My Game Plan: What Life Do I Want?
From It All Adds Up: Designing Your Game Plan for Financial Success by Devon Kennard
Even though I was closer to getting into the NFL than ever before, I wondered: What if I don’t get drafted at all? Up until now, my life seemed to be all rainbows and sunshine. I was the guy with the pro football dad. I had good grades and was the best athlete. I worked hard and it showed. It was the best start I could have gotten toward my dreams. And then injury after injury and surgery after surgery. I was bitter. I was upset. “God, why me!” I asked. But in the end all of this humbled me so much that I started thinking about what life looked like for me outside the game of football. I needed to find other outlets for happiness and other ways to be successful.
So I asked myself another question, one that would change the course of my life: What life do I want? Not what life my parents wanted for me and or what my coaches, teachers, or friends thought I should have. What type of life did I want? I had no doubt I wanted to be more than just Devon the football player.
One word popped into my mind. I wanted freedom.
I wanted the financial freedom to do whatever I wanted to do and have whatever I wanted to have while also being able to positively affect my family and also make a difference in the world (I’ll talk about this more later).
As a young, Black male looking back, I know that I am one of the fortunate ones in that demographic. I have been the recipient of more opportunities than other Black males get. I have my mom and dad, Derek and Denise, to thank for that. They were born and raised in Stockton, California, which is well-known for being a dangerous city inundated with crime. They started dating in the seventh grade, and as young as they were, they were smart enough to know they would need to work especially hard just to make it out of Stockton and have a chance at building better lives for themselves.
My dad’s football abilities earned him (and my mom) that ticket out of Stockton and into the pros, where he played for thirteen seasons, his time with the Dallas Cowboys culminating in a Super Bowl ring. I have always greatly admired my dad, not just for his playing in the NFL but more so because he—and my mom— worked hard to give my brother, sister, and me the kind of head start in this world that many minorities never get. Actually, as of 2021, the percentage of Black people living in poverty is 1.7 times greater than the US’s total population, and they represent 22.6 of the poverty population.
My dad told me to chase whatever dreams I had even if they weren’t football. He wanted me to be happy at whatever I decided to do, and he never told me that I needed to do better financially than he did. He never pressured me in that regard. I figured it out on my own that it was my responsibility to take those blessings and advantages that my parents gave me and do even better for myself, my future family, and my children’s kids. I wanted to flip the bag!
Dad and I didn’t talk much about money, but he made sure to tell me about mistakes either he or his teammates had made. It boggled my mind that someone could play in the NFL, make so much money, and then end up broke just a few years after they retired. These guys didn’t consider the fact that after their career was over, they would still have the likelihood of decades more living in front of them for which they would need money just to survive.
In his eye-opening Broke documentary for ESPN Films, director Billy Corben documented the lives of several professional athletes who earned millions in their respective sports only to lose most or all of it to drugs, lavish spending, bad investments, or bad advice. Some athletes get caught up in the fame and fortune of being in the pros, and they want to make it rain money wherever they go. There are players who don’t understand the basics of personal finance and trust the wrong people to make decisions about their money.
That was not going to be me.
I promised myself that if I made it to the pros, I would save as much of my money as possible, learn as much as I could about saving and investing, and make the right decisions to protect my financial future. After all, if I play football until I’m thirty-five years old, I still have to support myself and my family not just for the rest of my own life, but even after I die, through life insurance and whatever kind of estate I leave behind for surviving family members. That could entail forty or more years of my having to provide a place to live, food to eat, clothes, health care, and so much more. So I needed to find other ways of making money (creating income streams) that would continue to support me even after my football career was over.
But before I could do that, I had to get drafted.