IRVING - This recent story about former Baltimore Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister being "broke as a joke" despite making millions is just another negative re-inforcement of a bad stereotype that doesn't need any more help. Not all professional athletes are idiots with their money, who behave as if it's their mission in life to blow through cash.
Now, a lot of them do. Like Chris McAlister. A lot of them, however, do not. Like Cowboys safety Abe Elam.
I had heard the following story a few years ago about Elam: In 2007, Elam was a member of the New York Jets. On his way to the Meadowlands for a game, the security guard at the stadium stopped Elam and asked him if he was still living on one game check, and depositing the rest of the money.
"You tell Coach Parcells that's what I'm doing," Elam said.
On Friday afternoon, I asked Elam if that story is true.
"Oh yeah. That's true. I remember that," Elam said with a big smile. "That's Bill. That's Bill. Every time I see Bill he asks me, 'Are you saving your money?'"
Elam was an undrafted rookie free agent who made the Cowboys in 2006, Parcells' last year with the team. When Elam made the roster, Parcells advised him to take his first game check and to live on that for the rest of the year; every other check he received that season he deposited into savings and didn't touch it.
"That was my goal my first year. I stayed in a hotel. It was tough; I sacrificed a lot my rookie year," Elam said. "I'm quite frugal. Nothing I ever had was guaranteed so I've had to be careful. I've been in the league for six years, and they've all been one-year deals. I always knew, one day this could be over. It's unfortunate, but that's the reality. I'm very aggressive saving my money. This is a nice opportunity to jump-start the rest of my life. Not everybody has this type of opportunity to make this type of money at this age. But I still have the rest of my life to live so I have to be wise the way I approach things and how I spend my money."
Elam's story isn't the rule.
But neither is McAlister's.
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