Collins, who played fullback in the NFL and was more of a blocker than a ball carrier, nonetheless scored a few times. Here he is with his first touchdown ball, his new book, and his Saints helmet from 2011, when the team set an NFL record for total yards in a season, commemorated with signatures from players on that offense. Of playing fullback, Collins said: “Why that plays well in what I am doing today is because it is a selfless position that leads others to where they want to go.” All photos by Studio B. unless otherwise stated.

Jedidiah Collins delivered bodily impact when he played fullback in the National Football League. Now he’s focused on financial impact, helping students and young professionals understand the X’s and O’s of money and making it work for them.

Collins incorporated mindset lessons he learned in the NFL with his training as a certified financial planner to create a financial-education company with a product he hopes becomes the model for financial education around the country — from high schools to colleges, youth and social clubs, and more.

The Bellevue resident is owner and founder of Money Vehicle, launched in January 2020, and author of Your Money Vehicle: How to Begin Driving to Financial Freedom!, which published last March. The Level 1 financial literacy/workbook and related online curriculum teach young people how to manage their paychecks and put money to work for them, looking at money as a vehicle they control on their life’s journey. Lessons include online videos to which students can relate. After completing the course, they receive a résumé-worthy financial literacy certification attesting basic money knowledge.

“For so long, we’ve said, ‘I want to be a millionaire; I want a million dollars,’ and money has been the focus; money has been the destination,” Collins said. “Why we called it Your Money Vehicle is, No. 1, it’s yours. You have to take ownership of it; nobody else will drive this for you. And (No.) 2, money is a tool, money is the vehicle, it’s the verb that is going to help you get to a destination. It is not the destination.”

A catchphrase many students hear is, “Employ your money,” he said.

“They’ve never really looked at money that they make as something that should go to work for them — and so we cry out continually, ‘Employ your money. How are you using it? Have you set up your systems? If you are employing your money, it is working for you instead of you just going to work for it.’”

His curriculum, focused on ages 15 to 25, teaches how to USE money, an acronym for “Understand your money, Strategize your money, and be Efficient with your money.” Collins is licensing the curriculum to high schools and colleges, and recently landed a deal with the national fraternity Tau Kappa Epsilon, which has 228 chapters.

Jed Collins in his New Orleans Saints uniform (No. 45), playing against the Carolina Panthers in 2011. Photo by Michael C. Hebert.

Before he became the “Fullback of Finance,” a brand he’s trademarking, Collins played tight end at Washington State University from 2004-07, then entered the NFL in 2008 as an undrafted free agent with the Philadelphia Eagles.

He spent his first three years bouncing between six clubs’ practice squads and offseason rosters, getting cut, getting picked up, getting cut again — all the while learning from some of the game’s biggest names. And persevering.

After the Eagles, the 6-foot, 1-inch, 260-pound player spent time with the Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns (twice), Kansas City Chiefs, Arizona Cardinals, and Tennessee Titans, then signed with the Saints practice squad in 2010 (after the Saints won the Super Bowl that February). He then played on the Saints’ active roster from 2011-13 as a fullback, on special teams, and as backup long-snapper. In 2011, he was named the NFL’s No. 1 fullback by Pro Football Focus.

His first NFL run: a 1-yard touchdown at Jacksonville on Oct. 2, 2011.

His first NFL catch: a 1-yard TD at Carolina the next week.

Both balls came from the hands of future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees, and the Saints won both games. They finished the season 13-3, but lost in the second round of the playoffs.

Collins played for the Detroit Lions in 2014, then signed with the Dallas Cowboys in 2015 before getting cut and hanging up his cleats. He scored eight NFL career touchdowns and earned more than $3 million before he was 30.

“The financial aspect of the game is extremely intoxicating, and I’m proud to say that I got to capture my NFL dream because I learned how to make money work for me, because I learned how to USE it,” he said. “… That kind of money seen in your 20s is an extraordinary blessing.”

While his studies in business and accounting at WSU taught him business finance, he realized upon receiving his first NFL paycheck that he didn’t understand personal finance and managing paychecks, nor did many teammates. He set off to learn as much about money as he could to ensure it lasted, and to map his post-football future.

