How Dan Marino, Vince Young and Other Broke NFL Players Lost Their Fortunes

There’s something a bit disturbing about living in an economy where millions of people struggle to put food on the table, yet highly paid celebrities who earn millions of dollars still manage to lose their fortunes and accumulate massive amounts of debt.

Yet we see it happen every day in the entertainment industry and even among politicians.

On the football field, there is no shortage of broke NFL players who started off wealthy, but were unable to hold on to their fortunes. Why is this occurring, and what can the average American learn from these athletes in order to avoid the same unfortunate financial fate?

It’s Shocking How Many NFL Players Are Bankrupt

According to Sports Illustrated, approximately two years after retirement, the percent of NFL players bankrupt or financially stressed is a whopping 78 percent. This means more than three-fourths of players either can’t manage their money, or employ people who choose not to manage their money well.

Then there are always those people who didn’t have much money early in life, then come across a small fortune and go a bit wild when they do.

But going on a wild shopping spree and filing for bankruptcy are two different things. So what is contributing to this astounding statistic? Excessive spending, poor investments, child support and over-the-top generosity are all to blame.

For some top NFL players, in particular, their excessive wealth became too much to handle, resulting in losses that were just as significant as their financial gains.

Related: 30 Mind-Blowing Financial Facts About Super Bowl XLIX

4 NFL Players Who Lost Their Fortunes

The NFL has produced some of the most talented athletes we have ever witnessed. Unfortunately, the league boasts some of the most financially strapped athletes. Below is a short list of some of the more popular players who have struggled with money management issues in recent years.

1. Dan Marino

Dan Marino, a former quarterback for the Miami Dolphins with a decorated NFL career, recently suffered a major financial setback after losing big in a major investment.

The nine-time pro bowler and analyst with CBS’ “The NFL Today,” has accumulated millions over his career, but he lost a major portion of that money in one investment in a company called Digital Domain from which he purchased 1,575,525 shares.

The company is popular for producing the famous hologram of dead rapper Tupac Shakur at the Coachella Music and Art Festival. However, the company soon after filed for bankruptcy, taking Marino’s stock with it.

According to reports, the 51-year-old Marino’s investment might have resulted in a loss of $14 million.

2. Vince Young

Vince Young was a quarterback in the NFL. Drafted by the Tennessee Titans, the popular player spent time with the Philadelphia Eagles and Buffalo Bills before being cut from the team and becoming a free agent.

Losing his spot with the Bills isn’t the only worry Young has faced. He made headlines a few years ago for struggling financially, despite earning around $26 million after six seasons in the NFL.

Apparently, he didn’t suffer from one major investment gone wrong. Instead, he said his financial planner misappropriated $5.5 million of his money. Other reports show Young took out a loan for $1.9 million that is currently in default.

However, there’s good reason to believe that Young is at least partially at fault. He reportedly spent a shocking $5,000 per week at the Cheesecake Factory in his early years.

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3. Luther Elliss

Luther Elliss is a former NFL player who spent his time as a defensive tackle for the Detroit Lions and Denver Broncos. The two-time pro bowler was known for his skills on the field, but not so much when it came to money management.

Ellis was reportedly paid nearly $11.6 million from 2000 to 2004 while in the NFL. But just a few years ago, the former lineman was relying on area churches and friends to pay his bills after suffering from financial collapse and filing for bankruptcy.

The reasons for his financial suffering fall into the categories of failed investments and debt. Specifically, he and his wife owed hundreds of thousands in mortgage debt and $37,500 in delinquent state and local taxes.

4. Travis Henry

Travis Henry is another pro bowler who spent time with the Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans and Denver Broncos. He is also a player who struggled to manage his finances, especially when it came to paying for his children.

Henry reportedly has nine children with nine different mothers — some of whom were born within months of one another. This alone could be a recipe for financial disaster. But it seems that Henry’s child support disputes are sending him to the poor house.

In 2009, he could not afford the estimated $170,000 a year he owed for his children and was ultimately jailed for falling $16,600 behind on support payments.

