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Davey prepared for retirement


Don Davey didn't picture this as his post-football life.

Not at first, and really, not until he was very, very deep into an eight-year NFL career that culminated with four memorable seasons in the earliest days of the Jaguars.

Davey, who played defensive tackle with the Jaguars from 1995-1998, earned a Master's Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin, and he very much pictured that as his career whenever football ended.

It was his Jaguars teammates who pushed him in a different direction.

"For whatever reason, I was kind of the answer guy in the locker room," Davey said in a recent interview for this story, the first of a "Where are they now?" series scheduled to run on in the coming days and weeks.

"Guys used to come to me with questions and for advice on mortgages and investments and taxes and insurance. I would help guys informally. I had a pretty strong grasp of it. I had learned it for my own benefit. Enough of those guys came to me and said, 'Hey, Don, I appreciate everything you've done. I know you and I trust you. I'd gladly pay you to do this as my trusted advisor.'

"That's when I launched my career."

This was 1998, and when Davey retired in 1999, he moved from advising teammates as a hobby to full-time as a second career.  Thirteen years later, at first through mostly word-of-mouth referrals , Davey as senior portfolio manager now manages about $130 million for 90 client families for the company he founded , Disciplined Equity Management.

Davey, who played for Green Bay from 1991-1994, began his career as a backup with the Packers, and from the outset, he focused on his post-football life.

But at first, his focus was a bit more logical.

"My first off-season with Green Bay, I interned as a mechanical engineer," he said. "That was my fallback plan, that whenever football was done, I'd put my degree to work and work in the engineering field, which I loved."

Not that Davey regrets his degree. The problem-solving skills he learned not only help him today, he utilized engineering principles to devise the plans with which he manages his clients' finances.

"I wish everybody had to get an engineering degree – not so much because of the technical knowledge you learn, but engineering teaches you to solve problems," Davey said. "You can apply the thought process to anything, and really what I did was apply those engineering principles to finance and start developing a set of models to manage portfolios and it has worked out really, really well.

"I came up with this because I'm greedy. I was making some money in the NFL, and I wanted to maximize my returns, maximize my tax efficiency and minimize my trading costs – all of those things you're supposed to do. I had a full-service broker and it didn't take long to figure out that wasn't the way to go. I couldn't find someone who did what I was looking to do.

"One of the great things about the NFL is the off-season. I had six months each off-season to work out, but then to apply my background, do research and do analysis. Our system just developed over the years through trial and error with my own money."

Given his background, it's perhaps unsurprising to learn Davey's view on the financial situation of many current and former players.

"It drives me absolutely crazy," Davey said. "It really does. I was an average NFL player, at best. I had a nine-year career. I made an average amount of money for my career. This was in the 1990s, long before salaries escalated to what they are now, and I was able to set myself up for life with disciplined investing, disciplined savings and living below my means.

"I retired from the NFL completely financially independent. To read, hear and see the stories first-hand of guys who make $5, $10, $15, $30, $50 million over their career and leave the game with nothing but a broken body and a bunch of debts – it drives me absolutely crazy.

"What we do is not rocket science, but if you have any kind of a fundamentally sound plan in place, with the amount of money these guys are making, they'll be fine. It's frustrating, to say the least, that more guys don't embrace the approach."

Thirteen years removed from the NFL, Davey said he still values his time in the league – and particularly his time with the Jaguars. He played with the team during its most successful stretch, years when it made four playoff appearances, won two AFC Central titles and twice played in the AFC Championship Game.

It was, Davey said, a memorable time. Playing for then-Jaguars Head Coach Tom Coughlin in the early days, he said, wasn't something those who did so ever will forget. That was particularly true for those who – like Davey – played on the 1995 expansion team, a group that trained in Stevens Point, Wis., and finished 4-12 after a 3-4 start. It was lessons learned that season, Davey said, that set the tone for a memorable playoff run the following season – and a memorable run to follow.

"We go up there to get out of the heat, and it was 100 degrees and humid," Davey recalled with a laugh. "Then, we came back to break camp and think camp is done and he (Coughlin) put is in a hotel for another week-and-a-half of training camp. It was a unique experience, but I wouldn't change it for the world.

"We struggled that first year and really bonded together in the second half of that second season and went on a great run for a few years after that."

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