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NFL Financial Woes: Tales of Bankruptcy and Success

Football players in the NFL earn staggering amounts of money during their careers. However, not all of them end up managing their finances correctly, leading to financial distress, bankruptcy, and ruined careers.

This article takes a closer look at some NFL players who faced bankruptcy and other financial problems, along with some who made smart financial decisions and enjoyed successful post-NFL careers.

NFL Player Bankruptcies

Andre Rison

The former Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Andre Rison is one of the most famous NFL players to file for bankruptcy. Rison earned millions during his career but admitted to spending $1,000 a day on lavish expenses.

Rison’s excessive spending habits led to his financial downfall, and despite earning over $20 million throughout his career, he ended up bankrupt.

Clinton Portis

Running back

Clinton Portis was nearly broke after playing for nine seasons in the NFL. Portis fell victim to investment scams and other financial problems, leading to him seeking disability payments from the league.

Portis earned over $40 million playing football, yet he ended up with only $150 in his account after retirement.

Vince Young


Vince Young was another NFL player who earned millions but filed for bankruptcy in 2014. Young’s financial problems stemmed from years of mismanagement, overspending, and funding other people’s ventures.

The two-time Pro Bowler also invested millions in a real estate development, which failed, leading to his financial collapse.

Raghib (Rocket) Ismail

Raghib (Rocket) Ismail was an exciting returner for the Dallas Cowboys who was also a talented wide receiver. He famously signed a massive deal with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League, but when he returned to the NFL with the Oakland Raiders, he struggled to replicate his CFL success.

Raghib made some significant investments that failed, leading to his financial difficulties.

Dermontti Dawson

Dermontti Dawson was a Hall of Fame center who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers. After retiring, he faced multiple legal judgments that left him broke.

Dawson’s financial woes were compounded by his over-allocation to real estate, which eventually led to his bankruptcy filing.

Chris McAlister

Chris McAlister was a defensive back who played for the Baltimore Ravens. He is another NFL player who failed to manage his money correctly and ended up in financial distress.

McAlister missed several child support payments, which resulted in his financial collapse. He ended up filing for bankruptcy, and his home entered foreclosure.

Deuce McAllister

Deuce McAllister was an All-Pro running back for the New Orleans Saints, earning millions throughout his career. However, he notoriously invested in a car dealership that failed, leading to his financial problems.

McAllister ended up filing for bankruptcy, and his home was foreclosed.

Johnny Unitas

The legendary Baltimore Colts quarterback

Johnny Unitas faced significant financial problems later in his career. Unitas invested in several business ventures that failed, which led to his bankruptcy.

His poor financial decisions were compounded by him providing personal guarantees, further adding to his debt.

Luther Elliss

Luther Elliss was a former defensive tackle who signed a $11 million contract with the Detroit Lions in 1999. Elliss made several poor investments leading to his bankruptcy, including investing in several failed businesses and building multiple mega-homes.

Mark Brunell

Mark Brunell, a former quarterback who represented the Washington Redskins, the Jacksonville Jaguars, and other teams, filed for bankruptcy in 2010. Brunell’s investment in real estate led to his financial collapse, with many of his investments failing.

Terrell Owens

Terrell Owens had an illustrious career playing for several NFL teams, but his excessive spending habits led to him filing for bankruptcy in 2012. Owens purchased expensive items like luxury cars, houses, and jewelry, leading to his financial downfall.

Owens also fell for bad investment advice, losing millions in the process.

Bernie Kosar

Bernie Kosar was a former quarterback who played for the Cleveland Browns. After retiring, Kosar faced financial problems, including losses in real estate and unsecured loans.

kosar filed for bankruptcy in 2009.

Successful NFL Financial Careers

Dan Marino

Dan Marino was one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, earning a fortune along the way. However, unlike many of his contemporaries, Marino managed his money well and has enjoyed a successful post-NFL career.

Marino became a successful broadcaster and has managed several successful business ventures, including a successful wine company.


The NFL is home to some of the most well-paid athletes worldwide, with the league producing several millionaires every year. However, as seen from the players mentioned above, not all athletes end up with a positive financial outcome.

Wise financial management is essential, especially after retirement. While some NFL players have made poor financial decisions, some have managed their money wisely and gone on to prosperous post-NFL careers.

Common Reasons for NFL Bankruptcy

Professional football players in the NFL are among the highest-paid athletes in the world, earning millions of dollars each year during their careers. Despite this, many NFL players have found themselves in financial distress, with some even filing for bankruptcy.

So what causes successful and wealthy players to end up bankrupt? Let’s take a closer look.

Overspending and Indulgence

One of the most common reasons cited for NFL players’ financial problems is overspending and indulgence. Players with massive salaries often make the mistake of spending beyond their means, purchasing lavish cars, houses, and other items, not planning out their spending approach well.

Without proper financial planning, many players end up in debt and running out of money far too fast. Andre Rison is one player who faced this issue, spending thousands of dollars each day and eventually filing for bankruptcy despite earning over $20 million in his career.

Bad Investments and Trust Issues

Another factor that has led to NFL players’ financial problems is investment scams and bad investment decisions. Many players trust the wrong people to handle their money or fall for get-rich-quick schemes.

For example,

Clinton Portis was a running back who made more than $40 million during his NFL career. Still, he ended up with only $150 in his account after retirement due to investing in several scam projects that never delivered.

Trusting the wrong people and bad investments can ruin any player’s fortune, as Portis and others have shown.

Financial Mismanagement and Poor Planning

Financial mismanagement is another reason why some NFL players end up bankrupt. Failure to plan for the future and not living according to their means are often the cause of this problem.

