Ben Coates

Super Bowl XXXV champion. Former tight end for the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens. Retired college football coach.

Athletes and entertainers face unique wealth management opportunities, considerations and challenges. The athletes and entertainers we interviewed shared their personal stories and perspectives to highlight the need for more financial education in the sports and entertainment world. We thank them for being strong advocates of financial literacy.

Baseball player is catching the ball high in the air

Ben's advice

“Set boundaries on who you help financially. Always take care of your parents and your immediate family—you don’t have to be responsible for anyone else. You might feel you’re invincible, but you don’t know how long you’ll play.

Take stock of how money is coming in and going out. You need to ask yourself ‘How will I support my own family 30 years down the road’?”

Full house 

Ben and his seven siblings grew up in Greenwood, a rural town in western South Carolina. His parents worked hard at the local cotton mill, but “when there are eight kids, there’s not a lot of money.” The family of 10 lived in a modest three-bedroom home. “My parents did the best they could.” While finances were tight, money was never openly discussed.

Although Ben didn’t start playing football until his senior year at Greenwood High School, his talent on the field won him a scholarship to Livingstone College. He was the first person in his family to attend college and earned the school’s football MVP award three years running. Despite his standout performance, he was overlooked by recruiters given Livingstone’s small size and lack of big-name competitors. In 1991, Ben was drafted in the fifth round of the NFL Draft, 124th overall, by the New England Patriots. It was an unlikely start for one of the most celebrated and highest-paid tight ends in NFL history.

You start receiving checks in amounts that your parents didn’t make in an entire year. It makes you feel guilty.

The breakout years

During his third season with the Patriots, the arrival of new head coach Bill Parcells and quarterback Drew Bledsoe, the first overall 1993 NFL Draft pick, set Ben’s career on a new trajectory. Known for his reliance on tight ends, Coach Parcells saw Ben’s potential. Drew counted on Ben as his go-to receiver. In 1994, Ben caught 96 passes, an NFL record for tight ends that held for 20 years. The explosive Bledsoe-Coates pairing is heralded as one of the greatest quarterback and tight end combinations in NFL history.

Oversharing the bounty

Ben’s humble background left him unprepared for the financial responsibilities that come with significant wealth. “When I got drafted to the NFL, I didn’t know anything about money. You start receiving checks in amounts that your parents didn’t make in an entire year. It makes you feel guilty.” In hindsight, Ben was providing financial help to too many people, from college friends to family members. He was freely writing checks in amounts of five to ten thousand dollars. “When you’re young, you don’t think about money.”

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