Chase and UNINTERRUPTED have partnered to create "Kneading Dough," a series of intimate and honest conversations with professional athletes about how they've navigated their unique financial and career pathways. We hope our readers are inspired, informed, and empowered to make the best financial decisions.
Michael and Martellus Bennett have traveled parallel paths since childhood, going from high school football in Houston to collegiate stardom at Texas A&M University and, ultimately, to Super Bowl championships. Along the way, they've pursued entrepreneurial and philanthropic careers, where they've benefited from the lessons learned from family and athletic pursuits.
The Bennetts' childhood laid the foundation for their entrepreneurial mindset. One of Martellus’ earliest memories was building computers with his father, who started his own IT company after the Enron collapse in the early 2000s left him jobless.
"I just remember sitting down with my dad those late nights just putting computers together and eating ice cream with him," Martellus says. "Those were some of the best times."
Martellus played tight end in the NFL for 11 seasons, most recently with the New England Patriots. In retirement, he's shifting his energy to building The Imagination Agency, a multimedia content business that he developed to create videos, short films, cartoons, apps and multicultural books for children.
His older brother Michael, a Philadelphia Eagles defensive end, is active in social justice causes. He and his wife, Pele, co-founded The Bennett Foundation, which offers educational, health and social services to underserved children in multiple cities across the country.
Every player is an entrepreneur and we're consultants. Every year I've got to improve my product just in case somebody else needs me to come in and consult at the tight end position.
Sports as a business
As their football careers developed, the Bennett brothers always applied a business mindset to their career goals.
"Every player is an entrepreneur and we're consultants," Martellus says. "Every year I've got to improve my product just in case somebody else needs me to come in and consult at the tight end position."
Michael saved the money from his childhood summer jobs, which served him well after college. He wasn't drafted immediately, and had to survive some lean years before he landed a guaranteed NFL contract. "For my first three years, I lived in a hotel to save money," he says.
When he got his first contract, he immediately started spending. "I went and got cars and furniture and had my wife come up to Seattle," he says. He was cut days later. Afterward, he vowed to pay more attention to contracts and manage his money accordingly.
Take care of yourself first
When he got his first big paycheck, Michael bought houses for his parents and his wife's parents, even though Martellus advised him against it. The purchases worked out, but Martellus says that many athletes forget to secure their own financial futures before taking care of others, putting them in difficult situations later if the money runs out.
"It's great to get your parents a house," Martellus said. "But, people are so busy tending to other people's gardens that they grow all these weeds in their own garden. Sometimes you've got to take care of your own weeds."
Investing for the future
While big paydays are a mainstay for many pro athletes, the money stops when they reach the end of their careers. Many players are the first people in their family to make a six-figure income, and their lack of financial knowledge can be devastating.
"I would tell them about investments and get them caught up about real estate, stocks, life insurances and annuities," Michael says. "Money is supposed to grow through compound interest. It's the greatest thing in the world to be sitting home and looking at your check from somewhere or at your stock and seeing it jump exponentially every week or every year."
Both brothers say they're having these conversations with their own families. They encourage their children to create their own businesses.
"When I started a company, it was because I wanted to show my daughter that anything was possible," Martellus said. "A big part of a lot of stuff I do is to show her that she could do and become anything that she wanted."