NFL Linebacker Brandon Copeland Talks Career, Budgeting, and Perseverance

My heart goes out to everyone during this time. In different ways, I know that we are all facing our own challenges. I personally have my mom, dad, and mother-in-law as guests in our house. My wife and I are working every day, and we have a crawling infant. I know we are so lucky, but no one is immune from having their world flipped upside down during this pandemic. We will emerge from this situation, and there will be silver linings that come from it. We just don’t have the foresight yet to see what those will be.

In the toughest times our country has faced, sports have always been a unifier. I look forward to the day we can get back out there playing because it will be a step in the right direction for society as we move towards our new norm.

Early on in my life, I was determined to create multiple career opportunities for myself for the future. The average NFL career may last for 3.5 years—if you’re lucky. And even if you initially make a roster, your paycheck isn’t guaranteed. You can be cut at any point in the season—or even before the season ever begins. No matter the circumstance or industries we are in, one thing we’ve learned from COVID-19 is that nothing is guaranteed. The more plans we have and options we create for ourselves, the better off we will be.

Adjusting to the New Normal

I never in a million years thought that pro sports would come to a halt. But I was extremely grateful that when this unprecedented situation did hit, I had already fostered a number of additional careers off the field. I created a real estate flipping business, where my team and I purchase houses in some of the markets I used to play in (like Detroit and Baltimore) and renovate them to revive areas of the cities. I also launched my financial literacy initiative, which includes being a professor at Penn in the offseason, where I teach my class called “Life 101.”

Throughout quarantine, I’ve continued to teach my class online, and we opened the class up to the public in hopes of sharing the knowledge with everyone who was at home during these times. Although these careers aren’t constantly generating revenue, especially during these bizarre times, mentally it has been comforting knowing that I can pivot and place an emphasis on whichever I need to bear fruit.

Making a Financial Plan

I focus very strongly on creating a budget and knowing all of my monthly expenses. Many people have had their incomes slashed due to coronavirus. No matter our circumstances, living below your means and on a budget is super important. Knowing every penny that leaves your home on a monthly basis is a starting point to reclaiming control of your budget. That approach is even more key during a situation like this one where spending has to be tighter than ever.

No matter where you are at this moment, creating a budget will help you. Start by simply writing down what you’re spending your money on each month. You’ll be amazed at what you will find when you do this. Then allocate a spending limit to each category of your life and stick to it—especially while times are tougher. Whenever it is feasible, live below your means because regardless of whether you need it later for an emergency situation like this, or you’re able to go on the trip of your dreams, you’ll thank yourself later for living disciplined today.

Do What’s Right for You

It’s also extremely important to not compete with those around you and not make impulsive decisions. Only you know what your expenses are and how much money you have in your bank account. If you start playing “Keeping up with the Joneses,” you’re going to find yourself high and dry at the end of the day. Especially being an NFL player, we are approached all the time with business and investment opportunities. If you don’t look out for yourself, who will?

It’s extremely important to fully vet business decisions with your resources/team and then still only make business decisions that ultimately sit well with you. Because once your money is gone/invested, you have to assume it isn’t coming back, (especially) when it comes to your budget.

I’ve been brainstorming myself what businesses I could potentially launch during this time to help make the world a better place. Everyone is going to have ideas for what you should spend your time and money doing, but ultimately that decision is completely up to you. You are the one who is going to have to deal with the results of your decisions at the end of the day.

When I created my additional career paths, I did so while playing full time in the NFL. The circumstances were far from ideal to have additional full-time jobs. While there wasn’t a pandemic happening, it was unconventional to be balancing being a husband, pro athlete, professor, business owner, foundation director, and father all at once. But the keys were perseverance and discipline. How could I take the little bit of free time I have to bring the passions in my mind to life? I think we need to ask ourselves those same questions during these times.

What You Can Do Today

Innovation can emerge from some of the toughest times and for many of us, we have free time on our hands that we didn’t have prior to this pandemic hitting. So I encourage you all to seize whatever ideas have been nagging at you. There is never going to be a perfect time to bring them to life, but there’s also likely not going to be a time again soon where the world slows down like this. We have little to lose in these times.

While we are at home, hopefully, if you’re reading this blog post, you’re fortunate enough to have internet access, which means we all have a platform. I started out as an undrafted free agent—not exactly the guy you would think would be able to emerge from the crowd in the NFL. But I insisted on persevering and using the tools at my disposal (now we all have social media) in order to get my message out. You can do the same right from your couch. Whatever it is that you want to share, I bet there are people out there right now that really need to hear your message.

For me, there is nothing more important than sharing my heart and creating a legacy. I have made it my mission to use every platform and opportunity I am given as a vehicle to touch as many lives as possible. I know that as an NFL player, we are given access to opportunities and knowledge that most people will never get to be exposed to. And I want to be the vehicle by which that knowledge gets passed along to the everyday person, so they are equipped to make the best financial decisions for their own lives.

So the story isn’t finished of how I will continue to use my time in quarantine, but what I can promise is that leaving a legacy will be at the core of whatever decisions I make.

Check out Brandon’s conversation with Ashley Stahl, SoFi Career Expert, about the importance of being a multifaceted entrepreneur and staying ambitious despite the current uncertainty.

For help achieving some of Brandon’s budgeting suggestions and to get a bird’s-eye view of your spending, check out SoFi Relay.

Learn More

SoFi Relay offers users the ability to connect both SoFi accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc.’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. Based on your consent SoFi will also automatically provide some financial data received from the credit bureau for your visibility, without the need of you connecting additional accounts. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score is a VantageScore® based on TransUnion® (the “Processing Agent”) data.

Guest Participation: The individuals interviewed for this article were not compensated for their participation. Their advice is educational in nature, is not individualized, and may not be applicable to your unique situation. It is not intended to serve as the primary or sole basis for your financial decisions.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.


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Brandon Copeland ABOUT Brandon Copeland Brandon Copeland is an entrepreneur, professional athlete, and new father from Baltimore, MD. He teaches financial literacy classes as well as gives back to the community via his program Beyond The Basics Inc.

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