The NFL has too few inspiring stories and far too many stories of fortunes squandered and bonehead moves. But the New York Giants first-round pick (and number two pick overall), Saquon Barkley, won't be a cautionary tale.
He told ESPN Thursday night that he plans to follow the path that Marshawn Lynch and Rob Gronkowski have and live off of endorsement money, never touching his NFL salary.
Not that Barkley will have to borrow Chipotle money anytime soon, especially since endorsement deals are already in place with Nike and Pepsi (just to name a few) that will net him millions in annual income.
But still, this takes some serious restraint and wisdom beyond his years. Barkley signed a 4-year contract worth $31 million--all guaranteed (the second highest guaranteed salary for a running back in NFL history behind Adrian Petersen's $36 million). $20.8 million of that will come in an upfront guaranteed signing bonus. That's a lot of temptation for a 22-year-old kid.
Figure that the average running back goes for about 10 years in the NFL and that Saquon's first contract will be his smallest. Thus, he stands to make about $100 million in NFL salary.
If he doesn't touch this he won't just have a nest egg, he'll have a nest dozen-eggs.
As Barkley put it:
"Once I realized when I declared for the NFL draft and kind of realized where I was going to be drafted, that was something I was like, You know what? Kind of want to follow the Marshawn Lynch method. I don't want to touch that. I want to invest it, put it in the right people's hands and learn as I continue to make investments. And just live off the endorsement deals."
Barkley hopes his financial planning will set a model for other professional athletes. It's not a surprise for those that have followed the character that Saquon has already shown. New York Giants GM has called him "a special kid", and he's already gotten high grades from Giants teammates.
He's made one big purchase to date with his endorsement money, buying a house for his parents "who sacrificed so much", something he called "the best accomplishment I have so far".
That's saying something for someone who was the NFL's number two pick, already has the league's top-selling jersey, is already the second-richest running back in the league, and preceded all that with a legendary career at Penn State.
In a time where excess is no longer the exception, it's really refreshing to see such a young athlete embracing restraint and wanting to show up as a role model. Let's hope his health lets him remain a healthy example for athletes (and people) everywhere.