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Why a star linebacker took his high school car with him to the NFL

When linebacker Devon Kennard was drafted by the New York Giants in 2014, friends asked him what kind of car he was going to buy. His answer shocked them: He had decided to keep the 2005 Kia Sorento he'd been driving since he was 16 years old.

"Just because you have money doesn't mean you have to spend money," he tells CNBC Make It. "Any purchase that's over, let's say, $300 or $400, I take a long time to consider." He asks himself questions like, "Do I really need this?" and "Do I really want it?" With more serious purchases, he'll wonder, "Can I afford it if I never play another down of football?"

"In my family, I'm known as the stingy, frugal person," he says.

That's why he was disappointed when he realized during his rookie season that his faithful Kia, accustomed to sunnier days in Phoenix where Kennard grew up and Los Angeles where he attended the University of Southern California, wasn't suited to East Coast winters. "I hydroplaned, like, three times," he says.

So he bit the bullet and leased a newer model, a Kia Cadenza, which he drove for three years before recently deciding, after six or seven months of deliberation, to purchase a Range Rover.

New York Giants linebacker Devon Kennard's 2005 Kia Sorento
Source: Devon Kennard
New York Giants linebacker Devon Kennard's 2005 Kia Sorento

The Sorento isn't gone, though. It's back home in Phoenix for when he visits his family. And when his friends ask him if he is seriously still driving it, he tells them that it doesn't make any sense to buy something else.

Kennard grew up "in a household that understood the complexities of the NFL," he says. His father Derek Kennard played 11 seasons in the league and won a Super Bowl title with the Dallas Cowboys. "My dad raised me to understand that this money wasn't going to last forever."

Fifteen percent of NFL retirees declare bankruptcy, while Sports Illustrated estimates that 78 percent come close to wiping out, or at least experience significant financial stress.

"To me, there's no excuse for that anymore," says Kennard. "We've been exposed to enough to understand the ramifications that come with spending a whole lot of money way too fast."

"You don't have to double your budget just because you're making more money," he says. "I think that that's something that every single person, whether you're a professional athlete or a 9-to-5 worker, should consider."

That's his plan: to keep his spending in check even as his salary increases. That's partly what made it hard to buy the Range Rover, despite the fact that he'd gotten a $1 million raise during his last off-season.

Even though Kennard says his friends back home — who "don't have to worry about [their] salaries being blasted online" — pester him about that, too.

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Video by Richard Washington