Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne doesn’t shy away from the fact that he was a big spender at the beginning of his NFL career.
“When I first got my money, I was like, ‘Bro, I’m going to buy everything,’ ” he recalled recently.
In 2017, after going undrafted out of Eastern Washington, Bourne signed a three-year, $1.67 million contract with the San Francisco 49ers. As a rookie, he received his first taste of life-changing money: $465,000 in salary plus a $5,000 signing bonus.
But the majority of that cash went out as soon as it came in.
Bourne was quick to stock up on designer clothes and high-priced jewelry. He also gave money to family members — and would replenish the funds once spent. His most egregious personal purchase, he says, was a $70,000 car, one that he now acknowledges he was not ready to own.
“I almost went really broke,” he said. “Like really close.”
Bourne said he became embarrassed to show anyone his bank account balances because he knew he should have had more cash available. He knew he was spending too much. He watched one of his accounts drain to approximately $50,000 at one point.
“That was the turning point for me,” he said. “I had to fix something myself.”
Now, entering his fifth year in the NFL, Bourne has adjusted his lifestyle.
With the help of his new agent, Henry Organ, Bourne started making smarter budgetary decisions. Organ referred Bourne to a financial adviser, who set him up with an investment fund. Organ himself has access to view Bourne’s accounts, too, and monitors his transactions closely. If he sees one he doesn’t like, he’ll be sure to let Bourne know.
“It’s what I need,” Bourne said. “Nobody else will really say it to me. My family is all patting me on my back. Everybody is patting me on my back. He’s truly a good agent because he’s going to tell me what’s hard to hear.”
Bourne is thankful to have learned his lesson at the young age of 25, as he’s about to begin a three-year contract worth up to $22.5 million with the Patriots.
“The percentage of players going broke in the NFL is so sad to me,” he said. “I just really don’t want to be one of those guys.”
Multiple NFL players, including former Patriots linebacker Brandon Copeland, have spoken up about inadequate education when it comes to money management.
Given the number of ex-athletes who struggle with post-retirement financial security, the NFL Players Association has organized informational webinars and partnered with companies such as Goldman Sachs in an effort to protect its players against a bleak future.
“It’s just a different feeling when you get a lump sum of money when you’ve never had money,” Bourne said. “You go from being broke to being rich. You want to buy everything. Then you’re broke again. And some people don’t know how to bounce back from that.”
Added Organ, “These players amass all this money, so they’re rich, right? But they don’t understand how to create wealth and the proper ways to go about it because nobody in their family or their immediate friends has done it.”
For Organ, setting up his clients for financial success is one of the primary objectives of the sports agency he founded last summer with business partner Hector Rivas. The fully minority-owned agency, called Disruptive, is focused on player empowerment.
Organ aims to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to identifying opportunities for players to maximize their financial return, both on and off the field. He sees untapped avenues to upstage a traditional endorsement deal, stressing the importance of gaining equity-based compensation and developing long-term streams of income.
Organ and Rivas often share the story of former NBA player Spencer Haywood, who, following the guidance of his agent, turned down an opportunity to own stock in Nike. Instead, Haywood accepted upfront cash in exchange for promoting the brand. Given today’s valuation of the company, he missed out on billions of dollars.
“Our goal in Disruptive is to set the trend,” Organ said. “We’re here to make change for the better.”
Since Organ and Bourne began working together in February 2020, their partnership has gotten off to a strong start. This offseason, Organ secured Bourne a multiyear contract at the start of a slow-developing market for free agent receivers.
Organ has also taken steps to help generate more marketing opportunities, something Bourne felt was missing when working with the first agent he hired.
Bourne has launched a YouTube channel, with more than 25,000 subscribers, where he shares videos that document his training and eating habits, along with vlogs and Q&As. He’s forming a presence on the streaming service Twitch, as well.
Regardless of how the money comes in — via the team, via a brand, via an appearance — Organ emphasized the way a player manages $1,000 and $100,000 should be no different. The key is to start financial planning early.
“We don’t want to play the behind game,” Bourne said. “I played that game too long in my career. I’m behind where I should be in my life in off-the-field stuff.”
Bourne calls himself a firsthand example showcasing Organ’s work behind the scenes. Organ, who represents two other players, Lions tight end Hunter Bryant and Dolphins running back Salvon Ahmed, eventually hopes to scale his business and expand his clientele.
Outside of money management, Organ makes sure to hold Bourne accountable in other areas, too. In years past, Bourne maintained a much more casual approach to his training. Now, he’s established a consistent schedule, working out daily with a trainer in his home state of Oregon.
“I would just go to the field one day here, one day there,” Bourne said. “But I’m trying to be a 1,000-yard guy, 10-touchdown guy, 100-catches guy, so I have to do everything it takes rather than just a little bit. That’s the main thing I want to show.”
Bourne expressed an eagerness to start a new chapter of his career with the Patriots. He, alongside fellow wide receiver Nelson Agholor and tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Herny, will play a critical role in New England’s revamped offense.
While he works on preparing to deliver on the field, Bourne will continue positioning himself for the future off the field. Up next is buying his first house. He is interested in further pursuing real estate, with hopes of one day owning his own apartment building in the burgeoning city of Portland, Ore.
In the meantime, though, he’ll keep working hard, collaborating with Organ, and managing his finances accordingly.
“Shoutout to my dog, Henry,” he said. “We play to take care of our families. If you don’t have anything to show for that after you’re done, you’ll feel that you’re a failure. Life goes on, but this opportunity doesn’t come to everyone and everyone doesn’t take advantage.”
Nicole Yang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.