Mike Pouncey admits it:
He had a blast early in his career.
“My first two years in the NFL was wild,” Pouncey said Tuesday. “I had a good time. … I had a hard time telling myself no, because that was the first time I ever had money. You start spending all of that money and you start seeing your bank account go down, you start to realize, ‘Man, I’ve got to save some of this money because the window is so small.’ ”
Reality slapped him hard and cold in 2013 when he missed two games with a serious gallbladder issue. The first of chronic hip issues flared up soon thereafter. For the first time, it became real just how frail an NFL career can be. And he realized that if he never played another down, he was going to have some real financial issues down the road.
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“It was kind of growing up, maturing a little bit,” Pouncey said. “Realizing, kind of listening to stories of guys in the NFL that played 10, 15 years and don’t have a dollar left to their names. You start hearing stories like that, it’ll wake you up real quick.”
Pouncey was fortunate enough to land a big second contract — signing a five-year, $52 million extension in 2015 — and made sure that money went in the bank. His future, and that of his family, is secure.
But he’s the exception, not the rule. Far more players end up, to steal the title of Billy Corben’s scared-straight documentary, “Broke.” For the majority of pro athletes, the money dries up just a few years after their careers end.
If any of the 50 or so American Senior High students who met with Pouncey on Tuesday ever become pro athletes, they will have beaten the odds. Rather, they will likely have to be far more judicious with their money than Pouncey admits he was as a young player.
Still, the concept of budgeting is important, no matter your tax bracket, and Pouncey did his best to make sure the teens he met with Tuesday understood that.
He was the main attraction at a financial literacy event at American in Hialeah, which was co-hosted by SunTrust Bank.
Organizers wanted the students to leave with one very important skill:
“The bare basics of financial planning and budgeting,” said Paco Gonzalez, head of SunTrust’s Miami operation. “How to have income and how to manage your expenses and make sure you have enough to cover your basic expenses.”
Pouncey’s message was authentic. He was “dead broke” growing up, and while people were in his ear about saving early on in his career, he did not listen.
“It wasn’t, for me, until I had my first injury that I kind of woke up and started saving all of my money because I knew football could be over,” Pouncey said. “I’m glad I did. I’ve got a lot of money in the bank and it worked well for me.”
Pouncey appeared in a South Florida high school less than a week after the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
The Dolphins center said he hopes the community gets those close to the 17 people killed the help they need.
“I was so sorry for the families that were involved, the friends that were involved,” Pouncey said. “I still can’t believe that. How did we get to that as a country? That still blows my mind. We still deal with stuff like this. It’s just sad.”