National Football League
How did Vince Young end up broke?
National Football League

How did Vince Young end up broke?

Published Sep. 19, 2012 1:00 a.m. ET

How could he have been so stupid?

The he in question is Vince Young, and what he is accused of being intellectually diminutive about is his finances. This hardly makes him unique among NFL players, T.O. most recently making headlines for plundering through disgusting amounts of cash. Yet the sordid details of VY’s financial state leaking out via lawsuit are jarring.

The bottom line is another NFL player is broke. The reality is somewhat uglier, the countersuit filed by his financial advisors actually includes this clause about what they believe is VY’s unwillingness to accept responsibility:

“ . . . a common occurrence as Jeff Fisher, Mack Brown, numerous NFL executives, coaches, teammates, scouts, girlfriends and illegitimate children will attest.”


What they are describing sounds very much like a guy who needed competent advisors, which is why he is suing. And while I have no doubt these advisors deserve to be dropped in the grease, as does VY, the University of Texas and the NFL, what I keep coming back to is his family.

Where the hell were they?

I was working at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram when VY was a junior in college. The paper sent me to Houston first, to interview his family, then along to Austin to interview Young. This was before the Rose Bowl win and Heisman Trophy consideration, but even at that point you could predict what was coming. He was a player on the rise. Everything seemed possible.

It is wrong to say he was can’t-miss; too many NFL scouts and execs thought otherwise. What VY instead embodied was a chance, a good chance, a chance few of us get, to realize his dreams.

The problem was his dreams belonged not only to him. His mom had dreams, as did his uncle Keith Young. He was a middle school teacher who dreamed of bigger and found that bigger by starting Next Level Sports and Entertainment Inc. with Major Adams.

Guess who was their first client?

Guess who now is suing Adams?

Guess who now is hurling awful accusations?

A 20-year-old model embarking on an NFL career is doomed to fail if he does not have the right people around him. Family is not the right people, no matter how good or loving or well-intentioned they are.

I should note I liked his mom almost immediately as we sat down for dinner my first night in town. She is one of those parents who had poured everything she had into her kid. It is hindsight to say so now, but there were red flags, mostly the use of “we.”

What was obvious, even before his senior year of college, was that “we” were all going to be working for the NFL.

It is why I hate the Hall of Fame speeches, most recently that of Deion Sanders. I cringed at the part about him making it and how his mom never had to work again — like there is something wrong with work. This is the trap, and there is nobody willing to talk about the trap or why it is a trap or why it is screwed up.

It is like they say on airplanes: Secure your own mask before helping those around you. VY’s biggest failing was not securing that $26 million in guaranteed money before helping anybody else.

Yes, we are talking about $26 million in guaranteed money.

I once asked former NFL coach Bill Parcells what his advice to players was regarding money. He was always meddling in their business, calling them into his office and giving advice too few listened to. What he told them was to bank that signing bonus for a year, live on only one game check, then after a year live on the interest from the bonus.

He said few players listened.

Most guys want guys like Adams, chartering planes and securing loans and cutting checks to themselves and never having a tough conversation about who and how many are getting checks. This is why VY is suing his former agent as well as a financial planner, basically saying they are why he is broke.

I have no doubt this is true, just as I have no doubt there is blame for Vince Young. His ego got out of control. He surrounded himself by yes men. He took every piece of sage financial advice and did the opposite thing. He was the first client of people who may or may not have known what they were doing. He involved his uncle in the handling of his money. He felt the need to pay for all of his family and friends, for cars and houses and things, the things surrounding him now as he sits in Houston waiting for another NFL team to call with a job he so desperately needs.

This sad state of Vince Young, broke and unable to pay the bills, begs the question: How could he be so stupid?

The sad and simple answer is this is what too often happens when a 20-year-old is forced to become the family patriarch.


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