Cowboys Help Rookies Adjust to Perils of Instant Wealth
Cowboys try to help young players handle newfound wealth (Dallas Morning News)
The bright, shiny Cougar would tease Calvin Hill. Every day he would pass a New Haven, Conn., dealership on his way to practice while at Yale and wish he could buy the car of his dreams. When the Cowboys took Hill with their first pick in the 1969 draft, he received a $50,000 signing bonus. His father made just $5,000 a year. “My initial thought was I could buy that Cougar,” said Hill, who serves as a consultant with the Cowboys. “It was exhilarating, but then you realize you have no idea how to handle money. I never had that kind of money. We never sat around the table talking about money.” Thirty-five years later, those same problems exist for Cowboys rookies. Most find themselves with money and an opportunity to buy whatever they want for the first time in their lives.
The Cowboys have held four financial seminars for their rookies this season. The team’s eight drafted rookies went through an NFL-run symposium before training camp dealing with their newfound fame and wealth. “You learn a lot,” said cornerback Nate Jones, who earned a finance degree at Rutgers. “It’s not a meeting to go to sleep in. It’s not like it’s something we don’t need to know, because we do.” The speakers, including former team comptroller Robert Nunez, talked to the players about financial issues. Players learned about 401(k)s and taxes and investments. Former players have spoken to the team about mistakes they made or how they were able to profit. Most agents set up players with financial planners to ease the pressure. Sometimes that is not enough. “A lot of people are surprised athletes can’t handle it,” Hill said. “I’m surprised more guys don’t fail because it’s such a dramatic switch. There’s no transition. I’ve tried to tell our guys: Last year they had a hard time getting dates, now they’re Denzel Washington.”
The minimum rookie salary is $230,000, roughly $13,500 a week over 17 weeks. Practice squad players make about $4,350 a week for 17 weeks. During training camp rookies were paid $700 a week. They have the option of being paid over 52 weeks, but it has to be written into their contracts.
While the idea that being incredibly wealthy and attractive to women is a problem is easy to laugh at, programs like this are clearly needed. The combination of youthful recklessness and immaturity, the arrogance of the pampered athlete, and big wads of cash is a volatile one indeed.