Ryan Mundy’s life was changing, and so was his thinking.
The Bears safety had gotten married and his first child was on the way. Football still was his livelihood, but he was mindful of life beyond the game after four NFL seasons.
“It was a time where you start seeing the big picture more,” Mundy said. “I finally made it out of the rat race of trying to get past my first contract and to beat the average and establish myself in the NFL.”
Now he’s making sure he’s established after it. He’s taken part in NFL-sanctioned career advancement programs at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and at Notre Dame the past two years. He’s also currently enrolled the University of Miami’s MBA program.
“It just gives me so much exposure to things,” Mundy said.
While the Bears’ future is on display during rookie minicamp this week at Halas Hall, Mundy’s outlook is worth considering.
“I’ve been blessed to have a good career,” said Mundy, who is entering his seventh season. “But there’s a really high turnover rate for guys in the NFL.”
Rookie receiver Kevin White, the seventh overall selection, said he was all smiles when he signed his four-year contract with the Bears worth a guaranteed $16.56 million, including a $10.3 million signing bonus.
“I couldn’t believe it,” White said. “I was taking pictures. Unreal. As a kid, this is your dream. In junior college, it didn’t look too good, but for me to sign my name on that contract was a dream come true.”
What will he buy first?
“I need a car,” he said with a smile.
White seems destined for stardom, but, more often than not, NFL careers are short. Though statistics vary on the subject, the careers of first-round selections and quarterbacks are typically longer than other rounds and positions. But the NFL Players’ Association and other studies – to the dismay of the league — have reported that the average playing career is less than four years.
Athletes’ financial troubles also have gained more notoriety recently as documentaries extensively detail players’ money woes. According to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research published last month, 15.7 percent of NFL players filed for bankruptcy in the first 12 years of retirement. That number is in line with the general population, but NFL players have a higher average income.
The report, which has appeared in numerous publications and looked at players over an eight-season span, noted that filings begin soon after retirement and substantially increased over 12 years.
And, there’ s more.
A Sports Illustrated report in 2009 found that 78 percent of former players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of divorce or joblessness by the time they’ve been retired for two years.
“I have more to offer the world than just football, but after that, who am I?,” Mundy said. “That’s a problem not only for myself, but I think for a lot of guys that they need to come to grips with because you can’t play football forever.
“At some point, you have to figure out what else I can offer the world and what else can I do for myself and my family.”
So Mundy, who is married with two daughters, studies.
The program at Wharton in 2013 focused on commercial development and real estate. At Notre Dame in 2014, Mundy received a crash course on how to develop and present business plans.
Here’s the problem: “Those programs are offered by the NFL every year and about maybe 25 to 30 guys will attend those,” he said.
The NFL, according to the collective bargaining agreement, helps cover costs for schooling. Mundy said programs at Stanford and Michigan were offered this year.
Mundy went a step further by enrolling at Miami. The school’s MBA program, he said, is geared toward entrepreneurship and consists of two-week stints in February, March and June. One highlight of program was a trip to Los Angeles, where his class visited film production companies.
Mundy said it takes players time to understand their NFL mortality, and he knows school isn’t for everyone. He studied liberal arts at Michigan and athletic coaching at West Virginia before being drafted in the sixth round by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2008.
“You’re still a young man, playing in the NFL, hanging with your friends and stuff like that,” he said. “You’re not really thinking about retirement at the age of 23, 24, 25. That’s not really in your picture.”
Football left to play
Mundy isn’t done playing by any means. He’s ecstatic about the defensive scheme changes under coach John Fox and coordinator Vic Fangio. And he’s thrilled that he gets to play alongside Antrel Rolle again.
“I really feel like I’m in my prime,” he said. “But I still have an opportunity to make sure when I’m down playing football that I could have a smooth transition. “
His interests encompass many fields. He’d like to open a restaurant that specializes in brunch; he has ideas for films and documentaries; and he’s intrigued by commercial real estate.
As a veteran and one of the Bears’ union representatives, Mundy said he plans to be more available to younger players to help answer their questions, football or non-football.
“I definitely want to make sure the guys are aware of the programs,” Mundy said. “After that, they could decide because these are grown men. They could make decisions for themselves.”
Of course, Mundy knows what the rookies are going through. Right now, football is the end-all, be-all.
“Fortunately, I was one of the ones that made it and have played as long as I have,” Mundy said. “But the majority of guys that I played with in college did not make it. The reality is that football is not forever.”