“I was cut enough, it was not an awakening … that football was going to end, because it continued to end,” he said of studying finance alongside football. “I did it because I was a no-name player fighting for that bubble spot, fighting to make the team. But that gift of seeing the end, of dying before my career even began, is why I was able to transition smoother than most. … It was still a challenge to transition away from the game that identified me, but because I had been cut, because I had been preparing, it was definitely giving me a direction to go down.”

Collins studied to become a certified financial planner, joined a Seattle-based wealth management and financial advisory firm in 2016, got his CFP certificate in 2017, and held several roles at the firm, including financial advisor and director of financial education, until starting Money Vehicle.

“I was finding a lot of success in being an advisor, but I asked myself what my bigger purpose is, and my bigger purpose was not to help wealthy people manage their money, (and) was not to help people at the end of their journey,” Collins said. “My bigger purpose was to empower people to begin their journey.”

He’s also an adjunct professor of finance for WSU, teaching an online personal finance course this semester.

Additionally, he does motivational speaking and leadership training for companies, what he calls “Rookie to Veteran,” sharing stories from the game and lessons applicable in business. The pandemic halted in-person presentations, but appearances have included keynotes and workshops for Amazon, Microsoft, Sotheby’s, GlaxoSmithKline, the NFL, Major League Baseball, and many universities, according to his website.

Collins and his wife, Kira Hollenbeck Collins, whom he met at WSU, have lived in Bellevue since 2015 and have two girls, ages 4 and 6. We caught up with Collins, 35, to discuss his time in the NFL, lessons learned in the league that he applies to life and business today, and his goals as a financial educator and author.

Washington State University’s Jed Collins, No. 41, is seen in a 2007 game against Arizona State. Courtesy of the subject.

You couldn’t have picked a better time to start a company right before a pandemic …

Especially one that was primarily going to be public speaking for a while. So we’ve had to pivot, and adjust as everyone has.

You’ve had to become more of a virtual Jedidiah than a physical Jedidiah.

The North Star of where I was going was everybody kept telling me — coming from football, going into finance, being in wealth management — “Why don’t they teach us this stuff in school? Why isn’t there a class or a course?” And I kept looking at it and saying, “Why isn’t there?” So that’s where the book originated from, but it was never our intention to just publish a book because students today … learn through video. And so our intention was always to create a virtual course. The pandemic took what was going to be a one- to two-year time frame and put it in about a three- to four-month time frame. …

You wear two hats: financial education, plus public speaking around things like motivational and leadership training.

Money Vehicle’s taking the forefront. So we are a financial education company that is out to empower young adults, young professionals to USE money. … Where we launched the … Rookie to Veteran/ Jed the speaker side was going to be that public speaking because schools, colleges, companies would bring me in well as the mindset side (learned from football). And the mindset is where the leadership aspect comes in. I still love to marry the two. I’m a big believer in education is only half the battle; actually acting upon and empowering people is the real payoff. … I do facilitate a lot of workshops now virtually, but the … financial literacy certification course in a box intended for high schools and colleges to use, that is kind of our prime focus.

You’ve mentioned Roth IRAs as a good example of employing your money, right?

Absolutely. So one of the differentiators we try to get across is the difference between earned income and created income. Earned income is what I went to work for; created income is when money went to work for me. If I put those dollars to work and they go and begin to create their own, that is employing my money.

Talk about the “five buckets” — society, past, present, future, compassion — that are part of the cash management lesson in Money Vehicle.

You have to look at it through a young person’s eyes: How can we make it the easiest for them to … understand (cash management)? One of the things Money Vehicle’s doing is changing the conversation around money, so taxes are a very important topic, but to frame it under “society” gives it a different tone, different lens. And one of our first objectives is to show you all what that society choice goes to. “Past” is anything due before the first of the month: rents, subscriptions … any kind of debt or bills. Then you have your “present” choices, which are your daily, “What am I spending money on?” Your “future” choice, which is savings and investing. That “compassion” choice is charitable, is philanthropic, but is really just any dollar you’re spending on someone else.

What’s the purpose of a certificate for those who complete the course?

For the masses, we need a standardized agreement that says … “We have been introduced (to) and we have applied the fundamentals of money.” From a student’s perspective … they get to build out a résumé, they get to sit down and talk to a college or talk to somebody looking to hire them, and point to an example of something proactive and positive that they went and did.

The certification gives companies some level of comfort that a person understands the basics of money before hiring them?

Oh, yeah … no matter your major, no matter your occupation, we all have to speak at least the base essentials of money.

