When running back Josh Jacobs was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the first round of the 2019 NFL draft, he earned a $6.7 million signing bonus.
It was more money than he’d ever seen.
Jacobs, who was a high school standout and recruited by college football powerhouse Alabama, grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with four siblings. His parents separated when he was eight and his dad, Marty, got full custody. Already struggling to make ends meet, Marty’s financial situation became even more desperate. Unable to afford housing, he and his kids lived out of a car and occasionally bounced around from one inexpensive hotel room to the next.
“I normalized a lot of things growing up — like I never thought, Damn, I’m sleeping in a car,” Jacobs told ESPN in 2018.
In a way, “I feel like it’s an advantage,” he reflected on his childhood situation. “Because I grind. I wouldn’t get complacent because I never had it easy.”
After a strong first year in the pros, Jacobs is considered a favorite for the 2019 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award — and he’s getting paid for it: His average annual salary is just under $3 million.
He used part of his rookie year earnings to buy his dad a house, he announced on Twitter this week.
Here's how other professional athletes spent their first big paychecks.
Adam Rippon splurged on a winter coat
Early in his career, American figure skater Adam Rippon lived in his coach’s basement and swiped apples from his gym to save money on groceries. It wasn’t until a big performance at an event right before the 2014 Olympics that Rippon’s net worth shot up.
The Olympian couldn’t immediately celebrate, though, he told Wealthsimple: “I needed to pay my coaches right away, and I needed to pay for the costumes that I said I would pay for. And I had a leased 2003 Volkswagen Jetta that I was like, OK, time to make that monthly payment.”
After covering those expenses, Rippon did allow himself one splurge: He went to Bloomingdale’s for the first time and bought a Canada Goose jacket, which cost anywhere from several hundred dollars to over a grand. “I think that it’s important to spend money on yourself,” he said. “That’s what making money is for.”
Venus Williams went straight to the bank
Tennis legend Venus Williams started earning big money at a young age: When she won her first Grand Slam title at 20, it came with a check for about half a million dollars.
But rather than splurging, Williams saved every penny. “I really didn’t spend any of it,” she told CNBC Make It. “I just didn’t want to become a statistic, or one of those athletes who had it all and then in the end had nothing. That was always in the back of my mind, so it made me want to be more realistic with how I spent money.”
Andre Iguodala headed to Niketown
Andre Iguodala’s first NBA contract was “for four years, $9 million,” he told Wealthsimple. “You get an advance over the summer and, just before the draft, you get an advance for trading cards and an advance for a shoe contract. I remember a loan agency floating me until I got the advances. They sent me a check for $25,000.”
The basketball star, who was 20 at the time, bought “a whole bunch of pairs of Jordans,” he said. “I spent like two or three grand and it felt like I spent a million dollars. I didn’t know how to spend money.”
Harrison Barnes bought his dream mattress
“The first thing I bought was a really nice bed,” Harrison Barnes of the Sacramento Kings told CNBC Make It. “For me, growing up, really having a nice bed was something that I always wanted.”
Barnes, who was drafted No. 7 overall in 2012 and earned a $2.8 million salary as a rookie, did his research before making the purchase: “I definitely tried out every bed in the mattress store.”
It was “like Christmas,” he added. “You have the ability and are fortunate enough to be able to choose whatever you want, which was new for me. Usually, whatever store I walked in, I’m buying the cheapest thing possible, if that. So to be able to go into a mattress store and say, ‘I’m going to choose the bed I want to sleep on,’ and choose one of the nicer ones, that was pretty cool.”