National Football League fans probably know wide receiver Brandon Lloyd for the statistics he’s racked up during his 12-year tenure with the San Francisco 49ers, the New England Patriots, the Denver Broncos and more.

But Lloyd also serves as an ambassador for the National Financial Educators Council’s (NFEC) Money XLive program. Through the program, 33-year-old from Kansas City, Missouri aims to spread awareness and education about financial literacy—a skill he also strives to bolster in his personal life.

Mediaplanet: Why did you become an advocate for financial literacy for athletes?

Brandon Lloyd: In kindergarten, I got sent to the principal’s office for picking an unrealistic career—a professional athlete—when the teacher asked the class what we wanted to be when we grew up. But now, being fortunate enough to be on this path, I’ve found that being financially responsible is going to be important for making my earnings last 15, 20 years and beyond that.

MP: Why do you think athletes in particular are in danger of going into debt?

BL: A large percentage of us have a certain personality type: we’re risk-takers; we’re thrill-junkies; we’re excitable. And so therefore we can become reckless. It’s not just professional athletes; it’s any young person who comes into wealth—like people who get a large inheritance or enter a large investment firm.

MP: When you began your professional football career, did you make any financial choices that you now regret?

BL: Of course—and that’s one thing all young players need to understand: You’re going to make terrible decisions with some money. You’re going to give money away; you’re going to make a bad investment. But the point is to try to minimize that, and to have goals set for yourself for what you want to earn and then a bigger picture of what you want to have saved for when you retire.

MP: Who has helped guide you to make smart financial decisions?

BL: My parents have been some of the biggest influences in my life. They wanted my siblings and I to go to college and get an education. It wasn’t about going pro or picking a university—it was about getting a degree. I went to the University of Illinois and wanted to get a degree in journalism. This is why I want to raise awareness for young athletes who don’t have those kinds of support systems.

MP: How essential do you think higher education is for financial literacy, especially for young athletes who aspire to go pro?

BL: Regardless of what you study in school, it’s all about having discipline and making sacrifices. That’s why college is so important and especially for young athletes—because getting a degree shows employers you can do those two things. That’s what gives you value in the workforce. It’s not the piece of paper you get when you graduate or where you go to college all the time; it’s that you completing that task shows you’re worthy and responsible.

TALKING GREEN: Balancing a checkbook and writing a business plan are two of the topics Lloyd covers with young students. 

MP: So would you say discipline is the key to financial literacy?

BL: Yes, and having the awareness to apply it. In my mind there’s no difference between discipline about my health and me applying that same mentality to the business world.

MP: How do these values apply to anyone who comes into money?

BL: Everyone who comes into money needs to surround themselves with responsible people they can trust—even in your friend circle. Those people need to have the awareness to understand that not everyone you meet wants to help you out or has your best interests in mind.

As for professional athletes, we’re given a great opportunity to advance our financial opportunities. But also, we’re always striving to not be defined by our athleticism. We want to use our brains—and that’s a challenge for many of us because we roll out of bed and have these remarkable physical capabilities. But the real sport for athletes on the highest level is to show we’re not all muscle and all brawn, and that we can use our brains and excel. Taking that challenge head-on and being pragmatic with our finances now will increase our chances of still being seen as successful even after we retire.