Since being drafted in 2012 out of Oklahoma, wide receiver Ryan Broyles has seen his yearly receiving totals drop from 310 yards during his rookie season to 85 yards in 2013, and a meager 25 yards last year. And he has not scored a touchdown since 2012.
Keep in mind that Broyles' 25 receiving yards wasn’t for a high school team rushing the ball 50 times a game out of the triple option or wishbone formations. Rather, they represented about 0.5% of the more than 4,200 passing yards that the Lions threw for last year. The only player on the Lions’ roster to gather fewer receiving yards in 2014 was Isa Abdul-Quddus, who plays safety.
Needless to say, Broyles is not on the path to NFL stardom, especially compared to someone like former Cincinnati Bengals Terrell Owens who compiled more than 1,000 career receptions, 15,000 receiving yards, and 150 receiving touchdowns. Broyles has little job security, and is no guarantee to make it through his rookie contract, which expires after this season.
So what relevance does this Detroit Lions’ receiver have for us Cincinnati Bengals fans?
While Broyles may not be on the path to NFL job security, he is on the path to financial security.
Broyles has earned $2,791,546 during the first three years of his rookie deal, and stands me earn another $891,866 this year if he makes the Lions roster. But despite this, he and his wife live on $60,000 per year, which is just above the national median family income of $53,000 per year.
The careers of professional athletes are often very short lived, and the money can abruptly stop arriving much sooner than may be anticipated. Instead of buying big houses, fancy cars, and dining on exquisite cuisine frequently, this point has found a home with Broyles, who is living frugally (by NFL standards) today so that he will have financial security in the future.
The National Bureau of Economic Research found that 16 percent of NFL players drafted between 1996 and 2003 declared bankruptcy within a dozen years of retirement. According to Sports Illustrated, more than 75 percent of NFL players were facing very difficult financial situations (or even bankruptcy) within two years of retirement.
Some recent NFL players we may recall, who made millions of dollars, but faced bankruptcy include Michael Vick, Deuce McCallister, Vince Young, Tiki Barber, JaMarcus Russell, Chris McAlister, and former Bengal Terrell Owens.
Despite playing in the NFL for a decade and a half, and totaling about $80 million in career earnings, Owens faced bankruptcy recently.
Owens' financial stress seems to come from the purchases of multiple homes, failed business ventures, losing equity in the housing market crash a few years ago, and ongoing child support which totals $44,600 a month for his four children born to four different mothers.
Terrell Owens’ case shows us that being an excellent player, and earning an exorbitant amount of money does not insulate you from a future financial crisis.
Ryan Broyles and Terrell Owens demonstrate two different paths that an NFL player can lead in life, and bring to light the situations that most people face.
Do we recognize the difference between our "needs" and "wants"? Do we budget and know where our money is going? Do we have the right amount of retirement funding and insurance? Do we have a plan where we expect to be situated financially 5, 10, and 20 years down the road?
If our answer to these questions is "no", maybe Ryan Broyles has more to teach us than Terrell Owens.