Many professional athletes attended college on athletic scholarship, but Detroit Lions cornerback Jamal Agnew says he paid his tuition out of pocket.
After high school, Agnew attended the University of San Diego where he played football. The school, which is part of the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, does not offer football scholarships, according to ESPN. In order to attend, Agnew had to rely on financial aid and grants to assist with his tuition.
Now in his third season with the NFL, the All-Pro athlete says he's using his NFL salary to pay off his $50,000 in student loans.
"Obviously I'm dreading having to pay these loans back," the 24-year-old said. "But I think about it. Like, 90% of the people I'm leaving school with are going to have these loans and they are not going to be making nearly as much as I am [right now], so I'm just grateful for the position I'm in, the type of money I've made so far in the NFL."
A fifth-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft, Agnew made $465,000 his rookie season, according to ESPN. Last year, he made $555,000, and this year he's set to earn $645,000. Though he could have paid off his loans immediately, the cornerback says he's strategically paying off his debt bit by bit in order to establish credit since he had no credit cards in college and lived at home during his last three years of school.
"I'm almost done paying it off," he says. "I'm planning on, after this season, being completely done with all of that. I can't wait. I really can't wait."
Right now, the NFL star says he has around $20,000 left to pay off. He plans to tackle it by increasing his current payments, which are about $500 per month.
Agnew admits that because of his current loans and financial upbringing, he's still pretty tight with his money, despite having an NFL salary. He tells ESPN that the only thing he has splurged on since being in the NFL is a 2018 Mercedes SUV crossover,because that is "something I wanted my whole life." Other than that, he says, he lives a pretty simple life and only spends money on the basics like food and training.
The 24-year-old athlete isn't the only NFL star who has admitted to being frugal. In 2016, The Wall Street Journal reported that Washington Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan chose to cut back on housing costs by sharing an apartment with his childhood friend, Andrew Walker, even after signing a five-year, $57.5 million contract in 2015. Walker also told the Journal that Kerrigan keeps his food bill low as well: "He makes most of his own meals but, when he does splurge, he's going to Chipotle."
Current NFL free agent Darrius Heyward Bey told ESPN in 2016 that though he's earned millions, he's saved most of his money by keeping himself on an allowance and cutting off his cable during the NFL season when he's not home.
"I keep things real simple," he said. "I'm not really a flashy guy. I understand what I want to buy. I invest my money well and pay my taxes."
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