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Chad Pennington to rookies: You think you have Mercedes money, but it's actually Corolla cash

By Tim Graham

AURORA, Ohio -- The NFL Rookie Symposium has been loaded with anecdotes about how easily big money will slip through most players' fingers.

With the AFC's rookie class hooting for him not to do it, eight-time Pro Bowl defensive back Aeneas Williams made a point Tuesday night by feeding a $20 bill into a paper shredder.

"I want to give you guys a picture," said Williams, the mentor to unsigned Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd. "Once it's gone, can you get it back? Whatever amount of money you get, I don't care if it's millions or hundreds of thousands, once you give it away, you ain't getting it back.

"I want you guys to remember this picture because there will be a lot of people trying to get your money, and you'll feel like, 'Dog, I got it. It won't hurt me at all.' "

Nine-time Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins told the AFC rookies that by the end of his first season with the Philadelphia Eagles, he had only $13,000 remaining from his $570,000 signing bonus.

Dawkins claimed he wasn't partying. He was married and had a young a son. He said he'd given it away to family and friends because he didn't want to be the bad guy who told them, "No."

Chad Pennington, the 18th overall pick and the first quarterback taken in the 2000 draft, closed a roundtable discussion Tuesday afternoon with a financial breakdown many rookies seemed to grasp.

"How many people have heard somebody -- maybe even a family member, maybe yourself -- say, 'Man, if I had a million dollars?'

"Let me tell you what a million dollars will get you.

"Take that million and invest it. Get 8 percent, pretty good right now. You're going to have to put 3 percent of that back to keep your million a million, so that it has the same purchasing power, to stay above inflation.

"Now you're living off 5 percent of a million: $50,000. You're not living like a millionaire off a million dollars. You're living like a fifty-thousandaire. You're living like my mom and dad, schoolteachers. You're not driving the Benz. You're driving the Corolla.

"That's not a bad thing, but to have that mindset right now, think about what you're making right now as a rookie, $400,000 to $500,000. How much cold, hard cash after you're done playing do you have to have sitting in the bank after taxes to produce you that $500,000? It's $10 million.

"So for somebody to say 'You can give me 10 grand, it's not important to you.' It is important to you if you want to maintain and sustain the lifestyle you're living now. You've got a lot of work to do, a lot of money to save."

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |