This is not the way it was supposed to be for Broyles, a second-round draft pick by the Lions in 2012 out of Oklahoma, where he was the most prolific pass catcher in NCAA history. But a pair of ACL injuries robbed Broyles of his speed and athleticism. And while the 5-foot-10, 185 pounder can catch everything that comes his way, his lack of athleticism is simply not enough, at least in the eyes of the Lions, who are looking to add quality depth at that position.
There is a chance that Broyles, 27, can find work with another team. But whether he does or not, Broyles’ is the most important story in professional sports. When I say it is an important story, I don’t necessarily mean just to the fans. His story should be of huge importance to every pro athlete.
In an interview with Lions’ beat writer, Michael Rothstein of ESPN, Broyles detailed a financial plan that has him, and his wife and kid, living off $60,000 a year. That is just a mere fraction of the $3.6 million contract he signed with the Lions when he was drafted.
After spending a week at the rookie symposium in ’12, and hearing the stories of athletes going broke, Broyles made a plan. He talked with a financial advisor and studied investing and saving. Broyles came up with a budget of $60,000 a year.
The rest of the money has gone into retirement savings and investment. His conservative business practices have jump started his life, regardless if his pro career ends this week, or in the near future. It is a lesson, or at least should serve as a reminder, and a model, to other pro athletes. I hope every pro team puts the Broyles story on its bulletin board for players to see.
Professional sports is filled with so many sad financial disasters. Every sport has them, from John Daly in golf, to Antoine Walker in the NBA, and Warren Sapp in the NFL. It is so prevalent that ESPN produced a documentary ‘Broke’, chronicling the stories of pro athletes who have lost their fortunes. In 2009 Sports Illustrated estimated that 78 percent of NFL players, and 60 percent of NBA players, had filed for bankruptcy five years after retirement.
People often wonder how athletes can squander so much cash? Well, the mistake many people make is thinking because a guy is playing in the NFL, or any other professional sport these days, that he is rich, and set for life. Even worse, some of the athletes think the same way, and spend as if they are going to be in the NFL for 20 years, instead of the average of about three years.
However, just like the real world, pro sports has a class system. Broyles’ teammates Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford are truly rich, the upper crust. While a player like Lions’ cornerback Rashean Mathis, 35, has middle class security. He has the longevity of 13 seasons behind him, and has earned good money all along the way.
Broyles falls into the working class of the NFL. These are men who, if they are lucky, make it through one contract. When these men leave the game they discover quickly there aren’t many jobs paying even the 2015 NFL rookie minimum of $435,000. For every Calvin Johnson sitting atop the pay scale, there are late round rookies, free agents and journeyman like Broyles, sitting at the bottom of the pay scale. For these players ‘NFL’ can easily stand for ‘Not For Long’.
This could be the end of Ryan Broyles’ career. However, if other professional athletes pick up on his story about financial responsibility, he will have made an impact that lasts far beyond the playing field.