Many NFL players will go to malls this offseason. Matt Elam is working in one.
Elam, a first-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2013 draft, is spending his offseason as a part-time sales associate at a Finish Line store in Gainesville, Fla., before he returns to the team in April. He says he works about 20 hours per week, helping customers with shoes and occasionally stocking shelves.
His goal is to open his own sports merchandise store.
"I just need to get retail knowledge," Elam told the team's website. "That's basically what I'm doing. I'm getting that knowledge for when it's time."
Elam applied online to five stores before being hired at Finish Line a month ago, raising eyebrows considering he made $3.7 million last season (salary and signing bonus) as the 32nd pick in the draft.
"Everybody was surprised when I started," said Elam, who isn't sure how much he makes per hour. "They were like, 'Why? You got enough money.' But it's not about the money. It's just me building."
The mall is a few miles from the University of Florida, where Elam was a first-team All-American. Fans often recognize him at the store and ask to take pictures, which have circulated on social media.
"People will be buying stuff just for me to sign it," he said. "It's pretty exciting."
As a rookie, Elam was fourth on the Ravens with 76 tackles. He had one interception and two fumble recoveries.