Former Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Friday as a result of what his attorney called "staggering" debts from failed real estate investments.
The 17-year NFL veteran released a statement Thursday night saying his decision is due to several failed real estate ventures and lawsuits for unpaid loans.
"After much deliberation and many years of shouldering an enormous amount of debt resulting from passive real estate investments, it has become clear that this is the only viable course of action," Brunell said.
Brunell, who continues to live in Ponte Vedra Beach, was backup quarterback for the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints last year and is currently a free agent.
In the petition for Chapter 11 bankruptcy filed with the U.S. District Bankruptcy Court in Jacksonville, Brunelll claims assets of between $1 million and $10 million, but debts of between $10 million and $50 million.
Document: Mark Brunell's Petition For BankruptcyVideo:
Brunell has failed real estate and business loans from a business partnership with former teammates Joel Smeenge and Todd Fordham called Champion LLC. Among their troubled investments was a condominium project at Jacksonville Beach that never got off the ground.
"Struggles and tough times like these are character-builders, and I have learned, and am presently learning, many lessons though this process," Brunell said. "It has reaffirmed what is most important to me -- my faith, my family and friendships."
Brunell's attorney said the quarterback had shouldered payments on some of the loans by himself for several years, but could not do it any longer.
"It's been difficult for him," Mike Freed told Channel 4 in a phone interview. "It's embarrassing, difficult, but it is also the only viable choice that he had. Frankly, it's one that, unfortunately, many prominent people and a lot of not-so-prominent people are taking as a result of this unprecedented downturn in the economy."
Brunell, who was a three-time Pro Bowl selection during his eight years as staring quarterback in Jacksonville, has earned more than $50 million in his NFL career.
Freed said the Mark Brunell Family Foundation, which has raised nearly $1 million since it was formed in 1997, will not be affected by this bankruptcy.
"My family and I will continue our tradition of trying to make a positive difference in our community, especially with initiatives serving children," Brunell said in his statement Thursday night. "We plan to continue this commitment, and to celebrate our many blessings each day."
Brunell, 39, is not currently under contract with a team, but is hoping to continue playing in the NFL.
"I think that he would like to continue to play, and I think it would be an important part of the plan that he be would continue to," Freed said. "That would depend on the interest of the teams."
Lonnie Marts, who played alongside Brunell in Jacksonville from 1999 to 2000, said that for many years, players viewed real estate as the "get rich and stay rich" investment opportunity.
"As an NFL player, you know at some time it's going to come to an end, and so you want to be secure when it ends," Marts said. "Real estate probably took a lot of players down. I had so many players getting into real estate. It was the norm. Get into real estate. It will always be there. But when the bubble burst, it took people down, just like everything else."