Visanthe Shiancoe up close and personal

Vikings tight end is ready for the Saints

He heads straight for the video game aisle and picks up a copy of Backbreaker. A muscular linebacker with a shrouded face looms large on the cover.

"That's what people think of football players," Shiancoe says. "We're all meatheads."

Shiancoe selects an $80 set of heavy-duty headphones from the shelf and chats with the Best Buy clerk about the advantages of the product. He's been meaning to get some, he says. He's only got a tiny pair now, nothing fancy.

Tony Nelson
Shiancoe runs a preseason route against the Seattle Seahawks
Tony Nelson
Shiancoe runs a preseason route against the Seattle Seahawks

Most NFL players—about 78 percent—go broke or are under financial stress within two years of retirement, according to a Sports Illustrated investigation last year. Shiancoe doesn't plan to be one of them.

It's not that he doesn't spend money—he's bought four cars during his eight years in the NFL, though he traded his third one in to get the latest. He also owns two houses: one in Minnesota and another back home in Maryland.

But Shiancoe follows the advice of his financial planner like scripture. And he delights in getting discounts.

Shiancoe's brother Jon tells this story: Visanthe went to Target with some friends and came out with a bag of CDs, beaming.

"He was happy because the person forgot to ring up one of the CDs in the bag—so it was free," Jon says. "It was a $15 CD."

Their single mom worked long hours and counted her pennies. Her boys absorbed her financial lessons.

The Vikings star doesn't keep all his money to himself, though. He donated an entire weight room to his alma mater, Morgan State. When he went back to campus after he was in the NFL, he gave a cafeteria lady who used to serve him a $500 tip.

Shiancoe says he wants to start a charity that benefits Liberia, where his mother is from.

"I want to open an orphanage in Liberia," Shiancoe says. "I want to create, like, a brand—a Shiancoe brand—that's so respected."

SHIANCOE IS AT REDSTONE, across the street from Best Buy. He just finished lunch with Vikings safety Tyrell Johnson and a Redskins transfer who won't survive preseason. They are sitting quietly, watching the television screen above the bar, iPod headphones in their ears.

The waiter brings out three warm cookies, each topped with two scoops of ice cream. Shiancoe veers from his Spartan diet and heartily digs into the dessert.

He takes several bites, then sets his spoon down.

"This isn't like the way it usually is," Shiancoe says. "Don't eat that!" he warns his guests. "Don't eat that."

The bartender clears the plates. A manager comes out to apologize. Would Shiancoe like another?

"The plate wasn't as hot, it wasn't really warm," Shiancoe explains. "I like to have the ice cream melt—so it gets all soupy."

When the bartender brings the tab, Shiancoe doesn't even look before the question is out of his mouth.

"You took that off the bill, right?"

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