Remember when you graduated from college and signed that seven-figure contract for your first job? Neither do we. However, unlike the rest of us, NFL rookies cash in on mind-blowing bonuses and paychecks before they’ve played a single down. Leading up to the 2010 NFL Draft at the Verizon/NFL Draft Eve party at Abe & Arthur’s, we asked former and current players about how they splurged once they made it to the pros.
A number of them invested in the people who had raised them, including jack-of-all-trades (and current NFL Network personality) Deion Sanders. “When I was 7, I told my mama I was going to make a lot of money and she was never going to have to work another day in her life,” he says. Right after the Atlanta Falcons signed him to a $4.4 million, four-year contract, Sanders says, “Mama got a million-dollar crib, a Mercedes Benz, and the rest is history.”
Retired San Francisco 49er Jerry Rice also bought his parents a house in their hometown of Starkville, Mississippi. Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez is playing it a little more conservative, despite his five-year, $50 million deal. “I still haven’t bought a house or a car,” he admits. “I just got a fishing boat for my dad. For my mom it’s a massage here and there, a salon day with her girlfriends — she’s easy.”
Before he bought himself a burgundy Cadillac Escalade, Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis used part of his six-year, $36 million contract to “make sure my mom was okay. I bought her a new house and a new Mercedes Benz truck. She’s riding it until the wheels fall off.”
Other players rewarded themselves for their dedication and hard work. Former Buffalo Bill and current co-host of ABC’s Winner’s Bracket Marcellus Wiley remembers, “Marv Levy called me on draft day (in 1997) and said, ‘How’d you like to be a Bill?’ I said, ‘As long as you pay the bills, let’s do this!’” Wiley used his $600,000 signing bonus to purchase “a 1998 Ford Expedition. I was riding down the block, Buffalo Bills flags in the window, bossing because I was richer than everybody else!” Dolphins Hall of Famer Dan Marino didn’t need a flashy set of wheels, because he had just won some as the MVP of the Senior Bowl. So when the 22-year-old from Pittsburgh arrived in Miami with a four-year, $2 million deal, he “bought an apartment on the beach and the biggest stereo system I could.”
Though his football career helped set him up for a financially sweet life, Rice is amazed at the size of the contracts this year. “The amount of money I got then compared to now is crazy,” he says. “The No. 1 draft choice is probably going to be around that $46 million range just to sign his name.” In comparison, how much was Rice’s signing bonus as the sixteenth pick in the 1985 draft? A paltry $525,000.