Steven Holden: From Watts to the NFL because I Listened

Steven Holden (Retired NFL, Real Estate) Photo of Steven Holden

“From Watts to the NFL because I Listened”

This is a story of a young boy name Stephen Anthony Holden (Steve)


I was born 1951 in Watts California the baby boy of Elmer and Ethel Holden with two older sisters. My mother is still living at 91 young still cooking and telling us the stories of her family and life growing up in Watts.  The fun thing about my mom and dad she said: “the first night after leaving Jordan High school where they fell in love they were so young that my dad dropped her off at her mothers’ home and he went home to his mothers’ place.” One thing about growing up in what the world calls “the ghetto” as a kid is its just home.

With two older sister’s I often found myself playing by myself. We had a train track in the alley with rocks to throw and hit, a front porch to throw pitches at. I had a football that I would throw up in the air and I would spin around and catch the ball if someone was watching they would think I had a team. But, I was all by myself. A young black boy with two older sisters, Dad was gone. As a little boy, when I had my first fight and the guys I was fighting said “I'M GONE TO GET MY BIG BROTHER” all I had were older sisters. My mother was a homemaker and my dad was a truck driver, who was often gone. I went to Twenty Street Elementary School. Where in one game of sock ball I did something that started me on my way to be the ball catcher that made me an athlete. I was told it looked like superman running after a ball that nobody could catch. It was a Willie Mays style catch over the shoulder.

I loved the Ram’s and the Dodgers'. One day it was all gone and my dad didn’t come home, my mother was moving and remarrying. My mother moved to the home my mother is still in today. All I ever wanted was to play didn’t care what sport just let me play. My mother always told me “to live within my means” so that stayed in my heart as grew. 

I had a great high school and college years playing football and running track. In college you watched the good players get drafted, go on and play Pro ball. I watched everyone buy all sorts of crazy things, suddenly they had more money than they had ever imagined. So, when my turn came, I had all kind of agents trying to sign me, trying to sell me with big dreams of being a star. When I finally I settled on an agent that I could talk to and the first thing told him was “I didn’t want to play long in the NFL.” I was already in pain and I knew it was only going to get worse. I told him while playing golf in Arizona that I wanted money when I retired.


In 1972 the Cleveland Brown's pick me in the first round. My dad gave me his 1967 El Camino 327, fast as hell that I fixed up, put it in the back of a U haul van and drove to Cleveland. I pulled up in a hot Rod my first day of camp. I never purchased a car over $10,000. I always remembered what my mother told me “Live within my Means.” So, my agent sat down with the Cleveland Browns he made a deal for a $150,000 signing bonus, it was a three-year deal $30,000-$40,000-$50,000 with the Browns taking $10,000- $20,000-$30,000

So, I lived on $20,000 every year and got paid monthly, so when the season was over I was still getting a check. My last check came as my next year started. So, my money was working and accumulating for me in the bank. The Cleveland Trusts bank was making 7% for me 3% went back to Browns for doing this deal. There was $60,000 that I couldn’t take until I retired and I could only take $15,000 until it was all gone. So, Mr. IRS was pissed at me because they could understand why I was getting a Tax Refund each year. The IRS audited me for four years because they didn’t understand that I was getting a refund every year. So, after IRS was finally finished with the audit they found that I didn’t pay a $150.00 sales tax on my Van.

I didn’t owe them anything and my mom’s words that I listened too “Live within my Means” has served me well. My Dad also gave me some great advice. He eventually owned an 8 unit apartment complex. He told me that I should buy an apartment complex as well. He said “that if I ever got hurt and couldn't play football I could live in my apartment for free and make money. It was a great tax write off.”  It was the best thing I have ever done, I put down $20,000.00 on a 21 unit apartment for $125.000.00 and in 1987 sold it for $900,000.00.

God Bless you Mom and Dad

Steve Holden

Last modified: Tuesday, December 11, 2018, 11:01 AM