Matt Elam toiling at the mall with an eye on his future

Former Gator and current Baltimore Raven Matt Elam, right, talks about shoes with Finish Line Store Manager Van Alexander at The Oaks Mall on Friday.

Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Friday, February 28, 2014 at 5:04 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 28, 2014 at 5:04 p.m.

The relatively new employee at Finish Line has been getting The Look a lot lately from customers. It's an expression that says: I think I know that guy. … He looks like he could be Matt Elam. … But why would a first-round NFL draft pick with lots of money be working at an athletic shoe store in The Oaks Mall?

Yes, the guy selling shoes and other athletic gear at the mall is none other than Matt Elam, the former Florida star and current Baltimore Ravens strong safety who is heading into his second year of a four-year, $6.7 million contract that included a $3.3 million signing bonus.

"People are excited, surprised, shocked — wondering why I'm doing this and why I'm here," Elam said Friday. "It's fun and I'm learning and I'm trying to build.

"I've got a business plan. That's what I'm trying to do."

While many of today's professional athletes seem intent on living (and spending their money) in the moment, Elam, coming off a successful rookie season with the Ravens, is already planning a financially secure future for himself and his family.

That's the reason he's working at Finish Line until he reports back to Baltimore at the end of April. That's also why he's back in classes at UF this semester, working toward his college degree.

Elam said he's working about 20 hours a week at Finish Line but he says it's not for the money. He's certainly comfortable financially. He said he's doing it to gain first-hand experience in retail sales that will help him one day open and run his own sporting goods store in the neighborhood he grew up in in Palm Beach Gardens.

"I had plans this offseason to get a job," Elam said. "I applied at five places at this mall. Finish Line reached out and was willing to let me come in and build. The other stores were wondering why I was doing it because I have a lot of money already. They were wondering if I was serious.

"It's not about the cash," Elam continued. "It's about me building for the future so my kids don't have any worries like I had growing up. I want my kids to have a stress-free life. That's why I'm building, building as much knowledge as I can right now.

"I've learned a lot in the short time I've been here. … Organization, everything you've got to know the ins-and-outs about. I feel it's really going to help me along the way."

Between working out with his former Florida teammates, going to school and working, Elam says his days are full. It's a lot of work for a guy who really doesn't have to work.

"I'm comfortable with it. It's keeping me busy and keeping me out of trouble in the offseason," he said. "I'm going to school, training, going to work and going home and going to bed. I'm keeping my days occupied and staying locked in and focused (on what I want to accomplish).

"Being a professional athlete, you've got to be organized and you've got to have a plan and you have to stick with it," Elam said. "If you don't, you're going to get yourself in trouble."

Elam said he's been trying to send that message to the UF players during his workouts with the Gators.

"I'm trying to get the guys going, motivate them — show them the way and what it takes to get there," Elam said. "Just giving these guys hope and letting them know. I feel like with me being around, it's really helping them."

Elam is taking nine hours at UF this semester. He's only 20 short of earning his UF degree in anthropology, he said.

"I'm chipping away at my degree," he said. "I feel like it's a big deal to get a degree from the University of Florida."

Elam said he's also planning on working toward getting his license to become a sports agent. "So I can help my nephews when it's finally their day," he said.

For now (and for the next few months), Elam is focusing on his current job at Finish Line and how it can help him secure his financial future. His job description, of course, has become a little different now that customers are starting to recognize him.

"A lot of people come up to me because of who I am," Elam said. "They are having me sign stuff and get their picture taken with me. It's a great experience."

Football is also on his mind, even in the offseason. In football, and in life, Elam always seems to be planning ahead.

He said he's looking forward to his second year with the Ravens after seeing extensive playing time as a rookie.

"It's great because of what I learned last year," he said. "I believe (my career) is going to take off. I'm so excited, just like I was going from my freshman year to my sophomore year at Florida."

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or Also check out Andreu's blog at

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