When San Diego Chargers nose tackle Sean Lissemore was drafted in the seventh round by the Dallas Cowboys in 2010, his parents were proud.
But they were also a little worried.
"Even when he first got drafted, my wife and I said, 'This is great, but you have to plan for the future,'" said Bill Lissemore, a telecommunications executive. "We didn't go overboard, we just wanted to plant the seed."
As a parent, the concern is understandable. How many newly minted pro athletes have blown millions on cars, homes and jewelry? And how many cautionary tales have we all read about well-known retired athletes who have gone bankrupt?
Mike Tyson's 2003 bankruptcy -- he was worth $300 million at the height of wealth -- has been well-documented. But there's also pitcher Curt Schilling, who earned $112 million in his 20-year career only to beg the Baseball Hall of Fame to return his infamous bloody sock, which he sold at auction for a reported $92,000. He went on to sell everything he owns to avoid bankruptcy. Or quarterback Vince Young, who filed for bankruptcy in 2014 after washing out of the NFL.
In fact, according to a 2009 Sports Illustrated story, a whopping 78 percent of NFL players are bankrupt within two years of leaving the game.
Lissemore doesn't plan to be one of them.
"There are definitely guys that I kind of idolized that kind of fell from grace and a lot of that had to do with managing money and other things," he said. "I felt so incredibly lucky to be making six figures out of college that I didn't want to screw that up."
So while Yoenis Cespedes was grabbing headlines during spring training by driving his vast array of cars -- among them a tricked-out Jeep and a Lamborghini -- and a horse to spring training, Lissemore, who lives in a rented house near the Chargers practice facility is the poster-child for flying under the radar.
"I grew up in a blue-collar town," said Lissemore, a native of Dumont, New Jersey. "I fell lucky to have what I have and I think about my future and kids (we'll have) and I don't want to be 40 or 50 years old and explain to my son that he can't go to college because I spent my money on a Lamborghini. I mean, I like cars, boats, that's fun … but I just don't want to be like that."
Said Bill: "His logic is that as soon as you buy (a house, a car), it devalues, so he just spends like a regular guy. I've been very impressed with the way he's handled his NFL career and how he's handled the money. He's been very conservative."
How conservative? On a recent afternoon at a San Diego mall, the 6-foot-3, 303-pound Lissemore went unnoticed in wine-colored T-shirt and jeans. Though he drove his souped-up Ford Mustang, most of his car purchases during his six-year pro career have been of the used variety – including at least three beaters (that he's bought for less than $1,000) to drive around town incognito.
When he was playing in Dallas, Lissemore owned a beat-up late-model pickup truck that he drove when he didn't want to be noticed. In San Diego, he has a 1972 Chevy Blazer that likely has hundreds of thousands of miles on it and a 2007 GMC Yukon with 140,000 miles on it.
Besides getting him around town, Lissemore likes to tinker with cars and he says the older ones are easier to mess with.
According to Bill, Sean hasn't really had a "big spend" since joining the ranks of pro athletes. In fact, he seems to do everything he can to live like everyone else.
Lissemore got a good guffaw out of this story, as told by his dad:
"We've been boaters all our life, he's been fishing since he was 4 or 5," Bill said. "When he was in Dallas, he bought an 18-foot speedboat, but he had a lot of trouble selling it (when he was traded)."
When Lissemore got to San Diego, though, he wanted another fishing boat, so he bought an "11-foot Zodiac inflatable with a five-horsepower Honda outboard on the back," Sean said.
According to Bill, Sean bought the boat right in its slip in San Diego Harbor. Surrounded by bigger vessels, including some yachts, Lissemore started cleaning up his new purchase. He spent a day at the harbor, tinkering and cleaning, getting the boat ready for its first voyage. As the day wore on, people on a neighboring yacht took pity on Sean's solitary mission, and asked him to join them on board.
"The people around him felt bad for him," Bill said. "So they invited him for dinner. As the conversation went on, they finally asked (Sean) what he did for a living. When he said he played in the NFL, well, they were dumbfounded."
But the story tells you everything you need to know about Sean Lissemore -- though, according to spotrac.com, he's earned about $6 million during his NFL career, he's a sensible guy.
"A lot of times as a bigger guy, you're going to get noticed anyway and then people ask if I play football …" Lissemore said. "I enjoy just kind of flying under the radar and doing my own thing and not being so flashy about the NFL."
So Lissemore will do his best to keep going incognito during his NFL career. And while he knows the game and the money won't last forever, he's going to do his best to make it last.