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Hall of Fame, Fall of Shame

Football star Travis Henry learned the hard way that fathering children is expensive.

Not even the $20 million Henry earned over a seven-year career in the National Football League was enough to support his offspring. Of course, having 11 children by 10 different women contributed to the financial strain.

Henry claimed to be broke in 2009 after he was arrested for nonpayment of child support. At the time, an attorney for the 30-year-old Henry estimated that his client owed about $170,000 annually to the mothers of his children.

The one-time “Mr. Florida Football” bemoaned his predicament in a New York Times interview: “I’ve lost everything in this mess I’ve gotten myself into.”

The Travis Henry story is not atypical. Young athletes and big money continue to be a potent cocktail for potential misery. In Henry’s case, his NFL orientation included a session on family planning and the financial dangers of having children out of wedlock.

Henry admitted that he paid no attention. And that highlights the difficulty sports leagues, agents, family and loved ones face in trying to steer athletes toward sound financial principles.

The reality is most athletes are not making the $20 million that Henry made. Yet, peer pressure might motivate them to live a similar lifestyle — be it cars, or travel or haphazardly having children.

“It’s OK to say ‘No,’” said Gerald Graves, head of wealth management, West Coast, for the financial firm Boston Private.

“I think a lot of people aren’t familiar with asking questions and saying ‘No.’ When we start off in the business world, we learn over a number of years that when somebody offers you a business idea, you ask, ‘So what is that going to cost?’ Well, [athletes] haven’t been trained to do that.”

For Henry, financial pressures led him down the road to bigger problems. He was released by the Denver Broncos in June 2008 — one year into a five-year, $22.5 million contract — amid reports of a looming drug suspension. NFL contracts are not guaranteed.

On Sept. 30, 2008, Henry was arrested by federal drug enforcement agents and accused of being “the ruthless 'money guy' in a cocaine trafficking ring." He would later plead guilty in a deal that sent him to federal prison for three years.

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InsuranceNewsNet Senior Editor John Hilton has covered business and other beats in more than 20 years of daily journalism. Follow him on Twitter @INNJohnH. John may be reached at [email protected].

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