ALLEN PARK, Mich. (Christian Examiner) - Detroit Lions wide receiver Ryan Broyles tries hard not to complain much. Despite three back-to-back years of season-ending injuries, and increasing uncertainty over a permanent spot on the Lions' roster, his outlook stays positive. The Oklahoma native knows it's not just playing football helps him keep his happy outlook -- but his faith, his new role as a father, and his family's financial security -- are all thing he's worked hard to keep in balance since joining the NFL.
Broyles grew up in a Christian home, went to church, and believed in God, but as he started college at Oklahoma University, he admits he wasn't living for God. It was a summer mission trip to Haiti, though, that changed everything.
In an interview with the Oklahoman his senior year at OU, he described standing there in Haiti, in a place where the people had nothing but their faith, and they were happy.
"I was jealous," Broyles said. "I wanted to be like that."
Something changed for Broyles in his understanding of God during that trip and by the time Broyles came home where he met his long-time girlfriend, now wife Mary Beth, at the airport, he was a different person. As he hugged her tightly, with tears streaming down his face, he told her, "There's no going back."
With a heart full of love for God and an eye on the future, Broyles' only knows one direction: forward. He's shown it in the decisions he's made and the friends he's surrounded himself with and he tries not worrying over where he might be this time next year.
"Man, all you can do is take care of yourself and do the best you can," he told the Detroit Free Press this month. "If there's a place for you, there's a place for you. If not, hopefully there will be somewhere else. But if football's over, I've always been future minded so whatever happens, happens. As long as you give it your best in any situation in life, it is what it is."
Broyles admits it's taken some time for him to feel that way.
"Last year I took it a lot harder than I did this year," Broyles said. "Going out there, trying to compete, new coaching staff comes in, I'm coming off the injury, I had a lot to think about then. But I guess I'm another year wiser and more complacent, so all I can do is put my best foot forward and God will take care of the rest, honestly."
Fatherhood has helped give him some perspective. The couple's first child, Sebastian, was born earlier this year, and Broyles told ESPN recently now that he's a dad, he's thankful for the decisions he made early on in his NFL career which have helped him be financially secure.
Focused on the future
Knowing the statistics of young athletes who join the NFL with million dollar contracts and leave the NFL in bankruptcy or worse, Broyles was determined not to be another statistic. After getting drafted to the Lions in 2012, he sat down with a financial advisor and heeded the man's advice: spend as you would like over the next few months. Then, set a budget, live within it, and save and invest the rest.
That's what Broyles did with his $3.6 million contract, with a guarantee of $1.422 million. He and his wife, Mary Beth, came up with a budget and have lived on approximately $60,000 a year since he started his NFL career. The rest of his money is in investments and retirement accounts.
He checks his phone at breakfast and looks over his investments. Broyles has spent a lot of time studying and learning all he can about the financial world, talking and asking questions of others more savvy and smarter than himself.
He's also giving back by helping others apply smart money choices. Earlier this year, he went with New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram to Washington, D.C. where they spoke to students about financial planning. He's also working with VISA and the NFL to help teach financial security through a Financial Football video game to be played in classrooms in both D.C. and Oklahoma.
His focus on the future means his frugal lifestyle lets him and his wife both drive Mazdas' instead of Maseratis' but it also means he doesn't worry about money when he's on the football field, even with big changes like a new baby, or the new house they recently bought in Texas.
"The pressure I put on myself is just being the best player I am," Broyles told ESPN. "I would never play [just] for money, you know what I mean, that's not my intentions whatsoever.
"Whatever comes, it's just a blessing," Broyles said. "But I got the mindset of a businessman off the field, I'll tell you that."
He's learned well, and he's ready for whatever comes next - on the field or off.