The classroom competition got heated Monday morning at North Charleston’s Stall High School when Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen got in U.S. Senator Tim Scott’s face and demanded a penalty.

“Delay of game!” Olsen shouted above the crowd of 50 Stall students.

That was merely midway through the first half of Financial Football, a team-concept video game designed by Visa to teach kids life-lessons in responsible money management. Two sides battle to answer multiple-choice financial questions as their teams move down the field with visuals similar to the Madden game popular with NFL fans.

“You don’t have to wait until you have money to learn how to spend money,” Olsen said.

The Scott-coached Cowboys defeated the Panthers, coached by Olsen and Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis, 14-8. But everyone leaves a winner (and with autographed pictures) in one of the best outreach programs available to high schools. There’s nothing wrong with athletes and other prominent figures visiting schools with general messages of encouragement, but this issue-specific lesson gets to the heart of an important void.

And it’s fun.

Please, more school stuff like this.

Where else are Stall students going to answer questions about foreign exchange markets, 401(k) plans, discretionary spending and the Truth in Lending Act while wearing blue or white football jerseys?

Sample question:

Who needs life insurance the most?

1. A younger man?

2. A single mother without kids?

3. A single mother with two kids?

4. An elderly man?

“Two, No. 2,” shouted the Tim Scott Cowboys.

The Panthers had a tougher time guessing what April 15 meant in the financial world, but nailed a complex question about secured loans.

Patriots? ‘Cheaters’

Christian Lewis, a Stall senior, was an enthusiastic participant.

“It was really interesting and it’s nice to know NFL players are willing to come out and do something like this for high school students,” said Lewis, who plays football, among other sports, and plans to attend Charleston Southern. “Coming from a single-parent home, I was able to relate to a lot of the things they were talking about.”

With pro football players, high school students and a scoreboard, of course there was levity.

“How many of you are Panthers fans?” Olsen asked with a grin.

Only a few students raised their hands.

Olsen, with a distraught look: “Well, who do you guys like?”

“Patriots!” a student yelled.

“Cheaters,” Olsen said, waving his hand.

Scott and Davis, both raised by single moms, offered short but serious childhood tales. Time spent at the University of Georgia helped Davis on the football field but didn’t keep him from overspending on six cars as an NFL rookie.

“It’s more important to save your money than to spend everything up front,” he said.

Simple enough, but hardly the message these kids constantly get from a debt-ridden world and Madison Avenue advertising.

‘How much you keep’

It was hard not to notice Financial Football connections.

“It kind of motivates me,” Lewis said. “Now I want to learn more about financial literacy.”

Lewis and others will be glad to know Financial Football is available in English and Spanish online at It is also being distributed via Scott’s office to 506 middle schools and high schools in South Carolina.

There are free apps for iPhones and iPads (an HD version) on iTunes (and if you don’t like Financial Football, try Financial Soccer).

Olsen made a hopefully enduring point when he told the kids that while the video-game lessons of Monday are not necessarily important for this week, they belong in the “toolbox” for coming years. Scott was equally precise with, “It’s not how much you make, but how much you keep.”

Better yet, the students learned from each other, sharing financial knowledge and borrowing money skills to mix it up with the Carolina Panthers and a U.S. senator for football bragging rights.

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff