Former Eagles tight end Brent Celek learned the hard way early in his career that pro athletes need to protect their hard-earned money.

Celek, who played 11 years (2007-17) in Philadelphia, was one of several pro athletes a few years ago who was a victim of a Ponzi scheme.

“I thought this financial adviser was a good friend of mine,” Celek recently told ESPN.  “I created a relationship with him over time. I came to find out he was just stealing millions of dollars from me and all those other athletes. I think you learn really quickly that you need to figure out how to do this the right way.”

Celek built a solid reputation in the local business community during his playing days in Philadelphia. He recently was hired as a real estate professional by Patricof Co, a financial investment firm.

Patricof has started a vertical real estate unit and Celek was named as liaison between developers and athletes. He may be uniquely qualified for the role.  His grandfather built custom million-dollar homes.  His uncles were carpenters and his parents are entrepreneurs. Celek himself has had several business ventures in Philadelphia, including his own brokerage, mortgage, and title company.

An Ohio native, Celek was an Eagles fifth-round selection in the 2007 Draft. He believes that his work with Patrico is saving athletes from committing the same early mistakes he made.

“This is a great way for me to give back to some of my teammates–guys I played with and against–and just help these athletes preserve their wealth,” Celek explains.  “I’ve learned that in retirement you’ve really got to take care of your body because we all have taken a beating on the field for so long.  If I had nothing in the bank to show for it, I would be severely depressed. Helping these guys preserve the NFL money they earned  does mean a lot to me.”