What’s the biggest mistake you see people make with money?

Not having a goal. Why we need courses like Money Vehicle — and I’m not saying it’s going to be Money Vehicle — but in the next five to 10 years, there will be a standardized course that (covers) the country, which obviously would be a big-vision dream for us. It would be this ability to introduce young people and say, “You have the ability to achieve freedom.” We don’t say “retire.” I think retirement needs to be retired. We say “freedom.” And that freedom is a destination. Now that is not the goal you’re setting for yourself today. That is far off in the distance — what can you achieve in the next week, month, in the next year? But if you are introduced to these topics, if you understand how money works, if you build your strategy, if you start to be efficient, then you can start to achieve your goals, but it all begins with that end in mind.

You’re a CFP, but you’re not advising where to put money; you’re teaching about money. Comment on the distinction.

I am not an advisor; I have no ulterior motive. I have tried to keep the waters as pure and clean as possible. I gave up the advisor route to begin a new industry of sorts. We hear two or three names in the financial education space: Dave Ramsey, Suze Orman, Robert Kiyosaki, and those people are all 30, 40 years older than me. And so I continue to ask, “Where is the next way?” And so that is a big piece of why I get to work with groups like the NFL or colleges is because they trust I’m not there looking for clients; I’m there looking for students.

How do you make money?

Licensing the curriculum. This is not just general knowledge; this is specialized knowledge. We want you to start at A, and we will take you to Z, holding your hand through a curriculum. I believe every high school in America should offer a course — if not Money Vehicle, one that looks and feels oddly similar to it — and so we licensed the course to schoolteachers, to colleges, to clubs, nonprofits that work with teenagers, and are able to do so at a very valuable fee because we want it to be in tens of thousands of schools — and so that is how we see the business grow.

Your leadership training: is it focused mostly on teaching traits that were successful for you as a player?

Yes. Being cut and moving around 12 times in the NFL and saying, “In those locker rooms, I got to come across the best in the world at what they did.” And once you get over the pain and … reaction of getting released, you begin to study and focus: What were they doing? Why are they there? Why am I no longer there? And that’s where that “Rookie to Veteran” mindset comes in: How do I take those behaviors, those principles, those beliefs that they had and input it into my personal career, my personal journey? What I love is being able to take those thoughts and apply them to a financial plan and a financial strategy.

You’ve mentioned a Kansas City Chiefs veteran who talked about stealing an inch. How did you apply that?

(The player, who always ran a little farther and lifted a little more weight) broke it down to me with that mindset of: The only way you make it to 15 years in the NFL is if you come in every day with the mentality to steal just an inch, to just get a little bit more on your competition. Now, as an entrepreneur, I get to look at my days and ask, Where are the inches? But then, as I look at money, that E (in USE), that efficiency, that is all about inches. Compound interest is the aggregation of marginal gains is inches. And so it’s just those beliefs, those concepts, those stories that I’ve maybe learned playing a big game, but are really applicable to everyday life.

You have “Eliminate Potential” on your site. What’s that mean?

So that goes a little bit to the Jed Collins brand and the “Rookie to Veteran” mindset. What I came to realize in my journey through the NFL and my sports career, as a young entrepreneur, is we confuse that term potential as a compliment. And really what potential means is you have all the ingredients; you just have to put the cake together. If a compliment, it is a backhanded compliment. Our objective in any kind of endeavor is to eliminate whatever people see and think we could do, and actually become it. That idea of eliminating potential is saying, “I don’t want to just talk about what you see. I don’t want you to tell me what you see. I want to go take actions to eliminate that gap to what I want to become. …”

You’re writing another book?

Two more. One will be Level 2 of the Money Vehicle, and the other will be kind of the “Rookie to Veteran,” a little bit more of Jed’s story.

You’ve mentioned Saints quarterback Drew Brees as someone who exemplified great habits. He seems like a role model for many things you learned in your career.

No doubt. Drew is the most habitual person I was ever around: everything from when he got to the facility, how we practiced, how we went through drills. Everything became a routine. And he was the one who introduced me to books on how to define a habit, why habits are so powerful. He would be the guy who was reading and learning about leadership, having the John Wooden pyramid (from the legendary UCLA basketball coach) up in his locker. He was … the player that everybody knows, and yet he is twice the man and probably 10 times the leader.