For most NFL players, the offseason goes something like this: Take a few weeks off after the season then begin training for voluntary workouts, OTAs and training camp. It's predictable and unexciting but it beats, say, working at the mall.
Unless you're Ravens safety Matt Elam, who just finished his rookie season and now works part time at the Finish Line in a Gainesville, Fla. mall. Elam, the team's first-round pick last April, signed a $6.7 million contract last summer so it's not like he's hurting for money. But this is about preparing for life after football.
“I just need to get retail knowledge,” he told BaltimoreRavens.com. “That's basically what I'm doing. I'm getting that knowledge for when it's time. ...
Everybody was surprised when I started," . "They were like, ‘Why? You got enough money.' But it's not about the money. It's just me building. I went to the store and I just talked to them and told them what my plan was. They were happy to hire me and they hired me two or three days later.”
This is Elam's first non-football-related job since he was a camp counselor in high school. Not surprisingly, the former University of Florida standout runs into fans all the time.
“A lot of people have started recognizing me,” he said. “Kids will come in for pictures and fans will come in asking for pictures, autographs. People will be buying stuff just for me to sign it. It's pretty exciting.”
Also not a surprise: They must wonder why he's selling shoes. It's simple, really.
"I know you can't do football forever," Elam said. "I'm going to use it to benefit me when I'm doing so that my kids won't have to worry about this. I take a lot of pride in that because I feel like a lot of kids are blind to this, and don't have these opportunities, and don't have the knowledge. I hope I can open a lot of their eyes.”