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Where are your former Browns now? K Matt Stover

25 questions with one of Cleveland’s best kickers

Matt Stover was standing on the sideline as the clock was winding down in Super Bowl 35. The outcome wasn’t in doubt as his Baltimore Ravens had built a 34-7 lead. The win would become Stover’s second Super Bowl ring, but his first as an active player who contributed to the final outcome.

As the final two minutes began to click off, Cleveland Browns fans were reminded of their former kicker who had some very good years while wearing orange helmets.

And some wondered out loud, that if it wasn’t for Art Modell, this very moment would have been the Browns’ Super Bowl victory celebration about to commence instead of their bitter division rival. In 1996, Modell relocated the Browns to Baltimore and renamed them the Ravens. And now, here was Cleveland’s former franchise winning it all – for another city.

But Stover didn’t have anything to do with the move. In fact, only three former Browns remained on that Ravens Super Bowl roster so that squad did not really represent Cleveland whatsoever.

1990 Score #B1 football card: Matt Stover Giants

Stover had experienced his own relocation process years earlier when he was drafted in the 12th round by the New York Giants in 1990, and then spent his rookie year on IR. Meanwhile, that Giants team won Super Bowl 25. The following season, Giants DC Bill Belichick accepted the head coaching position with the Browns. And with his new employment, Belichick had taken the young Stover with him to Cleveland.

Stover played 19 seasons in the NFL, a truly remarkable feat for any football player. From 1991 to 1995, he kicked for Cleveland. He had played high school football at Lake Highlands High School where Browns legendary kicker Phil Dawson would eventually graduate from. He had the opportunity to coach Dawson back home when the promising kicker was 14 years old.

Then Stover became a four-year starter at Louisiana Tech. As a freshman, he nailed 21 of 25 field goals and was named All-Southland Conference. A remarkable feat for a kid who was in high school one year earlier. He was a three-time All-Louisiana Sports Writers team member (1986, ‘88 and ‘89).

Stover has had his share of accolades. In November of 2011, the Ravens gave him one of their highest honors when they inducted him into their Ring of Honor at halftime against division rival the Cincinnati Bengals. He was inducted into the Louisiana Tech Athletics Hall of Fame also in 2011 plus Lake Highlands High School (Dallas) Hall of Fame in 2012.

He is known as the “King of Consistency.”

After the Ravens did not resign him in 2009, he had a call from the Indianapolis Colts who asked if he had been working out and was in shape. After he told them he was in great shape, they told him that he was the only kicker they were bringing in and Stover kicked the Colts into the Super Bowl that year in the loss to the New Orleans Saints.

New Orleans Saints v Indianapolis Colts

Stover was the Browns’ player rep regarding free agency. He was the Browns’ vote in all matters concerning the early stages of this historic transformation in the league. He was a player rep for 16 years continuing the fight with Baltimore. Obviously, the players respected and liked him as a teammate.

He was the alternate for the Pro Bowl six different times. In his last 10 years in the league, Stover’s field goal accuracy was 92%. Part of the reason is that field conditions were better, and the work provided from designated long snappers and holders improved tremendously. Almost gone were the days when the center or a tight end would long snap yet played a regular position along the offense as well instead of being a designated specialist who was able to practice and master the position.

In 19 NFL seasons, Stover never missed a game. In four college seasons, he never missed a game. Oh, he played with high ankle sprains, pulled quads and back spasms a few times. But he was always able to do his job.

NFL Accolades

  • Sixth all-time leading scorer: 2,004 points
  • Most consecutive PAT’s: 469
  • Most consecutive games with at least one field goal made: 38
  • Most points scored by a player in his 30s: 1,113
  • First Team All-Pro: 2000
  • Second Team All-Pro: 2006
  • Pro Bowl: 2000
  • Golden Toe Award: 2000
  • Two-Time Super Bowl champion

Louisiana Tech Accolades

  • Second all-time field goals attempted: 88
  • Second all-time field goals converted: 64
  • Fifth all-time leading scorer: 262 points
  • Longest field goal made: 57-yards (in 1987)
  • Most punts in a game: 16 – FCS record
Matt Stover

In 2011, Stover announced his retirement from the NFL. He was the last remaining Browns player on Baltimore’s roster. At the time of his retirement, he was the league’s fourth all-time leading scorer.

