Allen Robinson walked out of the Freeman Auditorium in the HUB-Robeson Center and looked around. Admittedly, it was odd for the former Penn State receiver to be back on campus. So much had changed since he left for the NFL in 2013. And yet, Friday evening brought the Chicago Bears star together with familiar faces.
Robinson reunited with Green Bay Packers safety Adrian Amos and Tampa Bay Buccaneers lineman Donovan Smith and kicked off Blue-White weekend with a panel on the business of football, sponsored by the Penn State College of Communications and Center for the Study of Sports in Society. Of course, three members of the original “Supa Six” know a thing or two about the topic at hand.
In 2018, Robinson moved on from the Jacksonville Jaguars and signed a three-year worth $42 million ($25.2 million guaranteed). This offseason, Amos left Chicago and signed a four-year contract worth $37 million ($12 million guaranteed) with the Bears’ NFC North rivals, the Green Bay Packers, while Smith re-signed with Tampa Bay for $41.5 million ($27 million guaranteed) over three years.
Over the course of an hour-and-a-half, the trio talked the importance of guaranteed money, how Penn State prepared them for the next level, and more. Here are the highlights from their on-campus discussion.
On NFL free agency and understanding self worth...
Robinson: “For me, going through the experience first, I told these guys that once free agency starts — once the bullets start flying — it’s a decision you have to make in a matter of minutes. It’s not like you can sit back and create as many scenarios as you can with your agent. Once the tampering period opens up and you’re a free agent, you have to sit down and decide if you want to take an offer or not. And once you turn it down, that offer is gone. And you don’t really know what’s coming next. ... The biggest thing for any player is know your value. Once you know your own value, you’ll be right where you need to be at.”
Smith: “I never legit hit free agency. ... They had the power. Say I didn’t want to stay in Tampa, they had the power to place the franchise tag on me, which regardless of whatever happened, I would have had to stay there for a year. I can sit there and be all out, but if they want to keep you, they can place that tag on me, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Amos: “People think free agency is, you have 31 options, and you go around and you look. But really, as soon as the tampering period starts that Monday at 12, it was about 12:05 and I got a call: ‘This is what the offer is. What you wanna do?’ You have to make a decision quick. It’s not this drawn out process. It’s not, oh, do I like the quarterback? Do I like the people there? Do I like the coach? What kind of scheme do they run? You know, questions you get asked on social media. I went from Chicago to Green Bay. Oh, was this to get back at Chicago? Really, it’s not that. When you make a decision, you have to take emotion out of it. Is the guaranteed money big? Yes it is. You’ve been working your whole life to get to a point where you can take care of your family. It’s hard to not take advantage of the opportunities that you have.”
On the the upcoming CBA and guaranteed money...
Robinson: “I think guys are preparing for a lockout. ... There should be more guaranteed money. But as far as things that should be changed, that’s up to the agents and NFLPA coming together. That’s where the deals will happen because that’s really what drives it. You look at Kirk Cousins, he had negotiated a fully guaranteed contract. ... Fully guaranteed, I need that. I’m for real.”
Smith: “It’s hard because as a realist you see both sides. How many games does baseball play? How many games does basketball play? How many games does football play? And how many players are on a football team? ... You’re not going to put money into a car that you really want — it could be a Ferrari — but it could have been in four or five accidents. You’re gonna be like, ‘Nah I don’t want it.’ But at the same time, as a player, I know what I played through. I know what I’m risking myself to down the road. It’s like, give us what we deserve. ... Know your worth.”
Amos: “I played through Penn State hurt. But that’s because I had a goal in mind that I wanted to be playing at the next level. I’ve got some stuff I played through that I could have ramifications when I’m done playing football. And I know that. I accept that. That’s risk. But that’s where the guaranteed money comes in. When I’m old and someone has to take care of me, they have the money to do that because I’ve got enough saved up. I’m already prepared for that.”
On if Penn State prepared them for the business of the NFL...
Smith: “It’s helped us to an extent. It’s been a tip of the iceberg type of deal. But it’s not as in depth as it could be. You have all these student-athletes who can be blessed with $20 million in their bank account. But you have to figure it out yourself and pay someone every month to tell you how to manage your money. I just feel like it should be coursed out throughout the whole year as a student-athlete to everyday life. Coming out of college, I didn’t know how to write a check. ... Whether it’s Penn State or other universities, they can get better with it. ... You’ve got a lot of guys who come in and they don’t know right from left and left from right.”
Robinson: “I wouldn’t say I was someone who overly applied myself in school. I’ll be honest about that. But from the time I came out of college at 20 years old to now — from things pertaining to my life from a business standpoint, investment standpoint, assets and liabilities standpoint — everything I’ve had to use in my everyday life, I’ve learned in these last five years.”
Amos: “Well I learned something (laughs). When I got to college, it opened my eyes to a variety of people. I learned how to build relationships with people. If I didn’t go to Penn State, I wouldn’t have had those opportunities to have to talk to people and step out of my comfort zone. In college, I learned that who you know is important, as well. In college, I majored in Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management, and that’s what I want to do in my life. I’m the process of building a rec center. Learning the ins and outs of how to run that, I’ve been able to teach those who will be there while I’m away. That’s big with my non-profit. ... But what they were talking about it, it’s hard to learn about managing money when you don’t have any money. Growing up, there’s nothing in your account. You don’t have a bank account. ... It just opens your eyes.”