Entrepreneurs

Ex NFL player Martellus Bennett's biggest splurge is books — he has 3,500 of them

Some professional athletes spend their earnings on real estate or luxury cars, but former NFL tight end Martellus Bennett says his biggest expense something entirely different: books.

"I have about 3,500 books, maybe more," Bennett tells CNBC Make It.

Do the math using a conservative $9 a pop and that's $31,500 — and counting.

"I have a library, and it's like I want to beat Belle on 'Beauty and the Beast' and have a better library than she had," Bennett says, referring to the 1991 Walt Disney movie, which he watches with his four-year-old daughter, Austyn Jett.

Bennett, who retired in March after playing 10 seasons of football for five teams including the Chicago Bears and New England Patriots, made nearly $34 million in total in the NFL according to the sports contracts and salaries website Spotrac.

He's a voracious reader — a habit that he credits, in part, to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who famously challenged himself in 2015 to read a new book every other week for a year.

"I started reading a lot of books because Zuckerberg was doing it," says Bennett.

"I figured, if Mark Zuckerberg could read one book every two weeks, and he's running [an] almost a trillion-dollar empire, then one thing that little old me could do is read one book every two weeks."

CNBC | Mary Stevens

Bennett enjoys reading books with themes involving creativity and entrepreneurship. He recommends "Creativity, Inc.," the 2014 book by Edwin Catmull, a computer graphics pioneer who is now president of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios. Bennett also suggests "Collective Genius," a book on leadership and innovation, as well as Paulo Coelho's "The Alchemist," an inspirational novel that has a strong following in business circles.

Bennett also says he "really, really love[s]" the book "The Power of Now," by Eckhart Tole, the spiritual guide that champions living in the moment.

"[It talks] about how… if you really want to run a business and be a good leader you've got to let go of your ego," Bennett says.

While Bennett was always good at sports, he also says he had a childhood dream of "being the next Dr. Seuss, Roald Dahl, Tim Burton, Shel Silverstein," etc., according to his 2016 TED Talk.

And his love of books has already helped inspire his post-NFL career. In 2016, the former football player launched his multimedia entertainment company, The Imagination Agency, which recently released Bennett's second children's book, called "Hey A.J., It's Bedtime." Bennett says he reads even more children's books ("at least two a day") with his daughter, who serves as the basis for his own books' main character.

Bennett and his daughter, Austyn Jett Rose Bennett
Getty Images | Natasha Moustache
Bennett and his daughter, Austyn Jett Rose Bennett

The company also creates interactive animated apps to go with the children's books, as well as music and animated short films.

Now, Bennett's also working on a story about his life — with lots of imagination thrown in. It's "taking 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy,' meshing it with 'Bad Boys' and sprinkling a little Harry Potter magic dust on it, and then washing it in the river from 'The Chronicles of Narnia,'" he explains. He hopes to finish "someday soon."

It's like Bennett said when he announced his retirement on Twitter last month: He "decided to move on from the world of football and into the fantastical and wondrous world of creativity."

—Video by Mary Stevens

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