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Jets linebacker Brandon Copeland is teaching finances

It is not unusual for NFL players to return to college in the offseason to work toward finishing their degree. But Jets linebacker Brandon Copeland is going back to school in a very different way this year.

Copeland is going to teach a class on financial literacy at the University of Pennsylvania, his alma mater, during the spring semester. It is titled “Inequity and Empowerment: Urban Financial Literacy” or URBS 140 for short. Copeland will teach it alongside Brian Peterson, who has a doctorate in education, every Monday afternoon from 4:30-7:30 p.m.

“No matter what major you are, you are going to use this class, Copeland said recently. “No matter what you do in life — whether you’re a professional athlete, whether you’re a nursing student, whether you’re a banker — you’re going to use the information from this class.”

The idea for the class came to Copeland a few years ago when he was playing for the Lions. He and some teammates were driving around Detroit. One of the players said he wished there had been a class for athletes on what to expect after college in terms of managing their finances.

“I said that’s not a class that’s just for professional athletes,” Copeland said. “That is a class that applies to us all.”

That led to him pitching the class to Penn, from which he graduated in 2013 with a degree in management and entrepreneurship.

Copeland, who is in his first year with the Jets, has many interests beyond football and he has learned about managing money. He worked on Wall Street in 2017 and has flipped houses as an investment. Copeland, 27, tries to live off 10 to 15 percent of his NFL salary and put the rest toward investments and savings.

Copeland acknowledges he does not have all the answers and people’s financial decisions vary based on many variables, but he wants to arm students with information before making those choices.

“It’s just making sure they feel more confident when they are faced with those decisions when they do leave college and have to figure out, ‘Hey, am I going to rent or buy in this city? Am I going to buy it to rent it out? Am I making smart decisions with my credit? Should I start paying down my student loans as soon as I get out of college?’ ” Copeland said. “There are no right or wrong answers, but you want to be able to make a confident decision. I don’t want them to mess up because of lack of information or lack of knowledge.”

Copeland said he hopes the class at Penn is just the beginning. As part of the class, students will travel to Philadelphia high schools and teach some of the same lessons they are learning. His hope is the classes can spread to other universities and high schools.

“It’s a need. It’s not just an idea for me,” Copeland said. “It’s more like a need in all of our lives. We make a lot of mistakes coming out of college or even high school. We make a lot of mistakes young, financially. You might make this mistake at 22 that you’re still paying off at 30, 34, which leads to a bunch of different issues like depression.”

Copeland has made an impression on the Jets this season. He has three sacks and has become a key piece of their defense. Against the Bears a few weeks ago, the coaches chose him to shadow quarterback Mitch Trubisky.

It might be a challenge for Copeland to handle both training for the 2019 season and teaching his class, but he is prepared.

“This is my dream,” Copeland said. “I’ll make it happen.”

For him, this class is about making a difference.

“We practice at a lot of things in life, but we don’t practice at our finances,” he said. “That’s pretty crazy to think about.”

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