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Penn football alumnus Brandon Copeland will be co-teaching “Urban Financial Literacy: Pedagogy and Practice” this spring semester. (Photo from Brandon Copeland)

During a time in which almost half of the NFL is preparing for playoff games and the other half who missed out is watching at home, Penn football alumnus Brandon Copeland is getting ready to teach a class to current Quakers. 

An eight-year NFL veteran who spent this season with the New England Patriots, Copeland will serve as an instructor for a course about financial literacy and wellness that will be co-taught by Dr. Brian Peterson. While the course, EDUC 245, is titled “Urban Financial Literacy: Pedagogy and Practice,” Copeland likes to call it “Life 101.” 

Topics covered in the course include budgeting, planning for retirement, building credit, and understanding financial inequities. The seminar will be held every Monday from 5-8 p.m. and is currently open for enrollment to all Penn students. 

“It is literally the only class at Penn that — no matter what major you have — you will use something [you learn] in our class,” Copeland said. “Anyone who cares about their money should be trying to take this class.”

Copeland has taught this class at Penn in the past under the course code URBS 140. While some course material will be revamped and refined due to the virtual nature of the semester, Copeland says it will mostly remain the same. 

Outside of personal finance, key concepts emphasized in the course are social inequities in relation to money, and the role of race in the passage of wealth and poverty between generations.

While there has been an increased focus on racial inequality across the country over the last year, Copeland says the material covered likely won’t change because he and Peterson were already aware of these issues. 

“More people [now] will feel comfortable speaking up or adding depth to the conversation — that is probably highly likely,” Copeland said. “But, I don’t think Dr. Peterson or I will have to do many things differently, as opposed to in the previous years, because unfortunately the things we talked about in previous years are the same things we’ll touch on this year.”

Outside of the classroom, Copeland practices what he preaches, and he has been for a long time. Born with what he describes as a “natural will and ambition to hustle,” he is always looking for ways to bring in money and put his money to work. 

Copeland’s work ethic was nurtured by the competitive environment at Penn, where he worked as a bouncer at the popular bar Smokey Joe’s and held a work-study job with Penn Athletics as an undergraduate student. 

“I’m willing to roll up my sleeves and do anything,” Copeland said. “I’ve worked everything from Walmart night shifts to Wall Street.” 

Copeland has taken on several side jobs as an NFL player, including flipping houses in up-and-coming Detroit neighborhoods and starting a consulting business.

As a professional athlete with a high salary, Copeland saves 90% of his earnings, bucking the trend of many of his NFL peers, who often make poor financial decisions, resulting in 78% of NFL players filing for bankruptcy after their careers are over.  

Copeland says he often has conversations with his teammates about making the right decisions early on. Last offseason, he held a free five-day seminar for active NFL players on financial wellness. 

This isn’t the only way Copeland gives back, however. He also founded a charity called Beyond the Basics, which helped provide families in need with shopping sprees before Christmas last month. For his work helping 40 families, Copeland was named the Week 15 National Football League Players Association community MVP. 

Copeland is no stranger to honors, as he was also named to the prestigious Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in sports last year for his accomplishments on and off the field. 

“It’s amazing to be honored with that group of people, [but] for me it’s [time to] put my head down and just get back to work,” Copeland said. “There may be awards and accolades to my name, but I’m still up late as hell — way longer than I should be — and I am working my tail off harder than I ever have in my life. I know that I’m on the brink of some of the bigger things I’ve ever done in my life.”

During the semester, Copeland will have to navigate NFL free agency, as his one-year, $1,047,500 contract with the Patriots will expire in March. He was a key defensive contributor this season, recording 12 tackles in six games before getting injured. 

But right now, his focus is on the class and helping Penn students succeed. Although the class usually fills up fast, Copeland encouraged students to audit the course if all spots are taken.

“This course is the biggest investment in yourself that you can make,” Copeland said.