Professional sports is one of the most lucrative careers ever, but one NFL player gave it all up at the age of 28.
But unlike many other athletes, Blake Martinez had a plan for his life after he hung up his cleats for the last time.
It had nothing to do with coaching, becoming a broadcast analyst, or capitalizing on his personal brand, and everything to do with Pokémon cards.
Martinez, who played for the Green Bay Packers, New York Giants, and Las Vegas Raiders, was a long-time fan of trading the Japan-based cards, but it wasn’t until the pandemic began that he jumped back into the hobby.
In an as-told-to essay for Business Insider, Martinez explains how he reignited his love of collecting.
“I lost track of collecting once I started playing football, but years later, when COVID-19 happened and everything started to skyrocket with trading cards, I called my mom to see what I had left,” Martinez writes. “She told me the cards had either been thrown away or given away, and that’s when I decided to get back into the hobby and start recollecting.”
Upon collecting again, he realized with technological advancements like streaming on Twitch, he could make a real career out of his interest in Pokémon.
He began working with the platform Whatnot, which allows users to stream their collection live on a virtual marketplace and get top dollar for whatever they collect.
“I had a blast opening the packs for people on livestreams, and I realized you could actually make money doing it,” said Martinez. “At first, I thought people were just doing it for fun and nostalgia, which was my main reason for starting it. But I realized lots of people were into it and wanted to do it.”
Soon after, the NFL player realized that his love for football was fading because his body was beginning to break down, and even after big plays, his mind wasn’t focused on the game.
“As time went on, I called my agent and said both my knees are killing me, and I’m not really feeling this anymore,” Martinez added. “I’d just had a game where I had 11 tackles. I got done with the game and everybody was messaging me saying things like, ‘Hey, you had an amazing game,’ but all I could think about was which Pokémon card I was going to buy.”
He loves making the hobby a worthy career pivot, but the money isn’t too bad either; as he recalls, his first haul cost him $50,000 but sold the lot for $108,000. Then he had a huge payday when he sold one card for more than half a million dollars.
“I had to wire money to a middleman in Japan who went to get the card for me, and I ended up having to FedEx it back. I didn’t even want to hold the card, so I got it graded and sent it straight to Goldin Auctions, where I sold it for $672,000 — and the rest is history,” recounts Martinez.
Read about Martinez’s lucrative card-selling business here.