If you ever watched the ESPN documentary on “30 for 30” about the Browns move to Baltimore, a lot of that footage was filmed by Stover. It was his camcorder. He gave it to the NFL and allowed them to use it. At one point in the flick, you see Ozzie Newsome and someone talking in the background – that is Stover’s voice peering out from behind the camera lens.

Stover, now 55 years old, moved back home to Texas when he hung up his cleats and now lives in Dallas with his wife Debbie. The couple are Christians and have three children: Jenna age 28, Jacob age 27, and Joe age 19. Growing up Stover was a huge Dallas Cowboys fan with Roger Staubach his favorite player.

He married his high school sweetheart Debbie right out of college to which she was on the same journey as he was. The couple now has been married for 32 years. Yes, she needs an award. Stover admits that no big decision is made without her input. When things don’t go well and injury happens in his line of work, a player such as a kicker can be vulnerable and become tough. With a dedicated partner that remains there unconditional, that brings peace and stability to the rest of Stover’s life.

His Twitter handle is @Matt3Stover.

After football, Stover co-founded Players Philanthropy Fund (PPF), a company that handles charitable work for athletes who don’t wish to set up traditional brick-and-mortar foundations. But PPF doesn’t only work with athletes.

PPF handles charitable projects for people in the medical field, education, attorneys, and scores of regular people who have their own mission to help others but don’t wish to hire staff or rent office space. In fact, athletes only make up 17% of their client list. This means his firm is available to everyone.

DawgsByNature caught up with the sensational kicker to find out what he was doing when he heard the Browns (and his job) were moving to another city, why kicking for 92.9% accuracy in a single season does not get you a Pro Bowl nod, and how the company he co-founded assists athletes with their charitable efforts.

DBN: We hear as a kid you went far in the local punt, pass and kick competition. What did you get as the reward, and was one of these competitions the one where we see a giant Andy Reed?

Stover: Andy was quite a bit older than me. That was 1979 and I was 11 years old. I won my elementary school and from there I went to the local recreational park. I won a couple of times there and then went to the Dallas recreational park to compete against the whole city. I won twice there - which one was a regional. And then I ended up going to Texas Stadium in Dallas when they played the Giants. I shanked my punt and lost by five feet. If I had hit the punt down the line straight I would’ve won. I got a nice trophy and an entire Cowboys uniform. Here I am at age 11 thinking I’m a NFL player. But it did kind of paint the picture for me to say the least. I just followed that into high school and into college.

DBN: At Lakewood High School, you were All-District at kicker, but was also selected All-District as a receiver. That has to be pretty rare for one player to be named to multiple positions within the same list. Your thoughts?

Stover: Most people didn’t think I was an athlete until they saw me play. I remember one time at the practice facility in Berea and we were playing basketball, and I was just smoking three-pointers. And somebody said, hey that kicker must be an athlete. It was pretty neat to know that I was a wide receiver. I had 72 catches in two years with 4.6 speed so I wasn’t that fast. Merton Hanks played 14 years in the NFL and was several levels above everyone. He went to my high school and showed me the slim chance that I would have at the college level as a receiver. I figured out that the only way to get the ball was to kick. I knew going into college that the kicking route was best for me. The number one trait of the kicker is we all want the ball.

DBN: As a Texas kid, how did you end up at Louisiana Tech, and did you have many offers being a two-position player that also punted?

Stover: That’s a great question. I had one half-scholarship that was offered to me from North Texas State other than the full scholarship I accepted at Louisiana Tech. In high school I was a punter my sophomore year, a wide receiver and punter my junior year, and a punter, receiver and kicker my senior year. Yeah, not many high school teams had players that played multiple positions like that. How Louisiana Tech discovered me was Matt Dunnigan played in the 1970s at Louisiana Tech and his little brother was on the same high school team as me. Dunnigan had played in the Canadian Football League. Their parents were at one of our games and told Louisiana Tech about me. Louisiana Tech then came out to scout me at a game in which I hit two field goals, one being a 50-yard field goal and decided I must be pretty good. I had to win the position and did. I ended up being a four year starter. I really consider those four years is what maturated me to be an NFL kicker because I had a lot of experience.

