All-Time NFL Bankruptcy Offensive Team

Bankruptcy is not just for the poor and down-trodden. Sometimes the rich find themselves upside-down, even with millions of dollars in the bank. Actors, politicians, and famous athletes have all filed for personal bankruptcy protection. As an example of how common bankruptcy is, even among the wealthy and famous, today’s article looks at eleven of the National Football League’s most famous offensive players who have filed bankruptcy.


Johnny Unitas. Hall of Fame quarterback Unitas played from 1956 to 1973 for the Baltimore Colts and San Diego Chargers. He is considered by many to be the greatest quarterback in NFL history, and guided his team to one Super Bowl victory (1970) and two NFL World Championships (1958, 1959). Unitas filed Chapter 11 in 1991 when he and his investment partners owed more than $4 million in personally guaranteed loans for the purchase of a circuit board manufacturing company.

Michael Vick. Vick currently plays for the Philadelphia Eagles and has been selected four times to the Pro Bowl. He is the NFL’s all time leader in rushing yards for a quarterback. In 2008 Vick sought bankruptcy protection under Chapter 7 for “$10 to $50 million” in debts, largely connected to fallout from criminal dog fighting charges.

Mark Brunell. Brunell played 19 years in the NFL and was a three time Pro Bowl selection. Brunell filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2010 after a number of failed real estate ventures and other bad business investments left him owing almost $25 million.

Running Backs

Jamal Lewis. Lewis ran for over 10,000 yards during his nine year career with the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns. He was named NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 2003. Lewis filed Chapter 11 in 2012, listing Bank of America, Mercedes Benz, and Chrysler among his $10 million in debts.

Billy Sims. Sims played five seasons in the NFL, was named Rookie of the Year, and was a three time Pro Bowler. Failed businesses and risky investments forced him to file Chapter 7 in 1990 with a total debt of $2.263 million.

Lawrence McCutheon. McCutcheon played 10 years for four different NFL teams. He was a four time Pro Bowl selection as a member of the Los Angeles Rams. He filed Chapter 7 in 1988 after suffering losses in tax-shelter investments in the manufacture of rare stamps.

Rocky Bleier. Bleier, who received a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his service during the Vietnam War, played 11 years for the Pittsburgh Steelers, including four Super Bowl championship teams. He filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 1996 due to owed income taxes and a divorce settlement he could not afford.

Offensive Line

John Niland. Niland played 10 years in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. He was selected to six Pro Bowls. Niland filed Chapter 13 bankruptcy in 1984, and was later was sentenced to two years in prison for making false statements on a loan.

Dermontti Dawson. Dawson was a seven time Pro Bowl center during his 13 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012. Dawson filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2010 and listed over $69 million in debts, mostly failed real estate loans that were personally guaranteed.

Wide Receivers

Andre Rison. “Bad Moon” Rison played 12 years in the NFL and was a five-time Pro Bowler. He was a member of the Green Bay Packers’ 1996 Super Bowl-winning team. Rison filed Chapter 11 in 2007, owing over $105,000 in child support and $46,000 in legal fees. In 2011 he was indicted by a federal grand jury for failing to pay child support.

Rick Upchurch. Upchurch was one of the greatest kick returners in NFL history, and was selected to both the NFL All-Decade Team for the 1970’s and 1980’s. Upchurch was forced to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 1982 when his Denver business failed during a player’s strike.

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