Related: 4 Broke Olympic Gold Medalists

Avoid the Fate of Broke NFL Players

No matter how much you earn in your lifetime, there’s nothing worse than discovering that the money you’ve accumulated is somehow lost to bad financial decisions. The good news is you don’t have to join the ranks of bankrupt NFL players. Here are some steps you can take to avoid their fates:

  • Create a budget. One important step in ensuring that you don’t mismanage your money is to always know how much is flowing. This means keeping track of what you are earning and how much you are spending. A great way to accomplish this goal is to set up a budget.
  • Live within your means. Once you have set up your budget, you need to live by it. This means not spending more than your finances can handle. This especially applies to big-ticket items like cars and homes. Before you commit to major purchases, be sure you have planned all associated costs well.
  • Pay your bills on time. Many people struggle financially because they fail to pay their bills on time and, in turn, accumulate further penalties and other fees. Also, keep in mind that missing too many payments could result in default or a collection action, which could cost you even more. To avoid these issues, simply pay everything when due.
  • Avoid impulsive purchases. As Vince Young discovered, excessive purchases can really catch up with you. To avoid this, curb your impulse spending and instead plan within your budget for fun purchases.

Once you take time to examine your finances, and abide by the financial rules you’ve set up for yourself, it will become much easier to keep track of your money. While you might not earn the same amount of money these NFL players have, you can rest assured that you won’t suffer their financial losses.

Photo credit: Casey Florig

  • Ashley

    Honestly, I’m not that surprised. It’s the same with lottery winners, and being that good at football is kind of like winning the lottery.

    • ShrykeAbysmal

      Being good at a sport is nothing like winning the lottery. If it was, anyone could pop up with professional grade skills. What an ignorant statement to make. You take the absolute best players at every level and they might not even make a team at the next level, yet you’ve got guys who walk on and start. Then you’ve got other guys that can’t even lift their way into the second 1/2 hour of a tryout. No, sports require work. Practice, dedication, and hard work. Natural ability helps, but it doesn’t mean you’ve got it made in any way.
      You might as well have said getting through BUD/S and making the SEALS is like winning the lottery.

  • As a Dolphin fan, I;m very surprised by this. There is NO #$%^ way I’d ever sink that much in a startup company, even a Big Fortune 500 one. I hope the NFL today pays him well, otherwise I’m afraid he end up filing for bankruptcy..

  • Tyrone Donsectes

    Hilarious. Brilliant on the field, dumb as a rock off. Travis needs to keep his penis away from women. God knows they are evil creatures who have bled him dry financially and put him in the poor house.

  • Grayden

    Tim B. Digital Domain isn’t a start up company, they do CGI/visual effects for Hollywood films.

  • Drew

    I think the NFL should set up a trust fund for each player, and 50% of every bonus/game check should be automatically deposited into their fund. They could then start accessing those funds either at age 35 or 5 years after they stop playing. This would at least minimize the financial ruin a 22-year old who has just been handed millions can cause.

    • dothan

      Some shady financial firm would probably circumvent that delay, paying pennies on the dollar to some washed-up NFL player screaming “IT’S MY MONEY AND I WANT IT NOW!”.

      • dksherlock

        How about this – they’ll be screaming for their money DAY ONE.

    • marie72

      I think 15% of what players make should automatically go into a retirement/trust fund for later on in life.Why should the NFL(All sports)be any different then any other company. Leagues should even offer profit sharing to all there players.

  • Bill

    I agree with Drew in that some sort of trust fund should be started for each player by the NFL to provide a safty net for the players when their playing days are over. This will show that NFL do care about the players and not just about dollars they bring in.

  • bo

    dan marino could make alot of money. one of the all-time greats by signatures and events. i doubt he goes broke. he might have lost alot of money but still think he can make it back but not much chance for the other guys.

  • PBG

    As far as Marino cant say I feel bad,always seemed phony with inflated ego as many others here in S.Fl have said.

  • Kirk

    Why should the league do anything at all? If any of the players are foolish enough to squander their money, so be it. These guys are probably all for privatizing Social Security as well.

