Frank Wycheck signed his rookie NFL contract in 1993 for a sizeable sum of $105,000.
Big money. Felt bigger.
“I thought it was a million dollars,” said Wycheck, a product of the University of Maryland who went on to an 11-year, All-Pro career as a tight end that concluded with the Tennessee Titans and the Music City Miracle. “I was freaking out.”
How great did it feel? Good enough to buy a brand-new Toyota 4Runner – before receiving his first NFL paycheck. So he made the purchase and hit the road … until he passed another car lot.
That was when he promptly fell in love with a $70,000 Lexus. Acting on impulse, he made the trade – losing money on the first car to lease the luxury model at an astronomical monthly payment.
The moral of the story: “I didn’t know the first thing about how to manage money. I was 21, breaking into the NFL, and I didn’t know how to even write a check.”
Wycheck shared his personal story – and stories of other NFL stars who made big money and fared even worse – with students attending the national Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) convention in Nashville. The FCCLA is a career and technical student organization that provides personal growth, leadership development and career preparation opportunities for students in Family and Consumer Sciences education.
During the convention, Wycheck joined nearly 100 students for a game of Visa Financial Football, an interactive video game that takes a unique approach to helping students learn how to manage money.
Regions Bank, Visa and the Tennessee State Treasurer’s Office worked together to bring the learning experience to students.
With Wycheck as one coach and Bill Parker, director of the Tennessee Financial Literacy Commission, as the other, students competed in a Madden-esque game, moving the ball and scoring based on answering financial questions that ranged from easy to complex.
Maria Bice, a middle school teacher and career advisor from Pasco, Washington, watched the action from the sidelines with a smile.
“This is great and a lot of fun,” Bice said. “The energy from the kids is great, and I love seeing them learn about financial education.”
Part of Washington state’s Tri-Cities, the Pasco school district is proactive about teaching financial education. “We teach financial literacy in our high schools,” Bice said. “But I think Financial Football is a very fun way to teach financial principles to students. They really seem to get a lot out of it.”
Unfortunately, Pasco is an exception. Most U.S. school districts don’t require financial education courses.
Kaitlyn Ott attends a school in a nearby district. The three-sport athlete works as a lifeguard during the summer.
“This game was really eye-opening,” Ott said. “I think it’s really important for our school to get something like this, because right now we don’t have financial education. It would help. I know it’s so easy to spend your paycheck as soon as you get it. This program puts things in perspective.”
Financial Football covers not only financial terms, but also includes topics such as student loans, interest rates and savings accounts. The action moves quickly, but the information sinks in.
“That’s why we are here,” said Hugh Norton of Visa, the game’s host for the day. “We know there’s a need for financial education, and we want to make learning fun.”
Jim Schmitz, Regions’ Middle Tennessee Area President, served as a lifeline for both teams when players were stumped by tough questions. Schmitz spoke to the students about the importance of financial empowerment.
And on the willingness to give back.
“Knowing how to manage personal finances can do so much for your future, but also for a community,” Schmitz said. “I hope you learn something today and then share with others to make your community stronger.”
Wycheck remains a popular figure in Nashville, hosting a daily radio talk show and serving as the color analyst for Titans broadcasts.
“It’s a huge deal to help young people learn and give them the tools we didn’t have growing up,” he said. “I’d like to give kudos to Regions Bank and Visa for putting on this program. This is really cool.”