection for his failed Nissan dealership before a single calendar year had passed following his abrupt retirement.

Unfortunately, the amount he owed Nissan ($6.6 million in loans/$300,000 in interest) would have been covered by the $7 million he would have made that year if the Saints hadn’t cut him after his second ACL tear, this time, in his other knee. McAllister wouldn’t play again, and despite serving as the Saints’ live broadcast play-by-play announcer, the Saints Hall of Famer is now worth $50,000.

For perspective, every player on the Bucs team earned a $130,000 check for winning Super Bowl LIV, and even the players on the losing team, the Chiefs, received checks worth $65,000, more than Deuce McAllister is currently worth.

As the son of a Liberian refugee, Alvin Kamara has a healthy appreciation and perspective of the importance of managing his own money, spending only what he needs to be comfortable, and partnering himself with companies and ventures he truly believes in and morally aligns with.

“I’ve always known the value of a dollar,” Kamara said on Kneading Dough. “As a kid, I saw my mom work multiple jobs only to be able to afford the bare essentials.” Kamara isn’t going to waste this opportunity to create and maintain generational wealth. But, he isn’t going to sell himself out for a dollar either.

Kamara won’t take a sponsorship from a protein shake company, for instance, if he doesn’t even use their product. Instead, Kamara has only lent his name to companies he honestly loves like Airheads candy, Adidas, and even Lovesac furniture.

The prodigious tailback is also co-owner of the Big Squeezy juice bar brand and owns the franchise operating at 303 St. Charles Ave in New Orleans’ Central Business District also known as the CBD.

After taking up a distinct interest in Nascar racing over the course of the Covid-19 epidemic, Kamara sensed yet another fruitful partnership in the making.

Less than a year after discovering a love for the sport, Kamara’s Big Squeezy has become part sponsor for Ryan Vargas’ No. 6 NASCAR Xfinity Series Chevrolet. Just like has with everything else he puts his name on, Kamara did his research first.

“When this opportunity presented itself, I knew I couldn’t let it slip by...I did a bit of research on Ryan as an individual and JD Motorsports and was impressed with what I read. I’m excited to play a small role in what they already have going on,” Kamara said.

You can even book Alvin Kamara for you next event if you wanted to. He’s available for meet and greets, keynote speeches, virtual meetings, and corporate appearances. Kamara is clearly a man of many talents and interests, and in utilizing those, he has found a multitude of ways to excel in business just as he has on the football field.

Kudos to Kamara for staying authentic while building and protecting a personal brand and fortune with true staying power.

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