By Lisa Zimmerman, Player Engagement Insider
Wayne Chrebet has always been committed to giving his best, no matter what the situation. An undrafted free agent who the New York Jets signed out of Hofstra in 1995 even the 5’10” Chrebet wasn’t sure he’d have a career in the NFL. And after making the team his rookie year, Chrebet was still too nervous to get his own apartment and instead camped out on the couch of a friend who lived near the Jets practice facility, which was then located on the campus of Chrebet’s alma mater.
That was until he was approached by then-head coach Rich Kotite who stopped him one day after hearing about his young wide receiver’s living situation. Chrebet recalled the conversation, which was brief, but contained a suggestion and possibly a premonition, “Go find yourself a place. I have a feeling you’re going to be around for a while,” Kotite said.
Chrebet was around for a while, playing 11 years for the Jets where he became a symbol of hard work, determination before retiring in 2005.
Throughout his career, Chrebet was determined to be a bright spot and a leader, helping others as much as he could. Even that first year, when the Jets ended the season with a dismal 1-15 record, Chrebet went out every day and tried to make a difference – both in practice and during games.
“The first year I had my head down and was plugging away,” Chrebet said. “We weren’t good. You’re just playing for your job. Every day was a tryout even though I was starting. We stunk but I figured I’d try to be a bright spot for the season. “
That passion and commitment continued throughout his career and when it came to an end it was time to reassess. Chrebet received offers for a variety of opportunities, but nothing that created the kind of passion in him that he knew he wanted.
But there was one thing that had drawn his attention throughout the years, the world of finance.
“I watched more CNBC in the locker room than ESPN,” he said. “I was intrigued by the market and I would talk to other players about it.”
After taking a little time off after he retired from the NFL, Chrebet was introduced to a man who lived near him and his family. The man worked for Morgan Stanley and the two had a conversation about Chrebet’s post-football interests. He saw Chrebet’s basic knowledge of the market and finance and extended the idea of a partnership. In that moment, Chrebet knew it was what he wanted to do.
“They put me in the training program,” Chrebet said. “I passed my Series 7 and my Series 66. That was my greatest accomplishment. Passing that test was hard. I wasn’t in studying mode and my memory is kind of shot.”
But drawing once again on that determination and fortitude he did it. Now almost a decade after that first conversation, Chrebet is the Director of Investments for the Moldaver Lee & Chrebet Group, which operates under the umbrella of Stifel a wealth management company. Chrebet’s group manages $1.5 billion, one of the largest groups in the company.
Among his clients are NFL players and Chrebet uses his personal experience combined with his investment knowledge to help them build a healthy financial plan.
“I was careful with my money,” said Chrebet, who with his wife, Amy, is raising three sons. “But I had three years left on my contract when I had to retire so when suddenly those checks stopped, that was a shock. You definitely have to change your lifestyle and you can’t do impulse buying. And, at some point you have to cut people off. I was taking care of a lot of people. There were things I was doing that I advise players now not to do. You want to help people if you’re in a better situation, but you’ve got to be careful because at some point the checks are going to stop coming. You gotta know when to say when.
“There were people I helped out and then at some point I had to say, ‘I can’t help you anymore,’ and they told me I was a bad person, but I had paid their mortgage for 10 years. They get a sense of entitlement.”
Chrebet reeled off a list of things he has seen younger players buy; especially players who don’t have the large contracts and which ultimately compromise them financially. Things like, exotic fish tanks, cars costing into the six figures, extravagant homes and trips.
“Players get paid 17 weeks out of the year,” Chrebet said. “You have to learn to budget the other 35 weeks. And a lot of guys don’t know how to budget. And then for the other 35 weeks they see it go down and down and down. You can set up your account to get checks during the offseason. You don’t want to be morbid and say your career could end tomorrow, but it could.”
Chrebet’s hope in his new career is that he can help others maintain the wealth they’ve worked so hard for and create comfortable and viable futures for them and their families.
Lisa Zimmerman is a long-time NFL writer and reporter. She was the Jets correspondent for CBSSports.com, SportsNet New York’s TheJetsBlog.com and Sirius NFL Radio. She has also written for NFL.com.