The Suhs and Scarlett school kids about money
The National Football League would like more of its players to learn about money — how to handle it, what to spend it on, what to refrain from spending it on, consider investments, and more.
Fortunately, Portland natives Ndamukong Suh and Brennan Scarlett had a head start on the potential financial trappings in pro football.
As Suh, a former Grant High student and player, prepared to be an NFL player after his standout career at Nebraska, he had advice from some pretty smart people: Now former Ameritrade CEO Joe Moglia and investor extraordinaire Warren Buffett.
Scarlett, who prepped at Central Catholic, played college football at California and Stanford — two academic institutions — and took finance classes before entering the NFL.
Both were ready, but many players are not. And, an emphasis on financial wisdom has been part of their off-field endeavors, as Suh and wife Katya and Scarlett combined their foundation efforts to arrange to teach Portland students about the ins and outs of money. It's a slice of life of pro athletes you don't hear about often: Helping their communities through their own experiences.
"We believe it should be in schools," Katya Suh said. "We put our brains together and came up with a class."
Suh and Katya, who have twin 5-month-old boys, run the Suh Family Foundation — Suh, of course, has had a long NFL career as a defensive lineman, and plays for the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Katya has been an entrepreneur. Scarlett, a veteran outside linebacker who signed with the Miami Dolphins, has The Big Yard Foundation, and he has developed a relationship with the folks who operate the financial tech company Stash.
Combined, they put together the Stash101 Summer School, which educated about 160 Portland students about finances this summer. The curriculum explored checking versus savings accounts, building a budget, the stock market and diversification, compounding interest and more.
"We got a lot of great feedback from the kids," Scarlett said. "We saw the light bulbs going off, and they were asking questions about income and expenses and being curious about investing. It was cool to see.
"We would love to continue to grow the program in the city and state. As Katya alluded to, it's important that skills and knowledge be given to kids, and we would love to see it done in the school systems, but it's not done in many states. It's important to learn." Indeed, Suh has said that they would like to ambitiously expand the program and take it to areas around the country.
Through his experience, Suh said many NFL players suffer from a "lack of knowledge" about money, and the mentality extrapolates to the general population.
"Learn how to make money work for yourself," he said. In the NFL, "most guys are making sure they're on the team and playing at a high level (and not thinking about money consequences)."
One of his mentors, Moglia, told him, "Being the CEO of a company is no different than being an athlete. You'll be a chief executive of your entire life." The Stash101 Summer School, Suh added, can be beneficial to youth as well as adults who haven't had an opportunity to learn.
Suh, 34, has enjoyed the riches of the NFL after being a No. 2 draft pick in 2010 and becoming one of the league's best defensive linemen with the Detroit Lions and then Miami Dolphins, Los Angeles Rams, and now Buccaneers. He signed a six-year, $114 million deal with Miami ($60 million guaranteed) in 2015. He still makes a lot of money and has played with the Rams and Buccaneers in Super Bowl games.
Scarlett, 28, played five seasons with the Houston Texans after signing as an undrafted free agent in 2016. So, big money wasn't thrust on him early in his career. He signed a one-year, $1.1 million deal with Miami in the offseason with a signing bonus and about half guaranteed.
"I was dealing with 'hundreds' and 'thousands,'" he said of his early NFL earnings. "It helped me handle the small dollars and take ownership of my financial picture. That's not the case with most NFL players. Whether it's where they come from, socio-economic background or not having money, the first paycheck can become difficult."
In turn, he added, "With Stash101, as we look to increase financial literacy in youth, building those habits is so important. You receive your first paycheck, you can't snap your fingers and know what to do."
Their foundations do have other endeavors. The Suh Family Foundation, for example, distributed backpacks and gear through a partnership with BAE Fried Chicken during Super Bowl LV Sunday in February.
These are the types of things pro athletes do with their time and money — give back.
As far as on the field, Scarlett looks forward to a new opportunity with Miami. "I love the organization, so far, it's a team environment," he said. "We're taking it day by day to build the right culture and techniques to be in a position to win."
Suh helped Tom Brady win his seventh Super Bowl — hey, it's OK to think like that. Suh said Brady owed him a Super Bowl ring after Brady's New England beat Suh's L.A. Rams a few years ago. He likes Brady, messaging him "Happy Birthday" recently because "he's the only quarterback that I like."
The Buccaneers returned all their starters to defend their title.
"It's a brand new year," Suh said. "We got to enjoy our ring ceremony, but from that point forward, we're rebuilding. We hope to have another opportunity to earn another ring."
Oh, and the Dolphins and Buccaneers play each other Oct. 10. But, both being defensive players, Suh and Scarlett likely won't meet each other on the field, but Suh looks forward to "sharpening my tools and beating up on the Dolphins."
Good friends, Suh and Scarlett train in Portland during the offseason.
"I get a lot of tips from Ndamukong. He knows how to do it all," Scarlett mused. "But, I take those tips with a grain of salt."
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