Survive and Advance From undrafted free agent to the Pro Bowl to national broadcaster, Bart Scott has battled his way to the top of two professions. Now he wants to show other athletes the way.

You spent 11 years in the NFL after going undrafted. How would you describe your journey?
It was two separate journeys. I had a journey where I came into the league with no expectations, and then I signed a free agent contract where I went to a new team with all of the expectations. I was fortunate to start at an organization like the Baltimore Ravens that were two years removed from winning the Super Bowl and to be able to learn from leadership like Ray Lewis, Michael McCrary and Peter Boulware. I admired what Peter Boulware was able to do off the field. He ran for Congress in Florida. He had car dealerships. When I was in Baltimore, guys were constantly thinking about the next chapter. Terrell Suggs would read books about directing movies, because he had a passion for it. That just changed my mindset. And because Baltimore wasn’t a huge market, guys had to be creative about making revenue off the field. I came in raw and rigid around the edges and I became a man in Baltimore.

Why did you go to the Ravens?
A scout for the Ravens named Joe Ortiz had worked out some players at Kentucky. He was on his way to work out some players at the University of Illinois. I was just a pit stop. I was the only player even eligible for my pro day. You can tell Ortiz was just trying to get the workout over with. I had a four-hour workout with no water break. He was trying to break me. Usually you get a break while other guys are getting set for their drills. I didn’t have that time. But coming from Detroit, I played at a high school that had only 18 players. We never left the field.

Wait. 18 players?
Our graduating class at Southeastern High School in Detroit was supposed to be 500 people. It ended up being 80. We had one of the highest dropout rates in the country. Most guys in my school, once they got to be 14, they became drug dealers. They set up shop, and that was the neighborhood business. I wanted more than that. I would see guys that were 30 years old, and say to myself, “You guys must not be great business men if you’re driving a cheap car”. I want more than a lousy car and a cool leather coat. I wanted to prove you could be successful in life and make the money.

So playing under those conditions, you were ready.
I had no idea that playing under those conditions in high school were going to prepare me for the mental toughness I needed to achieve my dream. Joe had a smirk on his face at the end of the workout. He said, “I’ll be honest with you. I’m not going to tell you what you ran or what you did. I thought this was going to be a waste of my time and the Ravens time, but you just put together the best workout I’ve seen in five years.”

He goes back to the Ravens and reports it, but they figured that he either embellished it or messed up the timing. How can somebody from Southern Illinois that we know nothing about put up better times than most of the guys at the combine? They don’t believe him, so they send out Mike Smith, the linebackers coach of the Ravens. He’d go on to be the head coach of the Falcons. He comes out six days later, puts me through the same drills and linebacker drills as well. He says, “I’m not going to get into specifics. Either you’re fast or not, and you’re fast.” But that’s been the story of my life. I’ve always had to be overqualified. I joke with guys now that when I write my book, it’s going to be called The Uninvited Guest. There’s been a lot of days where doors have been closed in my face, but I find a window. Now that I’m fortunate enough to be part of CBS’ NFL Today, I look down the line and I see Hall of Famers, league MVPs, super bowl coaches, JB who just went into the Broadcasting Hall of Fame. And then there’s me, the undrafted free agent. How did this guy get invited to the desk?

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You’ve made great efforts to protect your personal brand. When did that begin?
It started when I was a child. I never wanted to embarrass my mom, or do something that she wasn’t proud of. I never wanted to embarrass the organization that took a chance on me. The leadership I had were players that were out in the community all the time. They bled Baltimore! My cousin got shot, he became a quadriplegic, and that’s how I started my charity. I saw guys doing so many things in the community, and I was like, “Man, I’m not doing enough!” But every time I did an appearance, I wanted people to feel like they got their money’s worth. When the Jets and the Ravens signed me, I wanted them to feel like they got their money’s worth.

