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Matt Elam Explains Why He Took Job At Finish Line

Posted Feb 26, 2014

The first-round pick decided to pick up a part-time offseason job to increase his retail knowledge.

NFL players don’t often need to pick up part-time work in the offseason – especially first-round draft picks.

But Matt Elam had a different approach to his first NFL offseason.

The safety from Florida decided to get a retail job, and ended up getting hired at a Finish Line in a mall in Gainesville, Fla.

Since Elam was a kid, he has wanted to eventually open his own sports merchandise store and saw this as his way to get some first-hand experience.

“I just need to get retail knowledge,” Elam said. “That’s basically what I’m doing. I’m getting that knowledge for when it’s time.”

Elam is a part-time sales associate, clocking about 20 hours per week. He works on the floor and occasionally stocks the shelves in the back.

The extra income is a nice little supplement to his NFL paycheck, but Elam joked that he isn’t even sure how much he makes an hour.

“Everybody was surprised when I started,” he said. “They were like, ‘Why? You got enough money.’ But it’s not about the money. It’s just me building.”

Elam was hired about a month ago after submitting online applications to five stores in the Oaks Mall. He then followed up with the manager at Finish Line and was hired a couple days later.

“I went to the store and I just talked to them and told them what my plan was,” Elam said. “They were happy to hire me and they hired me two or three days later.”

Other than playing football, it’s his first job since he was a summer camp counselor in high school.

He admitted that the whole experience has been somewhat eye opening.

“I didn’t realize there was so much organization, so much planning. I didn’t realize there was so much to it,” Elam said. “I just thought you’d say you want a shoe, so then you’d go back and grab a shoe. There’s way more to it. You have number coding. You have color coding, all of that. I just realized that there’s more to it than I thought.”

The job has also reinforced to Elam that he wants to open his own sports store someday, as he likes the competitive spirit of the business.

Another perk that Elam gets an employee discount, but has hardly even capitalized on it.

“I get a discount, but I barely use it because I don’t want them to think I’m just trying to use them,” he said. “I don’t want to give them that idea.”

The mall is just a few miles away from the University of Florida campus, where Elam was an All-American football player and is currently taking classes to finish his degree. Elam is a household name in Florida, and he has become a bit of a celebrity on the job.

Fans routinely come into the store to meet him, and pictures of him in his work uniform have popped up all over social media.

“A lot of people have started recognizing me,” Elam 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.”

Elam said that his boss has no problem with the extra attention he brings to the store.

“It also improves their numbers,” he said.

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.

“I know you can’t do football forever. I’m going to use it to benefit me when I’m doing so that my kids won’t have to worry about this,” Elam said. “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.”

Elam plans to keep the job at Finish Line while he’s working toward his degree in anthropology this spring, but he will be back in Baltimore in mid-April in time for the start of voluntary offseason workouts.

“I’m so excited about this upcoming season,” Elam said. “It’s a big year.”

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