During his storied 11-year NFL career, Patrick Kerney witnessed some of his peers fail to make wise decisions toward their financial futures.
Kerney hopes to prevent the same from happening with a newer generation of players.
FOX Sports has learned that Kerney was recently hired as the vice president of player benefits and NFL legends operations within the league’s player engagement program. One of Kerney’s major focuses will be helping current and former players better understand the services offered them as part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NFL Players Association.
“This is very consistent with the mission I set out on when I retired and went to graduate school,” Kerney told FOX Sports in a telephone interview. “There is a frustration with financial and benefit illiteracy throughout pro sports in general, particularly in the NFL.
“The general outsider talks about poor decisions that athletes make with their money, especially with what they’re earning early in life. Really, a lot of times the players are just poorly informed when making those decisions.”
Kerney cites players who opt out of the NFL’s 401K program as one example. Players can contribute a maximum of $17,500 a year toward that retirement fund. NFL teams also do a two-for-one match up to $24,000 for those players with at least two credited seasons.
“The fact there isn’t 100-percent participation in the 401K program shows that guys don’t really understand what an incredible gift tax deferment is with zero-risk leverage,” Kerney said.
“To younger guys and even some of the older ones, there’s such a wide swath of benefits available from the NFL that it can be overwhelming. We’ve got to create the proper messaging. Guys have to understand just how big a pie is out there for them even if they’re not in (financial) need.”
Kerney, 36, completed a master’s degree in business administration at Columbia University following his NFL retirement after the 2009 season. Kerney was voted the 2007 NFL Defensive Player of the Year after leading the league in sacks with 14.5. He also was a two-time All-Pro while playing for Atlanta (1999 to 2006) and Seattle (2007 to 2009).
“He understands the guys in the locker room,” said Troy Vincent, the NFL’s senior vice president of player engagement. “When you start talking about financial literacy and learning the benefits available, you have to have an understanding of how this affects you today and in the long-term. You have to have someone who can teach and educate in that area with passion and love and patience. Patrick will do that.”