Former NFL player is making millions selling Pokémon cards

The NFL is a billion-dollar industry. But for some players, it’s not worth pursuing a long career.

Veteran linebacker Blake Martinez retired from the NFL in November at the age of 28, a month after signing with the Las Vegas Raiders. He dedicated himself full-time to his new business: trading Pokémon cards.

He founded Blake’s Breaks in July after picking up the enterprise as a hobby when he tore his ACL in 2021. Since then, he has made $5 million, according to CNBC Make It.

For Martinez, the trade-off has been more than worth it.

“Every single day when I wake up, my shoulder doesn’t hurt and my back doesn’t hurt anymore,” he said. “When all that hurts are my fingers from opening, like, 1,000 packs of cards per day, I think, ‘I’m going to keep doing this.’”

The Arizona native had his fair share of success on the field, tying for the NFL lead in tackles in 2017 with the Green Bay Packers. A fourth-round pick out of Stanford in 2016, Martinez spent four years in Green Bay before joining the Giants prior to the 2020 season. Martinez tore his ACL in 2021 and missed most of the year.

Martinez first bought Pokémon cards as a child and kept his collection in a binder and his mom eventually got rid of his stash. After seeing the resurgence of their popularity in the 2020s, he started buying cards again, but now at a premium price.

He uses the online marketplace Whatnot to sell the cards and also do livestreams where he opens the packs that he purchases. The resell prices vary, but an extremely rare Illustrator Pikachu (1 of 4 ever made) went for $672,000 in October.

Despite the surprising decision to leave the NFL in his 20s, Martinez said he still uses skills that made him successful on the field.

“I used to be like the quarterback of the defense, I was calling plays.’ he said. ‘When I started this business, it felt like running a team again.”

This post appeared first on USA TODAY