Have More Money NOW

Have More Money NOW, by John "Bradshaw" Layfield
(Credit: World Wrestling Entertainment Inc.)



Life Is about Living
I always have believed that life is about living, not just merely existing.

I don’t believe in the austerity preached in some financial books, that you have to save all your money now so that you can have some in retirement. There has to be a middle ground. I don’t believe that you should have nothing now so that you can have a lot later. I don’t believe that you have to be miserable now so that you can be happy later.

I have learned a successful model through life experience—not through a book or attending a lecture or just reading a road map, but by going down the road itself. I smell like smoke because I have been through the fire. I promise I can help you through my life story—the mistakes I made, and the successes I have been fortunate enough to have.

I want to help you. I would love to help everyone to become financially successful; however, some people can’t be helped. Not because their situation is hopeless—nothing is hopeless—but because they are just too pigheaded to take advice from anyone. If you are one of these people, thanks for buying my book, but when you end up in debt and in trouble, please don’t let the people who seize your assets see my book in your house.

If you are not one of these people, then read on. This book is for you. I hope you enjoy it.

I was very fortunate in my early adulthood to receive a second chance financially. I didn’t know I needed a second chance until one lonely Sunday afternoon as I was driving through the state I love so much, my beautiful home state of Texas.

Twenty-seven Dollars and a Road Map
It’s a good thing I had stopped by the gas station a couple of days earlier. The old blue 1980 Chevrolet step-side pickup truck was full, and I had my fingers crossed that I only needed one tank and one fill-up to drive the 330 miles from San Antonio to Athens, Texas, my home.

It wasn’t that I minded stopping to fill up. I love Texas, and especially Texas small towns. I grew up in a small town and still live in one that isn’t exactly on the beaten path. My concern was that if I had to stop more than once, I couldn’t afford to fill the truck up.

It was the spring of 1992. I had just been fired from my second job in the three years since I left college. I had $27 in my bank account. You read that right. I had barely enough to buy this book. Actually, if this book had been out, maybe I wouldn’t have been in the situation I was currently in. As it was, I was cruising —okay, flying—up I-35 with just my thoughts, my truck, an incredibly loud stereo system, and that $27.

Somewhere in the drive, I harkened back to an old Benjamin Franklin quote: “Necessity is the mother of invention.” This flashback probably happened somewhere between Georgetown and Killeen.

That Benjamin Franklin quote kept sticking with me. It had grabbed me, and my mind wouldn’t let it go. Isn’t it amazing how much better you listen when you are in need? I was definitely in need, and this necessity was about to spark a personal change.

I realized that I had been playing professional football now for three years and, financially speaking, I had wasted those three years. I was no better off financially than I was when I had left college. I realized at this point what a waste of money that had been.

The only good thing was that I had not gotten into debt. However, I had spent everything I had made. I had had a great time. Blowing money usually is fun. I had been to Hawaii, the Grand Caymans, Las Vegas—and I had a huge stereo in my truck, all paid for. The problem was that I only had $27 left over. I had a chance to make the rest of my life better, and I hadn’t done it. I priced perfection into my future—that is, everything would always be the same—but it turned out it wasn’t to be.

I should have known that football couldn’t last forever and that the money would have to end eventually. However, like a lot of young athletes I thought it wouldn’t. That day, I realized the importance of saving for the future. Three years before, I had never thought this day would come. Now I had to decide if three years from this day I would again be unprepared, or if I would learn from my mistake and not waste the next three years.

Standing at the Crossroads
It was a very important day for me, a twenty-three-year-old standing flat-footed at the crossroads in my life. I had to make a choice of playing the cards I’d been dealt in the best way possible or feeling sorry for myself and continuing down the same road that had gotten me broke. I decided that being poor ain’t fun, and staying that way is stupid.

I didn’t consider myself stupid, so I decided that I couldn’t remain poor.

The set of cards that life had dealt me that day were not cards that I wanted, but the only option I had was to play the hand dealt to me in the best possible way. Whether these cards are good or bad really doesn’t matter; you have to figure out the best way to play them. Griping about the cards, or even the dealer, wasn’t going to help me any.

At Least I Was Drafted . . . Barely
That day in the spring of 1992 started like any other had the better part of the last three years. I woke up, knees aching, hung over, and headed to football practice. It was my job. I played professional football for a living, and I was living one of my lifelong goals. I was an offensive tackle for the San Antonio Riders of the World League of American Football. The league consisted of a lot of former NFL players and college players who, for whatever reason, were not on an NFL roster.

