There’s no shortage of stories about NFL players who made it to the big time and racked up many millions in earnings, only to go broke a few years into retirement. A 2015 working paper by researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research found that 15.7 percent of NFL players are broke within 12 years of retirement.
But some players are different. In a league of big spenders, they practice conspicuous nonconsumption — driving old cars, living with roommates and even pocketing their per diem meal allowance in favor of cheaper eats.
If there were a Pro Bowl for frugality, these players would be a lock.
When he’s not riding his bike to work, Alfred Morris drives a “Bentley” — at least that’s what he calls his 1991 Mazda 626, which he bought used in college.
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Team: Cincinnati Bengals
Position: Running back
Bengals running back Giovani Bernard may have Morris beat — he doesn’t own his own car. In 2013, Bernard told Yahoo Sports that he avoided a car payment his rookie year by living in an apartment close enough to the team’s stadium that he could walk to practice, and by borrowing a van from his girlfriend’s mother when he needed a vehicle.
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Team: Washington Redskins
Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins will make almost $24 million this season, but he certainly isn’t living like it. Cousins drives a beat-up GMC Savana passenger van and told The Wall Street Journal, “It’s better to buy appreciating assets than depreciating. No yachts, no sports cars.”
Ravens reserve tackle John Urschel is not only a math whiz who was accepted into a Ph.D. program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he’s also a serious penny pincher who lives on $25,000 a year despite a multimillion-dollar contract. His secret weapon in fighting costs? A $9,000 Nissan Versa that saves him big money on gas.
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Team: New England Patriots
Position: Tight end
In his book, the Patriots’ Pro Bowl tight end wrote that he hadn’t “touched one dime of my signing bonus or NFL contract money.” Instead, he lives on money from his various marketing deals and saves his football earnings.
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Team: Green Bay Packers
Position: Wide receiver
On a recent episode of the Dan Le Batard radio show, Green Bay wide receiver Jordy Nelson recently confessed to being “cheap.” For example, he opts out of team dinners and instead eats a snack so he can save his per diem for a rainy day.