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How 2 Colts Standouts Are Promoting Financial Literacy Through Foundations, Discussions, Education

Both linebacker Zaire Franklin Franklin and safety Rodney McLeod Jr. are looking to educate and empower youth into creating financial stability for themselves. 

Zaire Franklin Rodney McLeod

Earlier this month, Colts linebacker Zaire Franklin spoke to student-athletes at Syracuse – his alma mater – about the importance of financial literacy, a perpetually-important issue that's become even more critical in the Name, Image and Likeness era of college sports.

Franklin, a finance major at Syracuse, has done plenty of work through his foundation, Shelice's Angels, in the financial literacy space. He's worked with youths to emphasize a straightforward, important lesson: No matter how much money you have, you have to practice good habits with it.

"Budgeting and financial literacy is really more about good habits than it is how much money you're gonna make, because you can making $100,000, you can make $1,000, you can make $1 million — if you got bad habits, you're gonna be broke regardless," Franklin said. "If you have good habits, though, you'll probably be better off and able to take care of what you need to take care of." 

In talking to student-athletes at Syracuse, Franklin leaned on his experience as a student athlete and said he's passing along lessons he's learned in the NFL – but wished he received while he was still in college.

"Any bit of information from my personal experience or from the things that I've learned I could give them to help better situate themselves and better be able to take care of themselves and the take advantage of the situations and opportunities they're having, I'm always willing to give that information," Franklin said.

Safety Rodney McLeod Jr. and his wife, Erika, established the Change Our Future Foundation to make a positive impact on and leave a lasting legacy with youth and families through education, advocacy and awareness – and one of the areas the McLeods are focusing on is financial literacy.

Change Our Future's Next Man Up mentorship program will include a workshop on financial literacy with the goal, McLeod said, of providing information and strategies to youth "so that you're able to have that financial stability, but more importantly create that generational wealth that we're all seeking."

The McLeods' foundation does plenty of work in Black communities, and he feels the workshops – including on financial literacy – can have a significant impact on Black youth.

"I think a lot of struggles that you see, it's access and lack of knowledge," McLeod said. "Those are the things we're trying to ingrain in my program but also Zaire's as well, just making sure the next generation, they understand what it takes and what's important, and how to save your money, how to manage it and how to make your money grow and work for you."

One lesson Franklin hoped to pass on is, when it comes to money management, to find advisors who work with you and don't want to handle things out of sight and mind.

"As you go along, try to find people that are trying to empower you," Franklin said. "Don't just hire somebody or work with somebody that's like, oh, I got it, I'll take care of you. Be with something that's willing to teach you. That way, not only are you able to learn what's going on at your own situation, they're also empowering you so you'll be able to do those things yourself."

For both Franklin and McLeod, using their experience and education to teach financial literacy lessons to the next generation is something that's incredibly rewarding.

It means everything," Franklin said. "I always think of it in terms of I want to be the alumni or the mentor or really just the guy who's crossed that bridge that I wish I had on the other side when I was going through it. Whenever I see young athletes in those type of situations, it's so gratifying to give them this information and have that 'oh, that does make sense' moment beaus it's like, man, I'm able to pass something on so they maybe won't trip over a hurdle that I had to go through the hard way."

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