DBN: You were drafted by the New York Football Giants in the 12th round of the 1990 draft. What was training camp like, and did veteran kicker Raul Allegre help you out or treat you like the new kid who was there to take his job?

Stover: Raul showed me what a real true professional was. I was the third to the last pick in the entire draft. On my pro day at Louisiana Tech, I only had three teams show up: the Giants, Cowboys, and San Diego Chargers. And all of them wanted me. The Giants knew if I did not get drafted then I would have gone back home to Dallas and sign with them as an undrafted free agent. Bill Parcells was the head coach and Bill Belichick was the defensive coordinator. Being drafted even in the 12th round was pretty cool. Raul was a guy who was just a great professional. He knew at the end of the day that I had to beat him in competition and I did not. But I showed that I could hang with the pros. Raul had a history of being injured so they wanted a guy like me to be there in case he did. I was on the roster but ineligible to play until Week 5 and in Week 3 Raul got hurt. So the Giants brought in Matt Bahr to kick who had just got released from the Browns. Matt played great and kicked several game winners and Parcells thought he wasn’t gonna fix something that wasn’t broken. He left Matt in there for the year and I’m grateful for that because the Giants were a Super Bowl team that year. I’ll tell you that Matt Bahr gets in the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers and he hits five field goals as the Giants win 15-13. I truly believe that the good Lord had mercy on me. I do not think that I was mentally ready for that. I had a lot of growing up to do.

Denver Broncos v Cleveland Browns Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

DBN: You ended up with a quadriceps injury and spent your rookie season on IR. The Giants had a really good team that year and won Super Bowl 25. The next year you were with the Browns. Tell us about going to the actual Super Bowl game.

Stover: That was an incredible learning process for me. The Super Bowl is the ultimate goal for every player. I had the ability to witness what it took to get there. That team had a veteran presence and a veteran coaching staff. And all these guys I was able to sit back and watch. I was able to watch Matt Bahr practice and he really simplified the position for me plus punter Sean Landeta who knew every specialist in the league. Parcells had asked Landeta who was the best young kicker out there and Landeta said, well he’s already on the roster - Matt Stover. The next day I get signed by the Browns.

DBN: You came to the Browns the same year Bill Belichick was named head coach after Cleveland had gone 3-13-0. With the Giants connection, how did that all come about?

Stover: Belichick was really patient with me and I was able to grow under his leadership. If you can take on old Municipal Stadium, you can take on anything. Bill was building the team and Jerry Kauric was the veteran kicker there that had supposedly beat out Matt Bahr. And Bill decided very quickly that Kauric wasn’t who he wanted and was looking for a young guy. Belichick is a very loyal guy. You become one of his players and he will stick with ya, but he also puts a leash on you too. You eventually got to man up. That was during a time when teams had Plan “B” free agency. Teams could protect 35 guys on the roster and everybody else could move freely to other teams even though they had a contract. I was offered a nice contract and signing bonus with the Browns. I knew that Matt Bahr had just kicked the Giants into the Super Bowl There’s no way they were gonna get rid of him. And if I couldn’t beat Matt Bahr then I wasn’t gonna get the job. Plus, Parcells left the Giants and the guy they hired, I knew I just wasn’t his guy. It all worked out pretty well for me.

Cleveland Browns v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

DBN: You kicked well your first season with the Browns including two from over 50-yards. When you know you have to attempt a long kick, do you kick it harder, or take a half-step back, or aim it lower, or something else?

Stover: You try not to do any of the things that you just stated. You try to kick it exactly the same way you kick an extra point. In reality there comes a point where you can’t just flop it you gotta hit it in Municipal Stadium. So the five iron comes out where you can connect it with a little bit more force. That’s kind of how that works. I made it in the league as long as I did because I understood if I master a single club and do my best to keep that club at all times and set limitations on yourself to make sure you don’t put the team in a vulnerable situation. Unless it’s totally necessary. In Cleveland with those winds you know what your limits are but when you have to push it, then you understand what you have to do. Good kickers know how to do that no matter what the situation.

