The Wolves of Wall Street

Rick Stewart

Last week Carlos Rodon became the latest NC State sports alumnus to quickly add ‘millionaire’ to his accomplishments, inking a deal with the White Sox that included a signing bonus of nearly seven million dollars.

Rodon has the talent to become a front-line MLB starter, and if he meets his potential, that $6.6 million dollar signing bonus is going to be a small fraction of the money he earns as a pitcher in his lifetime. Which led to the question of who, exactly, are the biggest professional earners in NC State history. This isn’t a matter of best, though there are plenty of great players on the list, as much as it is being a great player in the modern era where sports salaries have skyrocketed to obscene levels.

Below is a breakdown, by sport, of the top earners in Pack history. Also there are, as you might expect, some gaps that I had to fill in for certain players with my best guess to cover missing seasons of salary data (internet research caveats apply, as always). NFL contracts can be especially tricky to figure out as teams restructure those regularly. The figures below don't include any guaranteed money that a player has yet receive –  Mario Williams, Philip Rivers and even J.J. Hickson will all be getting sizable checks in the next year but that money isn't included below.

NFL

Mario Williams

$95,000,000

Philip Rivers

$92,850,000

Torry Holt

$45,000,000

Adrian Wilson

$42,000,000

DeWayne Washington

$25,000,000

Mario Williams – He, along with Rivers, will cross the $100 million threshold in 2014. So good for them. Williams has four years and nearly $60 million still coming his way. He was the No. 1 overall pick before the NFL brought rookie salaries back down to Earth, then got a massive free agent contract from the Bills in 2012.

Philip Rivers – Rivers, like Williams, got a nice rookie deal and followed that up with a mammoth second contract. Rivers has two years and about $30 million left on his current deal. A good season in 2014 would all but guarantee the Chargers work out some sort of extension – Rivers remains in the quality NFL quarterbacks even as he enters his second decade in the league and teams simply don’t let good quarterbacks walk out the door.

Torry Holt – Holt, who retired in 2009, would likely be third on the list even if he had come into the league a little later. But it remains a surprising large drop-off considering that Holt is a borderline Hall of Fame receiver and he is only five years older than Rivers.

Adrian Wilson – The numbers for Wilson were harder to come by, so there’s a little estimating here after he restructured his deal with the Cardinals then was cut before it ended.

DeWayne Washington – Another big drop, with Washington presumably at the top of a large number of former Pack players hovering in the 15-20 million range (including players like Manny Lawson, Jerricho Cotchery and Sean Locklear). I couldn't find data for Washington prior to 2000, so for his first six seasons I estimated an average salary around $2 million to come up with $25 million in total career earnings.

NBA

Tom Gugliotta

$80,594,535

Vinny Del Negro

$19,000,000

J.J. Hickson

$15,792,137

Nate McMillan

$10,459,000

Spud Webb

$9,000,000

Tom Gugliotta – Easy to forget how good Gugliotta was as a pro, and that he happened to fall perfectly into the mid-90s boom in NBA salaries. As a result his career earnings lap the competition several times over.

Vinny Del Negro – A few of Del Negro’s earlier season salaries weren't available so I filled those in with some best guess estimates. That Del Negro ranks second on the list even today (Hickson will pass him in 2014), unfortunately speaks much more to the state of the basketball program in the last 20 years than it does to Del Negro himself.

J.J. Hickson – The lone player on the NBA list who wasn't recruited by Jim Valvano, Hickson will make north of $5 million this year. He’s carved out a nice career for himself in the NBA , something that many other talented Pack players of recent years haven’t been able to manage.

Nate McMillan – McMillan will probably, if he hasn't already done so, earn more money as a coach than as a player. Oddly enough the highest salary of his 11-year NBA career came in his last season in 1997-98, in which he played just 18 games.

Spud Webb – The only player on the list to win a Slam Dunk championship, Webb played for over a decade in the NBA. This is another case where salary data was incomplete, oddly missing his second and fourth seasons, so I bumped his total by a bit under $1 million to fill in the gap.

MLB

Dan Plesac

$23,104,446

Adam Everett*

$11,931,750

Carlos Rodon

$6,582,000

Andrew Brackman

$4,550,000

Joey Devine/Tim Stoddard

$4,000,000

Dan Plesac – The journeyman closer/reliever pitched from 1986-2003. He started out as a closer but after a few years settled into life in middle relief, which pays pretty well actually.

Adam Everett – We’re cheating a bit by including Everett, who actually transferred to South Carolina and was drafted as a Gamecock but we’ll count him under the Russell Wilson Rule (est. 2011). Everett was a glove-first shortstop for the Astros during the Killer B’s era before bouncing around and eventually retiring. Still, the offensively challenged (career .242/.294/.346 hitter) Everett managed to find work for a full decade in the majors.

Carlos Rodon – Yeah so Rodon is 3rd on the list and hasn't thrown a professional pitch yet, so it’s safe to say the recent history of State guys in the MLB isn't fantastic.

Andrew Brackman – Injuries meant it never worked out for Brackman, but he owes Scott Boras a thank you note for making his single contract count. Brackman barely appeared in the majors but cleared $4.5 million in his post-draft contract despite going at the end of the first round.

Joey Devine/Tim Stoddard – Here’s a good example of eras (I had to guesstimate some for both of these guys as well). Stoddard played for over a decade in the majors and won 41 games and threw over 700 innings. Devine threw 88 innings in the majors but he also played 20 years later than Stoddard, which meant he got a signing bonus north of a million dollars and made another million in years he didn't pitch because of injury.

PGA

Tim Clark

$21,469,655

Carl Pettersson

$20,926,636

Tim Clark – As someone astutely pointed out when I first though of putting this list together on Twitter, I almost completely forgot professional golf. Clark’s best year came in 2010 when he won the Players Championship and the giant check that comes with it – all told he took home over $3 million in that season.

Carl Pettersson – The two NC State alums have had remarkably similar PGA careers – a couple of wins, a good number of top 10 finishes and very similar career earnings. Pettersson had his best year in 2012 with a win, two seconds and seven total top five finishes.

Overall Top 5

Mario Williams

$95,000,000

Philip Rivers

$92,850,000

Tom Gugliotta

$80,594,535

Torry Holt

$45,000,000

Adrian Wilson

$42,000,000

Thanks for breaking up the dynasty there, Googs. It’ll be interesting to see where his list stands in 10 years, though I have a distinct feeling we won’t see much movement in the top two and a certain Super Bowl champion might show up.

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