I was content making my living playing for the Riders. I had spent the fall of 1990 with the Los Angeles Raiders, and now here I was in this new league. I wasn’t getting rich, but I was living just like I wanted to and playing football. I didn’t think things could get much better. I came to the World League with the intention of making it back to the NFL, but I was enjoying playing so much, I didn’t really care where I played. I was just happy playing. This was all I ever wanted to do.

My first year in San Antonio was 1991, also the league’s first year. I had an absolute ball playing football that year. The World League was created very much the way Vince McMahon created the XFL. The entire salary structure was built upon performance and bonuses. It made the guys play harder, and the fans liked that. There were bonuses for starting and for outstanding position performance. I believe the fans really appreciated this format.

To me, the league was a great opportunity and a way for me to continue playing football and making a living at the same time.

In the inaugural season of the WLAF, the league started with a position draft. They drafted 111 offensive linemen.

I was number 108.

My reputation for bad knees and uncertainty about the level of talent that was playing in NCAA Division II football really hurt me. I was just glad I was handed a uniform.

In football, players are measured by where they are on the depth chart. The depth chart lists each position and the starter and backup at each spot. On the offensive line, there are five positions: two tackles, two guards, and a center. So on the depth chart there are 10 spots for offensive linemen.

I was number 11.

I may have gotten the coaches’ attention by being the only player on the third team, but I knew that if I was ever going to play in this league and have any modicum of success, I had to do something on the field. The cards I had weren’t good, but I was about to make the best of them.

On the third day of camp I got a chance at right tackle. I never believed I had a real fair shot at staying with the Raiders, and being chosen so late in the WLAF draft really burned me up. I decided I had to make a statement and make it early or else my football career would be over.

My knees were bad by this time, and the quickness that I had used to my advantage through my career was gone, but I still had a terrific desire to play. Actually, I am not sure words could describe the desire I had to continue playing. You could take my speed, but you couldn’t take my desire to play, and believe me, football is all about desire. A forty time and bench press never once made a football player. You simply can’t measure heart, and I had heart to spare. There were guys there that were playing because they didn’t know what else to do. I was playing because I loved the game.

Let’s Fight
I was going to get noticed this day if I had to fight the whole team, the coaches, and the equipment manager. So I started with the players.

After one play early in practice, I got tied up with the defensive end I was going against. We exchanged words. Briefly. Mostly we threw fists. It was like being alive again—I was on a football field battling, and I loved it. The fight got broken up, and things settled down briefly.

I decided I wasn’t done. I don’t think he wanted to quit either. So instead of going back to the huddle, we went after each other again. I was really beginning to enjoy this. Finally, we got broken up again briefly. Very briefly.

Coach Mike Riley called for a water break, but I really wasn’t thirsty. Apparently, the defensive end wasn’t either. This time we really got into it. When they broke us up for a third time, Coach Riley called off practice. I not only got noticed, but I got the guys, and me, out of an extremely hard practice. Pretty good day.

The next morning, I walked into practice almost expecting a message that I had just been cut. Instead, I was greeted with the pleasure of looking at a depth chart with my name in a starting position.

I never let the spot go.

I guess the coaches figured if they just left me there, then I wouldn’t feel compelled to fight everyone. I was kind of glad. It had taken half a day to fight just one guy properly, and there were over forty guys on the roster, not counting coaches and the equipment manager. My plan to fight everyone would have taken quite a while to execute.

I was playing the cards dealt to me. There was nothing I could do about my past knee injuries, all I could do was to play as hard as I could with the body I had left. I had no real choice except to figure out my next move. The option of feeling sorry for myself never much fit me. Being drafted number 108 wasn’t acceptable to me, but I realized that there was nothing I could do about that. I could do something once I got to training camp, though.

You have to play the cards dealt in the best way possible. Sometimes they are good, sometimes they are bad. It doesn’t matter. You have to play what is put in your hand.

My Own Football Card
During the first World League year, we got word that the league was going to make a football card for one player at each position on each team. One offensive lineman, one running back, one wide receiver, and so on. The Riders chose to feature me.

I can’t tell you how excited I was to have my own football card. I thought I had made it. My mom certainly thought I had made it. I was playing professional football and even had my own card to prove it. I was so excited about the set that I couldn’t wait for it to come out.

My own card and my rapid ascension through the depth chart had me thinking I was going to play football forever. And there was no reason to think otherwise.

The league did pretty well that first year. We weren’t the NFL, and we weren’t trying to be. We had our niche. We were popular in Europe, where several of the teams were based, and we drew decent enough in the States to provide fans a football fix during the NFL off-season.