DBN: You are the fourth kicker we have interviewed, plus several punters and long snappers. All of y’all are in this fraternity of specialists where you root for each other and never say a single bad word against another fellow member of your unofficial club. What is that link that binds all specialists together?

Stover: The emotional anguish that we go through! Let me tell you you’re out there on an island. How are you really appreciate everybody can evaluate what you’ve done - how you performed. Therefore you’re highly exposed. What I really appreciated about my job was I always knew where I stood. There was no subjectivity to it. It was concrete numbers. As an athlete anybody in their workforce knows that you can live with it. I tried with accepting responsibility for the team. As I stated earlier, I always wanted the ball. At the end of the game, I am that little punk kid saying, “Put me in coach! Put me in!” That is exactly the type of mentality you have to have. The fraternity that we all have together is one-of-a-kind. I never told my coaches this but the guy on the other side line, if he was a good guy, I would tell him, “Man, if you get it hit it.” That meant if you get the chance to get the game winner, hit it. I know what it’s like to miss one of those. It’s horrible. That’s where I really respected the position and always respected the great play.

NFL: USA TODAY Sports-Archive Peter Brouillet-USA TODAY Sports

DBN: On a very poor team your first campaign with the Browns, you were one of the few bright spots on a 6-10-0 club. Do you feel part of your success was because the offense was so horrid and couldn’t score TDs so the opportunities for FGs increased?

Stover: The kicker's role is based on what the offense’s opportunities have. I see a kicker’s roll as like a sniper in the Army. I’m sitting up on top of this roof, I’m not being shot at, but oh how important that sniper is for you. It does help when your defense is dominant. Then an offense that is in the hands of a player like Peyton Manning doesn’t get many opportunities to kick field goals. I love opportunities to kick field goals. That’s what I want. I thrived on that. A great offense does assist that because it gives you greater opportunities.

DBN: In 1994 everything in Cleveland came together as the team went 11-5-0 and won a playoff game. You had your best season to date going 26-28 for 92.9% accuracy and making every PAT. Yet, you were snubbed for the Pro Bowl and even First or Second Team All-Pro honors. The Pro Bowl kickers were John Carney with 89.5% and Fuad Reveiz had 87.2%. What are we missing?

Stover: John Carney was the guy going to the Super Bowl that year. It wasn’t my time yet and the good Lord kept me humble. In my mind I did my best to not pursue human accolades. I did my best to be the best player I could for my team. That is where I wanted my identity and what type of teammate I was. Over the long term that really played well. Because at some point I knew the career was gonna come to an end. But I eventually got to the Pro Bowl and All-Pro status even though it was with the Baltimore Ravens and not the Browns going into Super Bowl 35. That was my time. I attribute that year 1994 to my holder Tom Tupa, who was our punter. He was a phenomenal holder. Steve Everitt was our regular center and also the snapper and Tom did his magic. If you look at kicking today they have true deep snappers and don’t even spin the laces anymore.

DBN: What type of relationship did you have with Art Modell?

Stover: I know he is a man that’s not very well liked in Cleveland, but if you look back at what he did financially for his family, it was the only he was going to be set up. Cleveland was a tough place to build an asset based on the stadium. What he did was what was best for him and his family. With that being stated, he and I were very, very close. At the end of his life he lived in the next neighborhood that I lived in. I spent two Super Bowl Sundays with him at his home with him and his wife Pat. We went over there and spent some time together. He was a man who did his best and did a lot for the league. But boy, that was a tough, tough year of 1995.

DBN: The next season the Browns began 3-1-0, and then the rumors that the franchise may be moving to Baltimore began to creep in. Where were you when you heard the news officially, and what was your reaction?

Stover: We didn’t know what was happening until we all got called into a team meeting. Art told us what was happening and really was the first official news that we heard. Jerry Sandusky had the story and found out that Art was dealing with the City of Baltimore. Then it all started making sense because in training camp they had signed 18 or 20 of us. I was one of them. As it turned out, they were making sure they had their contracts ready to move to Baltimore so they knew actually in August.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns Photo by Tom Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

DBN: Tell us about that year after the news broke as far as the locker room, and the fact that now houses would have to be sold, then new ones bought in a new city that nobody knew anything about, schools changed for player’s children, etc. That had to be chaotic.

