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Bart Scott, Morgan Stanley trying to save NFL's youth from going broke

By
Alex Butler
Former NBA player Antoine Walker, NFL linebacker Bart Scott and Drew Hawkins, head of Morgan Stanley Global Sports & Entertainmen, stand on the sidelines at the 2017 Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala.
Former NBA player Antoine Walker, NFL linebacker Bart Scott and Drew Hawkins, head of Morgan Stanley Global Sports & Entertainmen, stand on the sidelines at the 2017 Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala.

Aug. 10 (UPI) -- Bart Scott knows what it's like to stumble financially as an NFL athlete, now he's helping football's youth increase their fiscal intelligence.

The 11-year NFL veteran is working with Drew Hawkins, the head of Morgan Stanley Global Sports & Entertainment, to educate college and pro football players about how they can prepare for the unpredictability associated with the NFL.

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The financial education program has been implemented with dozens of NCAA and NFL teams, including the Jacksonville Jaguars and Seattle Seahawks.

"Our role is pretty much providing some real life experience but also walking them through some of the potential pitfalls," Scott told UPI. "Really let them know what it's going to be like. What the NFL season is all about. Let them know how the first offseason is going to be...Family pressure, pressure of wanting to go out and buy mom the house and things like that. And understanding what that really costs."

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More than $470 million in guaranteed cash went to first-round picks in the 2017 NFL Draft. The average NFL career spans just more three years and there are plenty of opportunities for players to scorch their wallets in that time.

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Being a Pro Bowl star doesn't shield you from money troubles. Jamal Lewis, Andre Rison, Mark Brunell, Lawrence Taylor, Michael Vick and Johnny Unitas are among the many NFL stars that have filed for bankruptcy, despite multimillion-dollar contracts. Vick had several lucrative contracts during his NFL career. He signed a nine-year, $130 million extension in 2004 with the Atlanta Falcons. He also signed a five-year, $80 million contract in 2011 with the Philadelphia Eagles.

The program has reached more than 6,000 individuals on all levels, from first-year college athletes to veteran pros. Since piloting its program in February of 2015, Morgan Stanley GSE has had more than 70 tailored sessions for pro teams, universities and other sports organizations, reaching 48 top-tier collegiate programs and 24 pro organizations, including NBA and NFL franchises.

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Hawkins and Scott said the mission is to make athletes believe that they are the CEO of You, Inc.

"From our perspective, a lot of the challenges that have arisen related to athletes and entertainers, as far as their finances are concerned is, like so many people in society, they are just ill equipped in terms of not having the background and education and exposure to dealing with this," Hawkins said. "When we think about athletes and entertainers, these individuals on the athletic side go from being college students to, in a lot of cases, being multimillionaires overnight, or an opportunity for that to take place a little bit further down in their career.

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"We just continue to reiterate that message that 'don't think this is not going to be you.' Because if you don't go into this with a tight team around you, with a game plan in place you quickly all of the sudden are going to wake up and these dollars are going to be gone in an instant," he said.

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Sports Illustrated reported in 2009 that 78 percent of retired NFL athletes have either gone bankrupt or are "under financial stress" from being without a job or divorced within two years of their retirement.

"We just saw there was a time where we needed to take a different approach that wasn't focused around selling them something but 100 percent around better educating them and equipping them to become the CEO of themselves, incorporated," Hawkins said. "Obviously they have a passion for the game, but at the end of the day, they want to be able to make money and maintain the money. We wanted to be able to do this in a way that educated them, but also provided a practical perspective."

Scott speaks from both positive and negative experiences. He made at least $40 million in salary during his playing career for the Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets before joining CBS as an analyst on NFL Today in 2014. Scott said there are many tempting locker room examples of guys trying to have "the newest cars and the flyest clothes, but at the end of the day, everybody's bank account ain't the same."

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He found that out when he invested in an American Basketball Association semi-pro team.

"I actually owned a basketball team, which is the dumbest thing ever," Scott said. "It was something that taught me a lesson very early in my career. About being careful about trying to spread yourself too thin and taking chances and doing things that can leave you vulnerable."

Scott said Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, who has a net worth of $3.8 billion, taught him an important financial lesson: "The golden goose is to be the best football player you can be."

"A lot of times guys in the locker room think that they are missing out on something in real estate or want to open up a business. They really don't have the education nor the time to put 100 percent into both. So they leave themselves vulnerable. A lot of guys get that pressure from opening up a business or trying to do something outside of their skill set and it leaves them vulnerable with the golden goose. Mine was the ABA basketball team."

Scott and Hawkins agreed about colleges needing to do more to increase the financial intelligence of all students.

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"I took bowling and I took certain classes that really didn't help me at all with life experience," said Scott, a Southern Illinois University product. "There should be some type of curriculum or course that athletes should be required to take. I think all students should be required to take it. I remember a class like I said I took, decision-making...it really helped me more in life as far as the process of making a proper decision. I think something like that should be part of the core curriculum. To teach them about making financial decisions because whether they are professional or not, they are going to have to make these same choices."

"People don't think that athletes have the same issues, but if my car costs $5,000 a month and yours cost $1,000 a month, if I'm living beyond my means, I'm under the same pressure as you are. A lot of people overspend, its not just athletes," Scott said.

The Morgan Stanley GSE program does the annual financial education for every player that comes through the Senior Bowl. They also do a program for the parents. They go to rookie training to reiterate their message.

"No matter if we are speaking to collegiate athletes or to professionals, at some point we all have to transition from this game," Scott said. "There is a mental aspect to that that is depressing. A lot of guys struggle with finding their true identity and who they want to become. So what we try to encourage them to do is try to figure out who you are without football while they are playing football."

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"What are you other dreams and aspirations? What else do you want to apply your energy to? Planting those seeds and using their network to be able to build on a positive future."

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