Why Steelers' Arthur Moats donated 10 percent of his $6M career earnings

Paying it forward: Arthur Moats "wanted to make a larger impact" and donated $300K to James Madison, his alma mater. Courtesy of JMU athletics

PITTSBURGH -- Steelers linebacker Arthur Moats just donated 35 percent of his 2015 salary and about 26 percent of his $1.9 million signing bonus after taxes to a small college in northern Virginia.

For Moats, this check was fairly easy to write. He's not "cutting" a check. He doesn't like that term. He's paying it forward to his alma mater James Madison, in the form of $300,000, for two core reasons:

1) JMU has impacted every phase of his life. The Harrisonburg, Virginia, campus is where Moats met his wife, Shonda, got his degree in political science and honed his football craft to become a six-year NFL veteran.

2) His family has strategically budgeted to donate generously, usually about 10 percent of its income, before church tithes.

"I wanted to make a larger impact," Moats said. "Me and my family are comfortable with it."

The $300,000 goes to improvements to the Convocation Center, the Dukes' basketball arena that can also host local events, along with scholarship aid for studio arts, a field about which Moats is passionate.

When Moats got to the league, he was making an average salary of about $420,000 in three years with Buffalo. He started donating around $50,000, or 11.9 percent, to various causes that inspired him. He made $1.32 million in 2013 and donated around $100,000 as a result, he said. This year, his signing bonus plus an $850,000 salary equals around $2.75 million, so he's giving $300,000, possibly more. After playing on the veteran minimum of $730,000 for Pittsburgh last season, Moats signed an offseason extension of three years, $7.5 million.

"Every year, we’ll set a budget out," Moats said about his financial process with his family, which he calls frugal when it comes to long-term saving. "We’re making this much, how much do we want to donate? Then we decide on a number -- who do we want to have an impact on? What can we do to spice it up since we have more money to donate? Then we pray about it, bounce some ideas off each other."

Cutting a check seems impersonal. Moats is invested in his target areas for donation. He remembers being a young college kid with no money, and the way he sees it, JMU helped mold him into a stable adult.

"It definitely puts a smile on my face," Moats said. "I’ve been on the opposite of that, where you're trying to scrounge enough change together to buy from the dollar menu, wondering when the Pell Grant money will kick in. So, [the donation] was a good amount, but when you're paying it forward, it will work out."