Vince Young, a former quarterback, left college early for the NFL draft in the hopes of earning his fortune. He signed a massive $26 million contract, but his failure to handle his finances and make wise investment decisions led to bankruptcy.

Financial mismanagement and poor planning can lead to financial crises for many players, as it did for Young.

Failed Investments and Business Ventures

Many NFL players try their hand at entrepreneurship, starting businesses and investing in ventures that don’t work out. The high risk that comes with investing in such endeavors has led to several NFL player bankruptcies.

For example,

Raghib (Rocket) Ismail, a former wide receiver, invested heavily in several business ventures: some of which are blind investments that failed to deliver, ultimately leaving him in a financial crisis.

Real Estate Over-Allocation and Legal Issues

Sometimes, NFL players over-invest in real estate, leading to financial challenges when those investments don’t pan out.

Dermontti Dawson, a former center for the Pittsburgh Steelers, invested heavily in real estate after his retirement, leading to poor financial decision-making and legal hurdles that contributed to his financial difficulties.

Child Support and Legal Issues

Chris McAlister, a former defensive back for the Baltimore Ravens, is another NFL player who filed for bankruptcy after failing to make several child support payments. Legal issues often compound financial problems, as

Chris McAlister’s situation illustrates.

Foreclosure and Bad Debts

Deuce McAllister is another former NFL player who was forced to file for bankruptcy after foreclosure proceedings were initiated on his home. Like many other players, McAllister faced massive debts that he could not cover, ultimately leading to his financial crisis.

Failed Businesses and Personal Guarantees

Former Baltimore Colts quarterback

Johnny Unitas lost much of his wealth after investing in several business ventures that failed, causing him to declare bankruptcy. Personal guarantees further exacerbated the situation, emphasizing the importance of carefully considering the risks and returns when investing in business ventures.

Mega-Homes and Poor Investments

Luther Elliss, a former defensive tackle, purchased several mega-homes and invested in failed ventures after retiring from the Detroit Lions. This resulted in his bankruptcy as he was unable to manage his finances and live within his means.

Failed Real Estate Investments and Bankruptcy

Former quarterback

Mark Brunell’s financial crisis began due to his failed real estate investments, leading to bankruptcy in 2010.

Mark Brunell is a classic example of how making poor investment choices can be disastrous.

Successful NFL Careers

Dan Marino

Dan Marino had a successful NFL career and is considered one of the all-time great quarterbacks, known for his precision and powerful arm. Despite earning a massive fortune of more than $50 million during his career, Dan Marino managed his money wisely and went on to successful post-NFL ventures.

He is now a successful broadcaster and entrepreneur, with a successful wine company and endorsement deals.

Johnny Unitas

Johnny Unitas is a Baltimore Colts legend who set several NFL records during his career. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame and recognized as one of the best quarterbacks ever to play in the league.

Despite facing financial woes later in life due to business ventures that didn’t pan out, Unitas remains an icon of the NFL to this day.

Deuce McAllister

Deuce McAllister was an All-Pro running back and one of the most famous players for the New Orleans Saints. He is a beloved figure in the city and was instrumental in building the team into a competitive force.

Despite facing financial challenges later in life, McAllister’s successful NFL career helped him overcome his issues and rebuild his wealth.

Bernie Kosar

Bernie Kosar is a former quarterback who took the Cleveland Browns to the playoffs three times during his stellar career. He also helped lead the team to a Super Bowl, cementing his place in the NFL’s history books.

He had a successful post-career as an entrepreneur, with several business ventures and endorsement deals.

Chris McAlister

Chris McAlister is a retired NFL player who was an exceptional defensive back and electric kickoff and punt returner. He helped the Baltimore Ravens win a Super Bowl and was a three-time Pro Bowler.

He also enjoyed a successful post-career life, becoming a successful businessman and re-building his wealth.

Vince Young

Vince Young was a former quarterback who had a successful NFL career, earning two Pro Bowl selections. Despite struggles with handling his finances post-career, he has gone on to find success in other areas, such as coaching and broadcasting.

Raghib (Rocket) Ismail

Raghib (Rocket) Ismail was one of the most impressive returners in NFL history. He made several successful investments post-career, becoming a successful broadcaster and businessman.

Dermontti Dawson

Dermontti Dawson was a former center who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He made seven Pro Bowls and was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

He went on to find success in a variety of post-career ventures, shifting his focus to coaching and business.

Clinton Portis

Clinton Portis is a former running back who played in the league for nine seasons, earning a Pro Bowl appearance twice. He left the league in 2010 with over $40 million in earnings and went on to open several successful businesses, becoming an entrepreneur in his post-NFL life.

Terrell Owens

Terrell Owens was a seven-time Pro Bowler and one of the most successful wide receivers in NFL history. Despite facing post-career financial difficulties, Owens is doing well today, with experience as a businessman and television personality.

His sound post-NFL career can be attributed to his intelligence and success in the sport.


NFL players have varying success rates when it comes to managing their finances. Many of them end up bankrupt or facing financial difficulties due to a combination of overspending, bad investments, financial mismanagement, and failed business ventures.

However, while some struggle after leaving the game, others go on to achieve great success, building businesses, making smart investments, or entering other areas of entertainment or business. The keys to financial success as an NFL player are being diligent in managing one’s wealth, having expertise, and seeking out knowledgeable guidance.

In conclusion, one of the most important aspects of being a successful NFL player is managing one’s wealth wisely. Overspending, bad investments, financial mismanagement, and failed business ventures have been major contributing factors to many players’ financial difficulties.

However, some players have been successful in post-career endeavors, building businesses, making smart investments, or entering other areas of entertainment or business. The takeaways from this article emphasize the importance of diligence in managing one’s finances, obtaining knowledgeable guidance, and planning for the future beyond the professional football career.

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