While September brings the end of summer, the turn of the calendar also means that football is back. With that in mind, let's look at five popular NFL players and consider what their investing equivalents would be.
Tom Brady: Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL )
While each emerged from relative obscurity into the national consciousness with unparalleled momentum and fanfare, both Apple and Brady have seen their mystique decline recently.
Following his record breaking, 50-touchdown 2007 season, Brady was named the AP Male Athlete of the Year, the first NFL player to win that award since Joe Montana in 1990. That capped a seven-year run that included three Super Bowl wins, an NFL MVP award, and much more.
Like Brady, Apple saw its stock rise astronomically following the success of its iPhone, iPad, and other technological developments as it became the world's first $650 billion company. That capped a 10-year run from 2002 to 2012, during which its stock rose by more than 9,500%.
Yet following a devastating knee injury in 2008 and two consecutive early playoff exits, Brady has seen his luster decline. Similarly, Apple has seen its stock price decline by 27% from its peak, following disappointing growth prospects and a rise in competition.
While Apple and Brady each may have fallen from their prior peaks, it will be curious to watch how they respond in the upcoming season. With a new iPhone rumored to be quickly approaching and the Patriots making it to the AFC Championship game last year with Brady again at the helm, each could be poised for a return to their former peak.
Peyton Manning: Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-B )
Peyton Manning is the model of consistent and high-level performance. The four-time MVP and one-time Super Bowl champion is undoubtedly a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer who will be remembered as one of the best to ever step on the gridiron.
In the same way, Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway is the model of consistent, upper-echelon investment performance. From its inception in 1965 to the end of 2012, Berkshire returned 19.7% per year, versus 9.4% in the S&P 500.
Yet while their past performance is great, many began to question whether the performance of these legends could continue following the dramatic financial crisis for Berkshire Hathaway and Peyton Manning's neck injury in 2011.
However, both have responded with resounding success and continue to deliver excellent performance. In 2012, Manning was selected to the AP All-Pro team, and from the beginning of 2010 to today, Berkshire Hathaway has resoundingly beaten the market, returning 75% to 50% for the S&P 500.
Drew Brees: Disney (NYSE: DIS )
Mention to your friends that you're an investor in Disney, and you'll probably be met with the same reaction as to when you draft Drew Brees in your fantasy football league. People will nod their heads, probably be generally uninterested, and move on. Drafting Aaron Rodgers or Robert Griffin III over Brees would generate more excitement and buzz, just as mentioning Tesla Motors would lead to wider eyes than Disney.
Yet it is important to remember that in both investing and fantasy football, going with the flashier pick may not be the best strategy when creating a portfolio (or team). Just as Brees somewhat quietly broke Johnny Unitas' record of 47 consecutive games with a touchdown pass, and is the NFL's all-time leader in passing yards per game, Disney has quietly built its media empire. It is poised to continue its dominance in the movie industry, while also continuing to generate reliable profit through its television properties and theme parks.
Russell Wilson: Zillow (NASDAQ: ZG )
A two-star high school recruit, the under-sized Russell Wilson has seemingly been doubted every step of the way. After a solid senior college season at Wisconsin, Wilson came into the league with questions surrounding his physical makeup and ability and was drafted as a backup to newly signed Seattle starter Matt Flynn.
Zillow, an online real estate marketplace, went public in 2011 as the United States was recovering from the biggest financial crisis in decades, at the heart of which was the collapse in residential real estate. It saw many investors flee from the stock following a disappointing earnings release last November, and questions surrounding its ability to overtake the entrenched real estate market swirled.
Despite the many doubters, both of these Seattle-based underdogs have responded with incredible success. In his first year, Wilson led the Seahawks to the divisional playoffs. Zillow has seen its stock price rise by almost 230% this year as it continues to make headway in the real estate market.
While each is young, early performance indicates there could be many years of upper-echelon performance ahead of them. Or perhaps their success was due to their surroundings -- a great defense for Wilson, and a roaring recovery in the real estate market for Zillow.
Cam Newton: Capital One (NYSE: COF )
Both Cam Newton and Capital One are household names that need little introduction. One is a Heisman Trophy winner, national champion, first overall pick, and rookie of the year, and the other is one of the most recognized and advertised credit card providers on the planet.
Yet each is in the midst of a transition. Cam Newton came into the league as primarily a running quarterback and begins his third year with a charge from his general manager to stay in the pocket more and transform his game to a more traditional style. At the same time, through acquisitions, Capital One has slowly transformed its business to comprise more traditional banking operations and not exclusively credit cards. If both parties can thrive in their new model, investors and fans will undoubtedly cheer loudly.
Are you ready for some football?
With these five comparisons in mind, we hope you enjoy the upcoming football season. Remember that while investing may seem like something for the only the Wall Street elite, it bears many similarities to other parts of our lives that we deal with every day -- like football!
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