Stover: It was really hard. Art’s hands were tied as far as what he could do for players who were not moving to Baltimore permanently. Most of us were just going to rent in Baltimore. I had a house in Strongsville, Ohio. I had two brand new babies, and they were staying with me in Baltimore. Now, here’s the hardest part. Typically when players are moving to another team, you are moving to an already established team. You rely on the support of the local community for that. When we got to Baltimore, there wasn’t any infrastructure. We didn’t have a name after they took away the Baltimore Browns.

DBN: You are suddenly with the Browns who are renamed the Ravens. Plus, you went from one old stadium to another old stadium until the new one was completed in Baltimore. What was that transition like coming to a new city?

Stover: The facility where we were going to work out and practice was a joke. I went from a 1949 stadium to a 1952 stadium. We had no support. So the hardest part of going to Baltimore was it was like, we’ll just meet you there - and then there wasn’t anything there. We didn’t know where to live, nobody had any family there. We just survived and it was a tough year that first one. And Art had fired our leader Belichick and replaced him with Ted Marchibroda who was an old-school guy. The culture was completely different from structure to this new, nice old-school man whose philosophy was to outwork everybody. It just didn’t fly. Moving from Cleveland was very disheartening. It broke my heart. I love Cleveland and had just bought a home after signing a new four-year contract. Ready to be there for the long term, and then suddenly this happened which was out of our control. We were the abused adopted child in Baltimore.

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Balitmore Ravens James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

DBN: Your best year as a pro was in 2000 as you made your first Pro Bowl, was named First Team All-Pro, won the Golden Toe Award, and earned your second Super Bowl ring. How do you explain when everything finally comes together, and what exactly is that feeling like being on the field, this time actually playing, as the time winds down and you realize that your team, your efforts, just won the Super Bowl?

Stover: I am a Christian and I think that the Lord finally had everything lined up for me to come together. I did my job and did it well. Doing it for the right reasons for my teammates and my team. Keeping things in the right perspective. That was my role as the kicker. In the series “30 for 30” where they talk about that Super Bowl 35 years, they didn’t mention the kicker. They didn’t say how this subpar offense was winning games. It was like don’t turn the ball over and get close enough to kick field goals. The thought process was, all we need is 10 points and we can beat anybody. I loved that we were able to finally find our identity. Trent Dilfer was the catalyst for that. I had his back being both of us are Christians. There were many times he would say, “I got you an extra eight yards, Stover.” We go on to the Super Bowl and dominate. In the Super Bowl, you try not to make it a different game – it just is. Your heart rate is in a different pace and you understand the stage you’re on. And it’s just a little harder to breathe.

DBN: You had a great career in Baltimore going 84.7% accuracy on field goals and 99.8% on extra points. At one point, you had 49 consecutive points. What did you make in your best-paid season?

Stover: If you look back on that team, if you recall, had that dominant defense and a subpar offense as we headed toward Super Bowl 35. With scoring 49 consecutive points, this means nobody else on the team had scored any points but me. Don Cockroft had 32 and I had 49. I don’t think that record will ever be broken. If you look back on the effect I had on that team knowing I would go to the Pro Bowl. I think the most I made in a single season was $1.3 million. And now Justin Tucker’s making $6 million a year. My 1.3 now is a signing bonus. When I got into the league in 1990 my salary was $78,000. I had my day and I had my time. I look at the NFL as a great start in life that I just happened to make into a career.

DBN: When the TV announcers say “ice the kicker” is this really a thing?

Stover: Absolutely. You have to know how to breathe and compartmentalize the situation you’re in. So what I chose to do in that situation was mentally and emotionally claim it as a positive thing. Not as, “Oh crap, now I got to think about it more.” Now it was more time to make sure of my alignment and thanks for the extra time - appreciate it. And that’s how I approached it as a positive. Icing never worked on me. Never. I hit them all.

DBN: A punter is 15 yards back whereas a field goal or PAT is just eight yards. How did this become the standard, and if a kicker has too many attempts blocked, is it advisable for the placement to be brought back to nine yards?