After that first year, the NFL decided it needed a stage to develop players already on NFL rosters. The big league started showing a greater interest in the WLAF and began allocating players to our league. These allocated players were the made players. Coaches were told to play these guys. They were there to be developed because some NFL team saw enough in them to make an investment to send them to a developmental spring league.

With the influx on new talent in the World League, those players that were stuck somewhere in the middle got caught in the mix. Still, I didn’t think I had anything to worry about. I had played every snap the previous year. I was the San Antonio Riders’ offensive lineman representative in the WLAF football card set. I would be fine. So I thought.

I reported to camp in the spring of 1992 feeling as good as I could feel. I was moved to left tackle, something I took as a compliment, since I was now protecting the quarterback’s blind side.

You’re Cutting Who?
After the first preseason game, I got a message that Coach Riley wanted to see me. I thought a lot of Coach Riley, who later became the head coach of the San Diego Chargers after helping turn around the Oregon State program. He had always been a good friend, a real players’ coach. He’s a credit to the coaching profession.

I thought I had played well in that game. I had no idea why Coach Riley wanted to see me. For all I knew, he was going to tell me I needed to be at practice early tomorrow for a photo shoot for the new World League card set. Or perhaps I was to be the new centerfold for Dairy Cow Weekly.

This wasn’t a pleasant meeting. I didn’t realize that it was the day final cuts were made. I hadn’t paid much attention to it because I didn’t figure there was any need to pay attention to it. It was just another day on the calendar to me.

Coach Riley’s office was just another room in the San Antonio hotel that doubled as our residence. I walked into his office/bedroom and was told the news. The San Antonio Riders no longer had a need for a six-foot-seven, 300-pound left tackle with bad knees and several broken bones to his credit. I don’t know if they felt they had to cut me because of the injuries, or if it was the new role the NFL had taken in the league. Either way, it didn’t matter, I was unemployed.

I have a lot of respect for Coach Riley. I could tell it really hurt him to do this. If it didn’t hurt him, he sure made it look like it did. He told me my offensive line coach, Jim Gilstrap, wanted to see me before I left to say good-bye. I turned around and left the office/bedroom.

My football career was over.

I had further options to continue to play, but I knew my days were numbered at best. I had to play the cards dealt me. I didn’t really like those cards.

I had no idea why I was cut. It was a shock. I’m sure the NFL had something to do with it. I was damaged goods and doing nothing but holding some young guy’s spot. Coach Riley didn’t tell me that. He didn’t have to.

I went back to my room to tell my roommate, Mike Kiselak, other friends, and my dream of playing football good-bye. They all thought I was pulling a prank on them. When they saw me walk out of that hotel with my life packed in a few bags, they realized it wasn’t a prank.

I was a casualty of the Turk (the football term for the Grim Reaper).

Out of Money, Out of a Job—
Not a Good Combination
I had budgeted my money perfectly from my first World League season to the next. I didn’t worry much about money. I figured I would keep playing forever and make this kind of money forever. I hadn’t planned on getting cut. This is a problem with a lot of young men who go into professional sports. All of their lives they are taken care of, and then when they sign a pro contract they are still taken care of. Often the first time they have to face the world by themselves is when they are released from a team. These young guys normally aren’t prepared for this. I wasn’t either. This is also the first time these young athletes find themselves alone. I was definitely alone.

The positive was that I had accomplished my dream of playing professional football. The negative was, I was driving up I-35 with nothing but my blue pickup, a bunch of construction, and $27 to keep me company. I made just enough to live like I wanted. I didn’t live past my means, but I spent everything I made. I priced perfection into my future, believing that my future was going to be as perfect as my present.

It’s humbling to realize that you can’t afford to live like you have been or buy things that you are used to having. This is called maturing, growing up—we all have to do it. But it sure did stink when I had to do it. Living like a king and not having to grow up, being immature with a pocket full of money, sure was a lot more fun.

Everybody goes through this process at some point. Mine just came much earlier than I wanted or thought it would. Going through this humbles you, but it also makes you take a hard look at reality. I learned this at an early age, and it ended up being the most valuable lesson I ever learned. Had I made it in the NFL, I likely would have ended my career in the same place I was that day I got cut from the Riders. I would be broken down, broke, and left with no second chance at breathing new life into a new career or my finances. I could handle the bad knees. The lack of paycheck was quite depressing.

When I was making that drive up I-35, I didn’t know if I’d ever make decent money again. I told myself that three years from that point I was going to be better off than I was currently, even if it was just by a little. Of course, that wouldn’t take a whole lot (just $28 in my pocket would be an improvement), but at that time I didn’t feel like setting goals too lofty. I know all good things don’t have to come to an end, but mine had. I promised myself that if I ever had a chance to make money again, I would not make the same mistake.


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