Graduating from college football to the NFL is a challenging transition for many athletes. We’ve heard several cautionary tales from former players about negative experiences early in their career which shaped them the rest of the way. Former Jacksonville Jaguars star running back Fred Taylor is one of those guys.
The Jaguars drafted Taylor with the No. 9 overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft out of the University of Florida. Even though the former Pro Bowler went on to have a successful pro career, multiple encounters could’ve knocked him off his path along the way.
Taylor recently shared a story of how he lost almost $3 million early in his career.
Fred Taylor admits he got duped by his first NFL agent
Fred Taylor was one of the most under-appreciated NFL running backs throughout his career. He doesn’t get his just due today, either. The Jacksonville Jaguars legend rushed for 11,695 yards and 66 touchdowns across 13 seasons.
As skilled as Taylor was on the football field, he wasn’t invincible off of it. During a recent appearance on Bussin’ With the Boys, the retired NFL star shared a telling story from his rookie year that cost him a lot of money.
“I chose my first agent first and foremost because he’s a black guy. I had an opportunity to go with Leigh Steinberg. They courted me and tried to recruit me, but I turned them down. I don’t even regret that.”
Taylor suggests he chose his first agent, Tank Black, because he felt he could relate to him more on a personal level.
“He recruited me like a father figure,” Taylor added. “I had a $5 million signing bonus in ’98. That was huge. I had the potential to make like $16 mil on my rookie deal. He took that check after I signed it, and I remember seeing $2.8 million go into a bank account. They took that money and invested it into an offshore account, which eventually became a Ponzi scheme.”
“They would give me these window documents of what I was getting for return on investment, which was like 30 grand a month. Fast forward, it ends up being a Ponzi scheme, total bulls***. My money was frozen. I ended up getting back about $2 million of it. So I lost $300,000 plus whatever interest I could’ve made.”
The Ponzi scheme wasn’t the only wild situation Taylor had during his football career
The Ponzi scheme during his rookie season wasn’t the only mishap that significantly impacted his life and his football career.
After Taylor parted ways with his original agent, he linked up with another financial adviser by the name of Jeff Rubin.
“I knew him from college, and a lot of other guys knew Jeff,” Taylor said. “I was coming off a bad breakup, and he was the first guy that said, ‘Hey, I can do this, this, this, and this.’ So I hired him. Some investments early on were very moderate, very conservative, mutual funds, easy stuff.”
The former running back suggests things started to go downhill, though.
“He started taking shots at private equity deals. He put us in a casino deal down in Alabama. I thought it was a good deal. It was a charitable bingo operation. At the time, they were great in Alabama. They built up the casino, and on our opening night, they raided it. They said this is an illegal operation. The bingo is a front. I had $1.6 million in that deal.”
Taylor added that the casino got shut down, and he was out of a lot of money. As a result, the Jaguars star filed multiple lawsuits against the law firm and the bank.
“It was bad, man,” Taylor admitted. “Just got with bad people.”
The Jaguars legend says young players can learn from his experience
While Fred Taylor hit the ground running and shined early in his NFL career, some of his choices off the field could’ve upended him.
The 46-year-old Florida native didn’t fully understand what he was getting himself into, which put him in positions where people could take advantage of him. Despite the uncomfortable situations, Taylor is glad those things transpired.
“I learned a valuable lesson,” Taylor said. “Stuff that I can talk to my kids about, I can talk to young players about. I can go into these speaking engagements and Fortune 500s and talk to their employees about it. In hindsight, it’s a blessing in disguise. I learned a lot, and I’m much better for it now.”
Fred Taylor is a well-respected figure in NFL circles, and he’s using his platform to make sure current players and young guys coming up don’t fall into the same traps that almost tripped him up.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference