SALT LAKE CITY — Kayvon Webster’s family never had much money when he was a kid, so the Miami native didn’t give a lot of thought to what it meant to be financially literate.
It wasn’t until the cornerback for the Denver Broncos earned a college football scholarship that he realized managing money was much more complicated than just earning it and spending it.
“In high school, I didn’t really have the chance to have people talk to us about finances,” said Webster, who was in Salt Lake to unveil a new educational program developed by the NFL and Visa called Financial Football. The program combines a free video game and classroom curriculum aimed at helping teens improve financial understanding. “I think it’s very helpful for the kids in high school to know that once you leave high school, you really have to be responsible about the choices you make.”
Thursday morning, Webster joined Utah Treasurer Richard Ellis and members of the Utah JumpStart Coalition at Skyline High School, where they played a raucous game of Financial Football. Webster coached one group, playing as the Denver Broncos, of course, while Ellis led the opposing group — the Seattle Seahawks.
“I was getting pumped,” said economics student Alex Miller, who helped the Broncos earn an interception by answering a tough question. “I was into it. This is a really cool game. It covered all the stuff I learned in financial literacy, but it also, like there was some critical thinking in there too.”
The teams choose between several sets of plays from easy runs, which ask easier questions, to log pass plays, which pose tougher scenarios to solve. The Broncos trailed most of the game but used a two-point conversion to win 16-15.
“Sometimes it was really stressful,” Miller said laughing. “Some of the answers, I had no idea on. But seeing the right answers, that stuck with me.”
Senior Megan Richards played for the Seahawks and said she thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
“I think it’s actually really cool,” she said. “The questions are actually applicable to real-world situations. I didn’t think it would be this competitive. People are really getting into it.”
While Richards and Miller would likely find a class on finances interesting, regardless of the approach, they said this program, which is being provided to every junior high and high school in Utah, will engage all students.
“It’s really fun, and it’s actually really practical,” Richards said.
Webster said the program offers teens the chance to understand finances long before they become responsible for their own success or failure. It’s a situation he never had as he simply learned by trial and error.
“At my high school we didn’t really have a chance to get this kind of information,” he said. “I think it’s really good what Visa is doing. It’s just good that they’re aware already.”
Webster said that while the NFL tries to help its young players with financial issues, it’s much better to learn these concepts and strategies at a younger age.
“Kids need to learn to make smart money management decisions early in life,” he said, adding that a combined effort between schools, communities and families is most effective.
And the strategy behind Financial Football is to make a tough, sometimes unappealing subject understandable and interesting. Both Webster and the students said the fact that the game is enjoyable makes the information even more memorable.
“It was a really good experience,” he said before posing for pictures with the teens from both teams. “It was a lot of fun.”