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While the NFL might not be a pure meritocracy, salaries tend to fall in line with performances, with the best players com earning massive contracts. Rookies, however, don’t have a professional resume and receive a salary based on their draft position. That reality helped Miami Dolphins defensive end Christian Wilkins make almost $10 million as an NFL rookie.

Despite that impressive payday, don’t expect to see Wilkins splashing his cash and making any dramatic purchases. During his time in college, the lineman was apparently known as “the cheapest guy in the world.”

Christian Wilkins’ young football career

While lineman may not be the most exciting players to watch, they’re essential to building a successful football team. During his time on the gridiron, Christian Wilkins has established himself as a solid contributor to any club.

After making a name for himself as a five-star recruit, Wilkins enrolled at Clemson. While he didn’t see much action as a freshman, the defensive end grew into his role with the Tigers. In addition to the team’s overall success—Clemson claimed two national titles during his time on campus—Wilkins also claimed the 2017 Bill Willis Trophy as the nation’s top defensive lineman, the 2018 Academic Heisman, and earned a spot on the 2018 All-American team.

On the back of that collegiate success, Wilkins entered the 2019 NFL pick; the Miami Dolphins snagged him with the 13th overall pick. While his stats weren’t mind-blowing—he recorded 56 total tackles and two sacks as a rookie—the lineman still managed to take him $9.7 million during his first professional season; according to Spotrac, more than $9 million of that came in the form of a signing bonus.

‘The cheapest guy in the world’

While Christian Wilkins earned almost $10 million during his rookie season, don’t expect him to make any impulse buys. During college, the lineman’s frugal ways made national news.

According to Rachel Bachman’s Wall Street Journal piece, Wilkins relies on plenty of tricks of the trade. He’ll get a glass of water at restaurants and add lemon wedges and sugar to make his own lemonade; he spent as much time in the team facility as possible, wore team provided clothing, and worked as a substitute teacher to earn extra cash. While his scholarship obviously helped, he saved up more than $15,000 by the time he graduated.

Wilkins also used four different bank accounts to help him balance his budget. One account held a set amount for day-to-day spending, while a second was dedicated to larger expenses like bills and rent. The third account held money for investments; a fourth sat untouched in case of an emergency.

“My teammates know I’m the cheapest guy in the world,” he simply explained.

Christian Wilkins seems prepared to avoid an unfortunate NFL fate

While you might assume that professional athletes are set for life, that’s not always the case. Plenty of former stars have fallen on hard times once they stop receiving game checks; Christian Wilkins, however, doesn’t seem like he’ll be one of them.

Beyond his saving strategy and money-saving methods, the Dolphins defensive end has the right attitude to handle his newfound wealth. Rather than splurging on luxury cars or the latest gadgets, Wilkins would keep his cash in his pocket. “It’s simple: My mind-set is just, save a whole lot more than you spend,” he explained. “And I’m not ever willing to spend much. I’m very low-maintenance when it comes to my needs.”

With all of that being said, though, there’s a fine line between saving money and depriving yourself of even the most occasional indulgence. Christian Wilkins, however, knows how to find that balance.

“I’ll be that guy still forever sneaking food into the movie theater,” he said. “But if I didn’t have time to run to the store before the movie, I’ll still buy that large popcorn.”

Stats courtesy of Sports-Reference and Pro-Football-Reference


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