    • Leslie Hoerwinkle

      Because they may end up stealing your lawn mower.

  • tom woodward

    Lovely! Just Fu_king lovely!!

  • Tiger

    It all starts with good personal decisions. It’s not someone else’s fault.

    A current player stated last year, his rookie season, in a private meeting, “. I am going to live on half my income until I retire from the league. With the rest, I’m going to put in low-risk investments and go into business after my career is over.”

    This kid was a first-rounder and is performing up to expectations.

    If more of these guys had this process in place, we wouldn’t hear these stories so often.

  • DJ

    – create a budget
    – live within your means
    – pay your bills on time
    – avoid impulse purchases
    – wear a f*#&ing condom

  • e2657383

    They’re mostly Black.

    • Joe

      Doesn’t matter there are whites who are broke too.

      • Dale Cosby

        Yes, it does go both ways. It also has nothing directly to being black but sadly, there are those that manipulate politics such that blacks are seen as “victims” and it has produced a society where a large portion of blacks aren’t raised with the responsibility that they need. When a black player from a poor family gets drafted, they often don’t have a dad who was active in their lives but they do have “friends” that will bleed them dry. Black players that had fathers that were responsible in raising them often do very well.

    • Angelo_Frank

      So what? Most of the chumps who lost fortunes with Bernie Madoff were White.

  • marlinman

    Horrible article……Dan Marino is far from broke

    • dksherlock

      I think they put his name in there to level-out the white/black ratio.

  • Brian Huber

    Adding investment advice for everyone to avoid the fate of financially troubled pro athletes: stick with basic stocks and bonds. Don’t put money in exotic ventures unless you are personally involved in managing them by contributing specific skills.

  • WAS

    In addition to all of the reasons stated, there is one that has been overlooked or not recognized…Does anyone really believe that any of these idiots really attended class when they were “enrolled” in college?

  • DWornock

    I agree they are mostly black, partly because most NFL players are black but mostly because a higher percentage of blacks have poor (very low income) families. The primary reason is the grew up in low income families. There is very little difference in the money behavior of poor blacks and poor whites. Typically give a poor person money and he or she will waste it.

    Although a few from wealthy families have poor money behavior and a few from poor families have outstanding money behavior, they are exceptions and not the rule.

  • Shoeless J.

    No sympathy for these overpaid sobs. In one year they make more than I will in a lifetime of work………..after getting a degree and working 35 years. Fuck ’em!!!

    • Douglas Carlson

      you really have no concept of economics, do you? They get paid that much because THAT IS WHAT THEIR MARKET GENERATES! If you want to be a pro welder, you’re probably not ever going to make over 100K/year because NOBODY PAYS MONEY JUST TO WATCH SOMEONE WELD. You blame the players because they get paid a lot of money for being the 1/10000 of 1% at what they do?? (Something that they dedicated their entire lives to?)
      Wow. SMH.

      • DocCane53

        Not to mention, most NFL careers are not long. The average being something like 3 to 5 years. In exchange many give up years of healthy activities after retirement from the league due to the physical stresses on their bodies.

      • dksherlock

        He’s not arguing economics, Applejacks. Shoeless is saying that from his position, he doesn’t see these guys as sympathetic characters.

        • ShrykeAbysmal

          They’re college graduates far more often than not. Which means they have degrees too. “Clueless” is, and quite poorly I might add, attempting to claim no sympathy because he thinks he’s better educated and works harder than these athletes. Whatever he has to tell himself to justify his own dissatisfaction with his financial standing notwithstanding, his Captain Crunch degree was never the ticket to paradise he seems to think it is.
          Notice he said nothing about actors, who have nothing in the way of educational barriers to that kind of money and even less prevalence of degrees. He also said nothing about what kind of work he does, or explained his justification for his annoyance with anything other than his plaque on the wall. The guy serving him his burgers likely has the same plaque. So what?

