You cannot play sports forever.
No matter how many experts slap you on the back and call you a freak of nature, your body eventually breaks down. One day you’re an NFL star, the next day you’re sucking on Werther’s and staring into the middle distance at an “active adult community” in Sarasota.
According to Garrett Downing of BaltimoreRavens.com (h/t Andy Nesbitt of FoxSports.com), Elam has begun working retail at a Finish Line in a mall in Gainesville, Florida.
His reason? Elam says one of his childhood dreams was to own and operate a sporting goods store and that he’s looking to get some experience in the business.
“I just need to get retail knowledge,” Elam told Downing. “That’s basically what I’m doing. I’m getting that knowledge for when it’s time.”
Elam says he’ll be working part-time as a sales associate for 20 hours per week. He’s starting at the bottom and doing everything from assisting customers to stocking shoes in the back room. Elam says he doesn’t know how much he’s making per hour, but he claims it’s not about the money at this juncture.
“Everybody was surprised when I started,” Elam said. “They were like, ‘Why? You got enough money.’ But it’s not about the money. It’s just me building.”
The store Elam works at is located in Oaks Mall, just a short distance from the University of Florida. Indeed, Elam is sticking close to his alma mater this offseason, and for good reason. The former Florida Gators safety says he’s still taking classes in order to finish his degree in anthropology.
I got all the respect for those who goes to classes & work after...✊😫— Matthew Elam (@ElamVsElo) February 20, 2014
Classes and work are all part of Elam’s ultimate plan for a successful life after sports. He has no expectations that he’ll be set for life after retiring from the game.
“I know you can’t do football forever,” Elam said. “I’m going to use it to benefit me when I’m doing [it] 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.”
It’s a mature decision for a very talented young man. Downing writes that the young safety is making a habit of handling things in a smart and deliberate manner:
Elam developed a reputation for being prudent during his first year in the NFL. He negotiated his rookie contract without an agent, saving thousands of dollars in agent fees. He also has a sponsorship with Under Armour and acknowledged that working at Finish Line could possibly open marketing opportunities down the road.
Hopefully, other young stars will take a cue from Elam and start making plans for life after pigskin.
You want to be able to retire and suck Werther’s all day. Beats the heck out of greeting people outside of Wal-Mart.
Elam certainly doesn't seem to be on his way out of the league anytime soon. He's slated as the Ravens' starter at free safety next season. This past season, he totaled 77 tackles, three passes defended, two fumble recoveries and an interception.
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