Elam has eye on future

Former Gator and current Baltimore Raven Matt Elam, right, talks with Finish Line store Manager Van Alexander at the Oaks Mall.

MATT STAMEY/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 1:06 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 1:06 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. "It's fun and I'm learning and I'm trying to build."

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.

"It's not about the cash," Elam said. "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.

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."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.

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."

Robbie Andreu is a Gainesville Sun staff writer.

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