          • Mark Fuxanerd

            I agree. I didn’t go to college and instead I got my trader license and I have been working on Wall street for over 5 years and I only made $85k my first year $105 second year $285k third year $845k fourth year and last year I pulled in an amazing $3.2 million. My friends that chose college hate talking to me now or being around me so I have new friends because my old friends are jealous that I can make so much money without a degree.Of course they call me when they need to borrow money or something like that which I dont mind helping them but dont hate me because I chose a different path that pays well. I picked a industry that had a unlimited payscale and was based on how hard I work and most importantly how well I learn the industry I am in. I just turned 24 years old and I don’t live outside my means. I don’t even live on half my income like some have stated. Living on half is irresponsible too. The rules I follow are to live off 25% of your monthly income. Now my paychecks at different and do vary do instance my last check was only $64k but my next commission check will be $232k. So I went with my lowest for this year and use 25% of that to live off. Best thing to do is save, invest and always diversify. No point in investing in the same type things and with big risk come big rewards.

          • Leslie Hoerwinkle

            Yet you still have bad breath.

          • Vincent

            What do you do for a living? If you don’t mind me asking. Also, good for you. Hard work works wonders.

        • Mark Fuxanerd

          What shoeless J is implying is he is a HATER that is mad at other people being successful because he decided to pick a profession that doesn’t pay shit. Its like teachers getting mad that they don’t get paid enough but fail to realize that they picked that profession and should of known they pay coming in to it all. Plus aren’t teachers like nurses where the reward is helping people and not about money.

    • Mark Fuxanerd

      I dont feel sorry for them either but I do understand they get paid what they do because the NFL generates close to 7 billion a year. You want to talk about overpaid how bout NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and his $44 million a year salary for 7 years starting 2012. Thats over $300,000,000 for 7 years of service. I mean really? As much as the NFL generates the talent (players) don’t really make as much as they should even though everyone that doesn’t understand or know anything about the business side of professional sports thinks they make too much.

  • notalib

    LOL must be getting investment advice from Obama!

  • mewcomm

    Did it ever occur to the many here with sage advice, that these men are doing exactly what they want to with their money? They are adults and have made their own decisions. Their behavior is their own. As it should be.

  • Dillon Flaherty III

    Chance’s are I could spend $60,000 setting up a good looking re-cording studio. I could sell 3 share’s at a million per share, to three football player’s, for the purpose of being Rap song producers. There would be a private party room, adjoining the studio, ya know. Send em a check for $10,000 a month, for about 14 months, then skip town.

    • marie72

      That or something similar has happened to so many players.
      Managing money is something you have to work at and learn over time.They all fall for get-rich-quick investment and most are going to be scams.

  • Jesse

    Dan Marino still has a net worth of some 35 million. While he lost a considerable amount of his wealth in a bad investment (14 million) 35 million is hardly broke. Doesn’t belong on this list.

    • Ray

      14 million was what the stock was worth at it’s highest point. It doesn’t say how much Marino paid for his original investment.

    • Mark Fuxanerd

      Being worth 35 million and having 35 million is two completely different things.

  • Mel Bias

    i don’t invest but that investment marino did on the tupac fiasco, i would have run the other way.

  • kingpin6172

    Most of the players that go broke are dumb and have no idea the value of a dollar (or a million)…. they only think about the here & now — spending frivolously on yachts, mansions, parties….. then you come back and are crying about spending it all??? Come on, man…. all of us average joes out here could only hope to make as much in a lifetime as you guys make in a year….

  • Elyssa Kirkham

    I know the NFL has a financial literacy program, but honestly I think the League should be doing a lot more to help players and make sure they are on good financial footing. Having a couple financial planners available to players on each team would be awesome.

    • Douglas Carlson

      They do. Every team has limiltless resources for players. What you dont understand is the mindset of most NFL players. You dont make it to the NFL by listening to a lot of other people. many make it on an attitude of defiance, and the belief that they are too big to fail.

    • marie72

      The literary program at one time had brokers(posing as financial planners) running Ponzi schemes! I think they have cleaned it up since the program was exposed.

  • barmax71

    Marino must have taken a big hit, because I see him endorsing alot of companies as of late. In the past he has endorsed companies but not like now