Stover: Basically from a field goal position it is the amount of time it takes to get the ball off. It’s about 1.3 seconds. The reason that it’s eight yards is because of the angle the guys coming around the edge has to get the ball. It’s seven yards in college because of the wide hash marks and kicking at a more severe angle. In the pros, you are kicking over the center/guard instead of the tackles. The snappers are so proficient today that if the holder is catching the ball in the same place, the laces are caught every time. That was unheard of in the 1990s. And if a kicker is getting too many kicks blocked, the placement can’t be moved back another yard because the angle for the guy coming around the corner has an easier approach to blocking it. If a kicker continues to get kicks blocked, it’s one of two things: he is either kicking it too low, or the line is getting pushed back too far. It is the one play in football that the kicking team cannot defend themselves. They have to take it.

Cincinnati Bengals v Baltimore Ravens
Former Baltimore Ravens place kicker Matt Stover #3 is introduced before the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium on November 20, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens won, 31-24.
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

DBN: In 2011, the Ravens placed you in their Ring of Honor. How did you find out about this, who was the first person you told, and tell me about the game which featured your name reveal?

Stover: My last game was in Super Bowl 44 with the Colts. After my career was over in 2009, that off-season I wanted to have my time. I had beaten the Ravens twice that year with one being a playoff game. I really wanted to have my time with Steve Bisciotti the Ravens owner. Art Modell was no longer an owner of the team. I went to Steve’s home, we had lunch together, and I just laid it out for him and why I didn’t re-sign with the Ravens at the beginning of the season. He respected that. And in that moment, he said, “Well, you know you’re going to be in my Ring of Honor.” I went wow. So that is how he said it and gives me chills today. He is a very generous man. Because I am in the Ring of Honor, when Baltimore won Super Bowl 52 I got a Super Bowl ring also. Of course I told my wife on the way home. The game with my reveal I had my whole family and my agent Jim Steiner who represented me. He was an amazing counselor and adviser. You have to have support and people who will tell you the truth because we as players are contract laborers. It was amazing to have a city look at me that way with the Ring of Honor. I will do my best to carry myself in that same manner. It meant the world to me.

Cleveland Browns vs Baltimore Ravens

DBN: In 1960, there were three kickers listed in the Top-20 of NFL stats in total scoring. Last year, there were three non-kickers listed in the Top-30 listed of NFL stats in total scoring. Why has this changed so dramatically over the years, and with these facts, why aren’t kickers valued more? By the way, didn’t you invent the new extra point setup being further back?

Stover: I would say the athletes themselves have gotten better. Any sport over the last 2-3 decades, look how every position has gotten better statistically. The reason for that is coaching access and the knowledge behind it. You remember golf in the 1960s had a few coaches. Now you go anywhere and see hundreds of them. The more knowledge – the more access. That’s just the way it is. And kickers are valued more because we are easy to replace comparatively speaking. We’re not on the field enough. When the league was considering passing the rule to move the extra point from a 20-yard field goal to a 33-yard field goal, my friend Troy Vincent of the NFL conferred with me because I had the league’s most consecutive extra points at 477 in a row. He told me the league was thinking about doing something about the extra points. I told, whatever you do, don’t get rid of the play. If they get rid of it, then it devalues all kickers because it’s one less time we get to come onto the field. I told him that what they should do is make it harder. One of the hardest kicks I ever felt was a 40-yard extra point. We had two holding calls in a row, and now the expectation of making an extra point is there that I had to make it. Troy asked my opinion of what to do, and I told him to move it back to the 15-yard line and now it’s a 33-yard field goal. It’s a four-foot putt, which is 92% of making it. Now it’s a formidable play.

Editor’s note: Both the XFL and USFL have eliminated kicking extra points. Neither league conferred with Stover.

DBN: Along with Seth McConnell, the two of you founded PPF, which stands for Players Philanthropy Fund. This is a vehicle for athletes to create their own charitable efforts and have the luxury of legal and financial responsibilities under your roof. How did you come up with this idea?