Once you signed your first big contract, how did you feel?
It was refreshing because I could finally do some of the things I wanted to do for my family. I could take the pressure off my mother. Before that contract, I never had the opportunity from the Ravens to go from being a contributor to being a major player. I was tired of being tired. I had been a good soldier. I was the backup for three positions. I felt disrespected because when I felt it was my time, they brought in a veteran free agent from the Rams. When they bring in a veteran and give him money, it’s his job. I went into the locker room and said, “Listen guys. I can’t take this anymore.” I told every running back in there, “Protect yourself. Cause if they’re not going to give it to me, I’m going to take it.” First day of camp, Chester Taylor catches the ball on a swing pass. I hit him so hard, he rolled all the way across the sideline onto the running track that surrounded the field. When he got up and threw the ball at me, I grabbed his facemask so he knew I wasn’t playing. I told the coaches that they either had to play me or they weren’t going to have a team, because I’m going to knock everybody out on that other side. That was my fourth season. If you haven’t defined yourself, you either become a special teams guy or a backup.

When an athlete starts to make big money like that, why do they spend big?
They’re not comfortable in their skin. To be a pro athlete, you put yourself in a very narcissistic environment. Everyone that is there is the chosen one from their neighborhood, from their school, from their family. It’s a powerful thing to be popular. It’s a powerful thing to be famous, and to achieve something that 1% of the football population will ever achieve. And you have to keep it in perspective, because it’s the most powerful drug in the world. You got all this stuff going on in your head. “I’m supposed to have a bunch of girls,” so they devalue women. “I can spend all my money, because I’m making more next Tuesday.” And you can’t tell an athlete to believe that he’s not going to be the one that plays 11 years. The statistics tell us that three years is the likelihood for the majority of the NFL. But you can’t tell me that, because I defied the odds to get here! So you overspend. You live up to the stereotype. You self-diagnose and you self-medicate. You have issues with women. Money doesn’t change people. It makes them more of what they already were. You love women, you’re going to be a womanizer. You love cars, you’re going to buy a lot more of them. Guys are overspending, because they’re addicted to that drug, and then, bam! It’s gone. You have to ask yourself, who am I? Not what did I do. Who am I? And a lot of guys are going to say, “I’m a football player.” No! Don’t tell me what you do. What’s in your DNA? What do you stand for? And they can’t answer that question, because they’re high on that drug. They’re high on adrenaline, they’re high on themselves. Everyone around them can see it happening, but they want to enjoy the ride. They don’t want to get kicked off the ship,

Who is Bart Scott?
I’m a family man. I’m a man of God. I’m a philanthropist. I’m a dream chaser. I believe heavily in stewardship. That’s why I love having this opportunity to work as a consultant with Morgan Stanley Global Sports & Entertainment and doing the financial education program. It lets me take all of my learnings and give these players a financial playbook. It’s not about the money for me. It’s about giving back and educating young athletes. How many lives can you impact? That’s my definition of success.

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W. Drew Hawkins and Bart Scott have worked together to teach athletes about financial literacy.


How do you get the message across?
It’s all about changing the narrative. The best thing you can give an athlete is information, because we’re all coachable. We all want to learn. But an athlete won’t tell you that they don’t know. When you’re a pro athlete, you feel like you’re going at the speed of light. At Global Sports & Entertainment, we’re going to show you how to find a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Take this list of questions. Use these resources. Do background checks. If you don’t know what to ask a financial advisor, look it up! You have to do your due diligence. I wish players would utilize their teams more. Your owner will help you, because it helps him. If taking care of your finances means you’re less stressed and you can concentrate on being a great football player, they’ll help you because that puts money in their pocket.

Did you have access to team ownership as a player to ask those types of questions?
Definitely! At the Jets, we used to have lunch with Woody Johnson. We would ask Steve Bisciotti of the Ravens all the time what he invested in. He would say, “Look, I’m a businessman. I dedicate 100% of my time to business. It’s disrespectful to me to think that you could put 60% of your time into business and compete with me. If I was an athlete, and I showed up 60% of the time, how would I do? You want a quick return on your investment? Nurse your golden goose. What’s your golden goose right now? Football. Want to double your money? Be the best linebacker in the game, and you’ll double your money in four years. Where else can you double your money in four years? Because if you get into my world, I’m going to take you into the deep end of the pool and drown you.”

Did you ever make any bad investments along the way?
Absolutely! I was the owner of an American Basketball Association team that I never saw! I bought the Slushie machine. I was paying the salaries. It was an idea from somebody, and it was better for them than it was for me. People are always going to look to athletes to invest because we have the cash. And it’s hard to see a white collar criminal coming. So now you’ve got to get someone who can help you identify the wolves. Use NFL security, so you can vet these people to see even if they are who they say they are! We had a guy that came into the Ravens facility once that was trying to make a Ravens hedge fund (laughs). He wanted the players to put up $10 million. So we said, “Look, we have this thing where the NFL takes your social security number and runs a background check.” He’s like “I’m not interested in that.” So wait a minute! You came into our facility, sit down with us as a team and get our attention, and ask us for $10 million. And we can’t even do a background check? So our team security does a check. Turns out this guy has five social security numbers, all kinds of crazy stuff.

What about family members and friends hitting you up?
It’s so hard to say no. They can always tap into that emotional attachment—when you were sitting on the porch dreaming together. Or when you got into a fight, and your cousin came out of nowhere to help you. Athletes expose themselves because they feel guilty sometimes that they’re the ones who made it. Athletes don’t get there by themselves. They get help along the way, so you feel obligated. I came up with a plan to not extend myself past a certain portion of my portfolio. Once it was gone, it was gone. I may have lost $2,000 here, $3,000 there. But once you broke that bond, you couldn’t get it back. So I may have lost some money, but I got them out of my life sooner, because they could have played the role for a long time. I paid my sisters’ house bills. I paid their car loans, and they were no better off. Their bank accounts didn’t get any bigger. They had to stand on their own, because I was enabling them.

How did you set yourself up for your current broadcasting role with CBS’ NFL Today?
First, I decided to leave my comfort zone. So I took a contract with the NY Jets, even though I wanted to remain in Baltimore. They offered me pretty much the same amount of money minus the injury guarantee. But I knew it was time to step out of the shadow of Terrell Suggs, Ed Reed and Ray Lewis. I needed to prove I could lead a team myself. And if you can be successful in a media market like New York, it can set you up off the field. It was a football decision, and it was a branding decision. I started doing a lot more interviews, doing television as much as I could. You have to prepare for the end of the NFL on your first day, not your last day.

And look at the show’s set on Sundays. I’m an undrafted rookie free agent again. But don’t think I don’t have the same ambition to go from the least recognized person on that set to a shining star. If you’re going to do something, why not try to be the best at it? I’m not going to be afraid to speak my mind and be truthful. I don’t try to demean players. But if you can’t do something, I’m going to point it out. But I’m also man enough to point out if I’m wrong about something to apologize for it. That’s true in television. That’s true in life.

W. Drew Hawkins is the Managing Director and Head of Morgan Stanley Global Sports & Entertainment


Bart Scott serves as a consultant for Morgan Stanley Global Sports & Entertainment Division.  He assists Global Sports & Entertainment (GSE) in helping to provide insight to clients and Financial Advisors based on his first-hand experience with the financial opportunities and challenges encountered by professional athletes. He may also act on behalf of Morgan Stanley Global Sports & Entertainment to promote Morgan Stanley and the GSE to others. 

The views expressed herein are those of Bart Scott and do not reflect the views of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC. Morgan Stanley’s Global Sports & Entertainment Division engaged Athletes Quarterly to feature this profile.

© 2016 Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC. Member SIPC         CRC­­­#1590775    09/2016