The Second Lives of Pro Football Players, Cont.

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Continuing a story-line we've followed quite a bit in this space, here's the tale of the great Leon Searcy. Unlike a lot of his colleagues, Searcy came from a solid home where education was stressed to the point of withholding athletics:


Leon Jr. hadn't played a down of high school football until his senior year at Evans High in Orlando because his mother, Erea, said that he had to have a 3.0 grade-point average first. Erea was a schoolteacher, and Leon Sr. worked at Orlando International Airport handling minority contracts. They were educated, and their son was going to be, too. 

Leon Jr. got that GPA and quickly showed himself to be a dominant player. The University of Miami came calling, and he said yes to the growing powerhouse. He took a 3.5 high school GPA with him to Coral Gables, where he spent five years and helped the Hurricanes to three national titles. Now it was time to reap the benefits of his talent and the determination of his parents.

But the more stories like this you read, the more you see that this isn't some lack of great willpower. I strikes me as fairly human to, at age 21, have a basic inability to perceive age 31 or 41. And when you're around a group of people who appear to be doing the same...

Through the injury-plagued seasons -- the first signs that his career may be coming to a close -- and two years after his retirement, Searcy still lived as if he were untouchable. His denial that the end was near became clear in several real estate transactions. 

In 1998, Searcy bought a condo in Miami for $865,000. In 2000, he bought a house in Clermont, Fla., for $399,900. In 2001, he bought another house in Baltimore for $870,000. "I was punch drunk," Searcy says. "It was a facade, what I was living. I still wanted to give people the impression that I was big-time. I'd see the guys who were still in the league in the night clubs, and I had to look the look. I was in character." 

 In 2002, the bank foreclosed on Searcy's Baltimore property for $550,632. In 2003, another bank foreclosed on his Miami condo for $568,263. 

 Records show that Searcy owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal and state tax liens.

I don't know what you do about this. Mandating savings, or some such, strikes me as having problems of its own. The league does do some amount of education. I'd be very interested in how effective it actually is, and how effective any education ultimately can be. 

I have no idea what I would have done had I been transformed into a multi-millionaire in my early 20s. 
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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