Ex-Saints FB Jed Collins realizes new dream as financial educator

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Jed Collins is uniquely qualified to offer money advice to NFL rookies.

Before he began his second career as a financial adviser, Collins spent seven years bouncing around the NFL with nine different teams as a journeyman fullback. His most prominent stretch came with the New Orleans Saints from 2011 through 2013, when he started 26 games and scored seven touchdowns.

So how does a fellow pro like Collins get his message across?

With turkey dinner, ice cream and Starbursts, of course.

Those were just some of Collins’ props as he explained the principles of gross and net income, the progressive income tax code and compound interest to rookies and first-year players with the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions this spring as part of the NFL’s orientation programs.

“I try to be an entertaining educator,” said Collins, who's a director of financial education for wealth-management firm Brighton Jones in the Seattle area.

During his presentation on insurance, Collins also flashed pictures of various celebrities, asking players to guess which body parts they had insured for millions of dollars.

“When you speak over someone’s head, they immediately tune out,” said Collins, who was an accounting major at Washington State and first dreamed of coming back to the NFL one day to teach players about money when he realized his brothers, who studied law and engineering at Harvard and Berkeley, didn’t know much about managing money.

“It’s all of us,” Collins said. “Football player, journalist, astronaut, engineer, dance -- nobody is learning this. And I looked at it as, ‘I am interested in this field, I am passionate about helping people, and what I’m finding is kind of my secret to success at the moment is I like people, I can talk to people and I’m a good storyteller.’

“When you’ve had the pressure of being in the Superdome in front of 70,000, 80,000, it’s not as intimidating to be in a room with 30 or 40 people there asking you questions about a 401(k).

“And I don’t have to hit anyone.”

Collins said he actually first wrote in his journal when he was an undrafted rookie with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2008 that he would love to come back one day and teach a class about money to NFL teams.

But that dream got put on hold for another one when he lasted longer in the NFL than he ever imagined. He bounced around on offseason rosters and practice squads with the Eagles, Bears, Browns, Chiefs, Cardinals, Browns (again), Titans and Saints before he finally appeared in his first regular-season game in 2011.

All the while, Collins spent his offseasons studying to become a certified financial planner, tackling one of the CFP exams every offseason. After he finished his career with the Lions and Cowboys in 2014 and 2015, he took his final exam and started working in service and sales for Brighton Jones a few months later.

Collins said he has transitioned away from the sales side of things, however, so he can pursue his passion of being an educator.

When asked (as he often is) what’s in it for him, Collins said he is hoping to build his brand so he can do it on a bigger stage. He has a book coming out this fall titled “Teach Me Money,” and said his mission is "to empower a million people to own their financial stories.”

Collins said NFL locker rooms provide the perfect audience, and his dream job would be to become a financial educator to the whole league. He said he is also hoping to speak with some Major League Baseball teams.

“Jed is doing a great job of being one of the speakers because he understands the game, he played at a high level, but now he’s actually performing at a high level off the field in that financial space,” said Collins’ former Saints teammate Usama Young, who now works for the NFL in player engagement and was on hand for his talk with the Seahawks.

“He can speak to it from experience,” Young said. “To say, ‘Hey, I’ve been through this before. I’ve seen these checks. I know how it feels to get a playoff check. How it feels to get money that is unaccounted for in a bonus. ... I also know how it feels to get paid for 17 weeks in a season and then not get paid at all and say, "Oh man, I should’ve been able to budget a little better.'"

“You know, you get a certain level of appreciation or respect that some people don’t get initially. Some people have to earn that.”

Maurice Kelly, the Seahawks’ vice president of player engagement, said Collins did “an outstanding job” with the team's young players and that the Seahawks plan to bring him back at some point to do a presentation with the veteran players as well.

“He commanded the room,” Kelly said. “I think it’s marvelous that he’s doing what he’s doing, and it definitely resonates with the young guys. It’s one thing for me to talk about it, or to have a business finance person come into the room and say, ‘Hey, don’t spend all your money, make a budget ...’

“But he could speak on their level. And a journeyman like Jed has been, even though they don’t want that to be their reality, that will be the reality for a lot of them.”

These types of team-by-team talks have replaced the NFL rookie symposium, which used to gather all of the league’s draft picks (but not undrafted free-agent signees) in one place for a series of presentations.

Young laughed at his favorite part of Collins’ presentation -- when Collins flashed a picture of himself eluding Carolina Panthers star Luke Kuechly for a touchdown.

“He likes to joke about being a fullback in this league ... about coming from the old world of football [when there was more physical contact], and the guys kind of laugh about it,” Young said. “But he put up that clip of him shaking Kuechly and I was wondering, ‘Hey, Jed, that doesn’t look like old-school football to me.’

“But even though he’s old school about it, the way money is involved hasn’t changed.”