How Chad 'Ochocinco' Johnson Saved 80% His NFL Salary by Sleeping at Stadium, Buying Fake Jewelry (Exclusive)

Ochocinco and Sharelle Rosado talk to ET's Kevin Frazier about their wedding plans.

Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson earned $48 million over a stellar 11-year career in the NFL. What's perhaps even more impressive is the fact that the former wide receiver says 80 percent of that salary is still in his bank account.

Speaking to ET's Kevin Frazier at SiriusXM's Radio Row at the Phoenix Convention Center ahead of Super Bowl LVII, Johnson admitted that accomplishing the financial feat's not that difficult, provided the person has the right discipline. It's perhaps that kind of discipline that made Johnson able to buy his fiancé, Sharelle Rosado, an eight and half carat engagement ring.

"If you don't have the foundation, if you don't have the structure and the teaching growing up then it's going to be difficult once you attain a lot of money," Johnson explains. "So at that point, you're already in a dead water, you're treading water."

Johnson also opened up about the smart choices he made with his money, like not spending it, particularly on expensive homes and high-priced luxury apartments when he was drafted into the league by the Cincinnati Bengals out of Oregon State. He was 36th overall selection in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft. 

"I've been preaching the whole financial literature thing and being financially conscious for years," Johnson says. "As a rookie coming into the league, I stayed at [Paul Brown Stadium] my first two years because there was no point in spending money and wasting money when everything I need is already there."

From housing, food and showers to TV and the training room, Johnson says staying at the stadium was a no-brainer.

"I didn't move out of my grandmother's house because I was content and used to where I lived," he added. "I didn't move out of her house until my fourth year in the NFL."

During a recent appearance on NFL legend Shannon Sharpe's podcast, Club Shay Shay, Johnson divulged why he opted for fake jewelry and limited himself on other luxuries, like flying Spirit Airlines instead of private or first class.

"I never bought real anything when I was playing," said Johnson, who in the past has been open about buying cubic zirconia over real diamonds. "Everybody's caught up in image and looking a certain way and being rich."

Johnson also told Sharpe that, heading into his third season, it was then-head coach Marvin Lewis who told him it was time to hit the road.

"That's when Marvin [Lewis] came in and said, 'It's time for you to be responsible. Spread your wings. Get your own place."

So, he did. And, in true Ochocinco fashion, got himself a "one little bedroom" apartment down the street from the stadium.

Naturally, the next question is -- what advice does he have for future NFL rookies? Johnson won't dish, and he's got his reasons.

"They not gonna listen," he says. "Let me tell you, because when I was young at that age you want to experience. You have to enjoy your fruits of your labor, but then do things in moderation and that's the important thing to understand -- do it in moderation. Not getting caught up in the limelight, the lifestyle and looking like you got it all the time."

Johnson proposed to Rosado last month. The former NFL star concocted a ruse, telling the Selling Tampa star he was having an early 45th birthday party, when in actuality he invited close friends to witness his surprise proposal.

"Only eight and a half [carats]," Johnson quips when Rosado shows off her engagement ring. "It goes with the number ocho, you know? I just went eight and a half. I couldn't have gotten nine. I couldn't go any bigger."

Rosado says when Johnson proposed, she wasn't sure if he was being his usual prankster self.

"I wasn't really focused on the ring when he proposed," she admitted. "I was focused on if he was serious or not because Chad always plays. Once I saw the ring then I was like, 'Damn.' Like, I kept looking at my hand and I was amazed."

The couple, who welcomed their first child together in January 2022, are now in full wedding planning mode. Johnson's obsessed with having a destination wedding, and he's thinking the Bahamas. As for when, Rosado tells ET she's thinking next summer.

And, if Johnson has his druthers, he tells ET he'll be riding in on a white horse. 

"I'm not playing, a white horse," he says. "I need Brian McKnight, Keke Wyatt and I need a lot of fans."

Don't worry, Rosado's on board with this.

"I am. I love Brian McKnight. I love Keke. I'm OK with the white horse because horses is one of his favorite things that he likes to ride, so I'm OK with it," she chimes in.

Then, the reception.

"Live band from Miami. I'm not sure [who] yet, but then I'm gonna have a game show, you know? I love to give. I love to be gracious. I want to have a game show where I give away 100 grand, and that's for those that attend the wedding."

OK, Johnson may have taken this a tad too far.

"Where did all this come from?!" Rosado fires back. "See what I have to deal with?!"