Ravens' Stover gives a life lesson

Kicker tells teens to prepare now for their fiscal future


About 40 students at Atholton High School spent yesterday morning huddled in the library learning about fiscal literacy -- while playing a computerized version of football.

The unlikely pairing took place during a session yesterday led by Baltimore Ravens kicker Matt Stover, who discussed the importance of budgeting, financial responsibility and a few life lessons.

"It's important these kids come out of high school with some pertinent life skills," said Stover, who has played in the NFL since 1990 and has two Super Bowl rings.

His appearance, part of a national campaign sponsored by the National Football League and Visa USA, puts athletes in the schools in an attempt to promote financial literacy. There are 17 similar events scheduled this season. Stover appeared through his work with the NFL's players union.

The event included a mock "football" game that divided the students into two teams that tested their financial literacy by answering questions of varying difficulty. A question considered easy can result in a gain of about three yards, while a difficult question can result in up to a 12-yard gain.

Before the game started, Stover spoke to the students about the importance of financial literacy. He told them that in an NFL survey from the late 1990s, about 80 percent of NFL players either were at least $200,000 in debt or divorced. "The No. 1 divorce factor is money," he said.

Stover also shared anecdotes about teammates who did not have good financial knowledge and paid the price, including one who lost $340,000 in a bad business deal.

"One player invested $340,000 of his money in Checker's [fast-food franchise] ... His partner embezzled the money," Stover said. Another player "cashed all of his checks and had about $45,000 in cash in a shoebox. He didn't know how to pay bills. His parents didn't teach him about money."

The anecdotes drove home the message to many of the students.

"Stay out of debt," said Danielle Cymber, a 14-year-old freshman. "Don't dig yourself in the hole."

Aras Vaitkus, a 17-year-old senior, said he learned how important it is to save. "Most of the time I have questions about money, I ask my parents," the Columbia resident said. "It's good we have someone [Stover] to talk to about it."

Tochi Odocha, a 16-year-old junior from Columbia, said he is a typical teen when it comes to money management.

"I just spend it," Odocha said. He learned from yesterday's event that "when we get money, we should put it in the bank."

Dean Hart, a 17-year-old senior from Clarksville, not only took away an important lesson in financial responsibility, he also got two tickets to a Dec. 4 Baltimore Ravens game -- he was lucky enough to sit in a seat that had the tickets taped underneath.

Chuck Fales, the head football coach at Atholton High School, said the morning was a "tremendous" lesson for the students. Parents and teachers preach financial responsibility, he said, "but when a professional athlete says it, that hit home."john-john.williams@baltsun.com

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