Magazine article Newsweek

My Favorite Mistake

Magazine article Newsweek

My Favorite Mistake

Article excerpt

Byline: Jason Chaffetz

Congressman Jason Chaffetz on his wild, broke days at BYU.

I went to Brigham Young University on a football scholarship. I wasn't a football player, I was a place kicker. There's a huge difference. But I thought I was a celebrity. We had a really good football team, and I was an important guy on the team. "Big man on campus" is really the best way to put it.

When you're on a football scholarship you get a stipend that's supposed to cover your rent and a few incidentals. It was $360 a month. This was the late 1980s, and the NCAA has an interesting rule where you're not allowed to supplement your income with a part-time job. They figured you're already putting enough time into football.

So the first time I got my $360, I could see that for the last 10 days of the month I was going to be out of money. I'd overspent here and overspent there. I was going out to the movies and buying root beer. BYU has a no-alcohol policy. I'm sure girls were in the picture somehow. But I thought that somebody would always be there to bail me out if the money got too tight. That was my mistake.

I called up my parents, who were divorced, and asked if they could send me a check to tide me over. And much to my surprise, they both said no. My mom was gentler about it. She said, "Tell me what you need and I'll show you how to live without it." My dad had made a bad business decision and had filed for bankruptcy. He said, "I can't. You're going to have to figure it out for yourself."

I was shocked. …

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