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Former NFL player helps draftees manage their money

Mark Parker



Brandon Ghee (right) is a former NFL player who now helps collegiate and professional athletes manage their finances. Photo provided.

The National Football League’s 88th annual draft began Thursday night and will make hundreds of young athletes – many from low-income families – freshly minted millionaires by its conclusion today.

However, the minimum annual salary is $750,000, and the average NFL career lasts just 3.3 years. Tampa-based Brandon Ghee draws from personal experience to help athletes with a potentially small earning window create generational wealth.

Ghee spent six years in the NFL before entering the world of finance. He now leads Cogent Bank’s burgeoning Sports and Entertainment Banking vertical.

“I’ve been through it all, from being drafted – and blessed to be drafted – and I’ve been cut four times as well,” Ghee said. “So, I’ve been through every stage. The conversations are difficult.”

Ghee’s role is often goes beyond that of a financial advisor.  “It’s more about stabilizing them in their home and family life,” he says, “keeping their mental health in a positive light and helping them deal with depression in the right ways.”

Ghee starred collegiately at Wake Forest University before the Cincinnati Bengals selected him in the third round of the 2010 NFL draft. He also played cornerback for the San Diego Chargers and Tennessee Titans. He now calls Tampa Bay home.

Orlando-based Cogent Bank quickly moved into Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties after it launched in 2018.

Ghee was already helping local athletes manage their finances when the bank’s leadership approached him with an opportunity to expand his services. “Now I can really dive into these guys, as far as finances, and help them with lending, help educate them and build credit. I just enjoy the process,” he said.

Ghee explained that everyone has a different story and background. Some people come from two-parent households or have a foundation that fosters generational wealth.

Ghee also noted money management discussions are easier with first and second-round draft picks who receive multi-million dollar signing bonuses. He said the “money is already there” to invest in real estate or other assets.

The young men drafted in the sixth and seventh rounds – and those who never hear their name called but sign with a team as a free agent – do not have that financial cushion. “Now, it’s a job and not a career at the moment,” Ghee said.

“Now, we’re talking about just stabilizing you and your finances,” he added. “So, how do you plan and stay within your means? You didn’t spend this much money in college, so why are you spending this much money now?”

About 78% of NFL players file for bankruptcy or face significant financial hardship within two years of leaving the league. Ghee blames a lack of support systems and a desire to keep pace with their peers.

He noted that a million dollars in the bank seems like a lot to a 26-year-old. However, Ghee said many have $250,000 in annual expenses and can’t find a job with a matching salary.

He also explained that most athletes reaching the end of their careers continue training for a comeback without a contract. “So, you have a lot of expenses with no income,” Ghee said. “That transition is what gets a lot of athletes in trouble.”

Ghee is now helping professional and amateur players avoid those pitfalls. He recently partnered with the Fowler Avenue Collective, a booster club that facilitates name, image and likeness (NIL) payments for University of South Florida athletes.

Ghee stresses the importance of dedicating 35% of their income to taxes as an independent contractor. However, his focus remains on aspiring pros, and two potential Cogent clients became first-round NFL draft picks Thursday night.

Kitan Oladapo, a standout safety from Oregon State University, is a client and expects to go in the fourth or fifth round today. Ghee also advises Leonard Taylor III, a former five-star recruit at the University of Miami who projects in the same range.

Ghee said most Pinellas County clients play baseball, and many football players live outside Florida. He credited “word of mouth” advertising for his and Cogent’s rapidly expanding reach.

“But I absolutely want to dive into St. Pete more – and Pinellas County,” Ghee added. “Obviously, there’s a lot of talent in that area.”







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