Stover: As a kicker, you always feel that you have the back of your team. I learned to go charitable giving through my own private foundation. It was an education that I received, and I thought we should help other athletes and protect how they do their charitable works if they want to have their own private foundations or not. Seth was a friend of mine from our kid’s preschool. My career was at an end, and in 2010 discussed trying to help athletes. And so we created the Players Philanthropy Fund. What it does, is an athlete actually plugs into a fiscal sponsor where they set up an account inside our platform with our tax identification number. We give them non-profit status through our non-profit status. That gives them the right to look and feel as if they have their own private foundation. But truly we are the fiduciary. We make sure everything they do to raise or distribute funds is IRS-compliant for non-profits. It’s a back-office solution for charitable giving. We force compliance and make sure they are doing what they are supposed to be doing. It’s been a lot of fun doing it.


DBN: How many charitable projects does your firm usually become involved in each year, with how many total athletes?

Stover: We are adding about 8-9 per month. So the count is between 90 and 120 in any given year. Some of those do roll out because they have the full intention to do something with their foundation and end up not doing anything. This is a safe way of doing something charitable without applying for their own foundation and waiting for the status with the IRS which can take months. It’s expensive and we have a turn-key solution. Ours is less expensive and more robust than they can do on their own. With their own foundation, they have to have an executive director, an office with office-related machines, a power bill, and do payroll and a lot of other things. But we can do all that for them without all the costs involved.

DBN: PPF is now in its 12th year and has processed over $100 million in charitable gifts. When athletes first come to PPF, do they realize creating their own foundation involves tax structures and legal logistics such as being a registered 501(c)3 plus other situations like hiring staff and renting an office. What kind of advice do you give to new clients?

Stover: First of all they have no idea. But their advisors do. And typically we deal with advisors whether it’s financial advisors, agents, marketing agents, or whoever it is. Fiscal sponsorship is getting more prevalent and more well-known. We share with them one-pagers and can give them more information if necessary. They send in their application of what their charitable cause is, what their budget is, and more questions that we ask to make it a good fit. From there we do an onboarding call. We share with them all the ins and outs of how they’re going to operate because they are not going to tell us how they are going to operate. We are going to tell them how they can operate from a financial perspective because we’re the fiduciary. As they go through it they realize that we can simplify their world. They don’t need the accounting staff, they don’t need a tax return because they don’t have a 990. We have charitable registrations in every state that requires it and sales tax in every state that has it. So all of that is done for them. We have done 29 countries and 49 states. It creates a lot of simplicity and protects the athlete. It also forces compliance. We did $58 million of the $100 last year alone. Our projections are to double this year. We are making a huge difference in the world and that’s the purpose to create a solution that’s cheaper with more money going out into the charitable world. And it’s not just athletes, it’s also ordinary people like in the medical and education fields.

DBN: Other than money, how has the NFL changed since you played?

Stover: I do think the concussion thing brought a lot of attention. If you look at what the issue is, practices were full-padded, drinks in training camp twice a day, and banging heads every time. It is a gladiator sport. There is of course risk to it. Thousands and thousands of head blows has created these CTE issues. There will some coming from the future guys but it will less problematical because the blows to the head will be diminished with the ways they are now having to tackle, protecting the defenseless player, and all of these things are necessary. Those training rooms on Monday was a car wreck. Like Clay Matthews. To play 19 years as a linebacker, that guy was a beast. So that is a great change. I have heard a lot of complaining from the old school guys who say today’s players don’t know how to hit. Agreed – but they can also say that the thousands of hits that can be taken off the head now make a big difference. There was a day when they would club up their forearm and smack the linemen in the head. Those type of things needed to change. The NFL knew it and knows they have to protect the integrity of the game.

Matt Stover

DBN: What is your fondest moment of being a Cleveland Brown?

Stover: I got to play in Cleveland Municipal Stadium with the real Dawg Pound. Kicking a field goal into the Dawg Pound for the win my third game of my career against the Bengals was so much fun. It was a complete blast. That to me was a phenomenal memory. To be a part of the community for the five privileged years that I had is special and still have friends there. And knowing that if I could kick in Municipal Stadium I could kick anywhere with complete confidence. Unfortunately, it was a horrible situation in 1995 and then the move to Baltimore. For me to be a part of that transition and to say that I did that and still performed at 95% the next year was yet another fond memory.