MINNEAPOLIS – Alvin Kamara is doing arts and crafts. More specifically, he’s sorting through a variety of words, numbers, and phrases spread out on a gigantic table in search of the ones he wants. It’s fridge magnet poetry for the millennial age, as within moments he’ll be able to hand them over, get them pressed onto a shirt and walk away. During the craziness of Super Bowl week, where everyone wants something, and anyone who doesn’t want anything simply wants to talk to the Rookie Of The Year or snap a picture, Kamara is a star.
And his team isn’t even one of the two playing in the Super Bowl.
That Kamara’s rise was this big – this quickly – is a success story on its own. But that he’s leveraging his play on the field from the get-go to look toward the future, that players are starting to recognize that their time on the field is shorter than their time off it, that’s where the pivot starts. Players now aren’t just saying a tagline, wearing a logo, and collecting their checks. Instead, they’re leveraging those relationships to start conversations about investments, future careers, and opportunities outside the number or team name on the back of their jerseys.
This isn’t a novel concept in and of itself, sure, but what is different is the variety and audacity with which players are taking ownership of themselves. Not a year out of playing college football, where earning potential and your own likeness aren’t even yours, Kamara is thinking big. Not the restaurants or car dealerships of old, but beyond that.
And companies like adidas are more than happy to see Kamara and players like him catapult to greatness. The way adidas sees it, the bigger those players get, the stronger the relationship. The formula is simple: give them the keys and a way to amplify their individuality, and stay out of the way. Those players felt at home throughout the weekend, snacking on food, playing FIFA, getting a look at the new SPEEDFACTORY cleats, chatting it up with other players (or being star-struck by guys like Snoop Dogg, Pharrell, or Jamie Foxx), and yes, even participating in arts and crafts.
UPROXX had the chance to speak with Kamara, Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett, and Giants safety Landon Collins about the week, their goals on and off the field, and what creation means to them.
You’ve got your own expectations when you head into situations like this. How does it compare to what you thought it would be, and also seeing everything you’ve seen up close and personal during Super Bowl week?
Oh, I mean, I really didn’t have too many expectations. I was just like, man, I’m going to come in and just handle my business. Whatever is thrown at me, I’m going to take it and try to execute to the best of my ability. So, the success has come. It’s been incredible.
With regards to seeing everything throughout the week, there’s so much. You’ve been such a good sport about it. I’ve been seeing you everywhere.
Get your personal brand out there, but also you’re able to start thinking about things from a business perspective and not just from a football perspective. And now that’s so important for guys on teams. What have you learned?
That’s where my mind is at all times, from a business perspective. So, this here is really … This is just something that I’m taking advantage of. It’s an opportunity to, like you said, get your brand out there and network and do all the things you need to do to … The football is there, but off the field, that’s really where it’s at. That’s what I’m always in tune to, you know what I’m saying?
What’s the next thing for you? You’ve got your wheels spinning already.
Man, I’ve got them spinning. I can’t give out the sauce, man. I can’t tell you what’s next. You gotta watch.
New Orleans has really, really embraced you, and you know a little bit about that region from playing in the SEC and knowing that, owning that, living that. But it seems like even you couldn’t have expected just how much people love you down there.
Yeah. It’s a lot of support and a lot of love down there. So, I’m just embracing and they’re embracing me, and I’m enjoying my time there. I feel like I lived there forever, just because the way that people treat me there. Definitely looking forward to many years.
What was your biggest learning experience from year one in the NFL?
I think just how much the games mean. Every week means something. And I think, really, especially when you get to those division games, it’s serious. It’s serious. It’s a lot of work that goes into it, but it’s all worth it.
This week is crazy. And it seems like it’s not something you can ever really get used to, being out, bouncing around, going to different things, talking to people. It’s gotta be fun. It’s exhausting though. What are your takeaways from Superbowl week?
I mean, honestly just get opportunities that you never really got before. Once you’re able to have a chance to come to the NFL – it sucks not being able to go to the Superbowl – but not too many people know you with your helmets off. It’s easy for basketball players, but for us, being able to come to these type of events, to be able to expose ourselves and to be able to talk to a lot of the people who have a hand in how we get seen on TV or have a hand in how we get certain events done and stuff like that, we finally get to meet them, put a name with a face, create relationships with them. You never know how much they can be able to help you down the road.
Once you finish playing football at some point, you never know who you might have touched while you were playing at events and stuff like this. So when they say, “Hey. I want to give that boy a job.” That’s something that you can always be able to do. You can always be able to meet people, get to know people and you might be able to help them later on down the road.
Yeah. I think that that’s been a real shift. Seems like the last few years at least, though, with guys, it has been more about actually being forward-thinking and developing a way to connect to fans, but also to connect yourself to the people that will help you later on. It’s not about what it used to be, where we had just posters of Jerry Rice on our wall. We know Jerry Rice, we know Emmitt Smith, we know Randy Moss, those guys were like the dynasty dudes. But unless you were the diehard fans, you didn’t know the third wide receiver on the Colts in 1995. Now, because you have an opportunity to own yourself, your numbers will be good, you’ll stay healthy. Those are important things, but also you’ve got a chance to reach fans because of your interests and who you are as a person.
And you know what, the other thing is when you think about it, a lot of us never would have thought that we would be the face of certain companies and businesses. Growing up, I would have never thought that I would ever be on the adidas team. So coming out of college, to know that adidas wanted me as I was going through the draft and stuff, that’s something that was really big. Being able to see your picture in the mall when people go to the adidas store. You’re like, “Whoa.” And even when you get more opportunities and you’re able to sponsor things, like I had the chance … I’m with Pepsi. I’m with Verizon and a lot of other companies, and it’s like when you look at that, it’s like, “Man.” I’m watching Delta Airlines and they’re posting stuff about me that we were doing, and I’m like, “I never would have thought in a million years.”
That’s usually for movie stars, right?
Yeah, but now it’s like we get opportunities to showcase yourself, and not only represent yourself, but represent our teams, represent the companies that wanna come in and try to build things with us, and it helps you in life. It helps you learn and understand everything, and it gives you an opportunity because if we didn’t play this sport, we wouldn’t be able to have any chance to do any of this type of stuff.
Super Bowl week is a really tough week to explain if people haven’t experienced it. In your own words, what is this week like?
This week is hectic, but insane and amazing all at the same time. That’s how I would explain it. That’s how I would tell somebody that it is, yeah.
From a personal perspective, obviously it is hectic and it’s insane, but it’s important and I think it’s been even more important in the last few years to watch players kind of rest ownership away from the brands, and make it more about what you guys can do for yourselves. As you move through this realm and try to figure things out on your own, what have you learned from an experience like this?
After my first year I wasn’t even really thinking about that. I was more about football. More football, trying to get my name out there. After last year and coming into this year, it’s more like, where can I put my face? Where can I put my value except in football because this game, like we all said, is not for long. Where you put your value at, where you can put yourself at in a position to be someone else and have your name known in a different part of production, it’s big man. It’s very important, but it’s hard to do at the same time. Our mindset has to be football.
You can’t divide that –
Can’t divide it. It’s more about football, but when you got the time and opportunity to do so, and you got the time, it’s important to do.
Conversations go on in the locker room and you’ve got guys you can trust to help guide you through.
Do you have someone on your team who has been good at helping there?
I have a couple guys. I have … guys I would name. I would name definitely, first of all, Odell. He’s amazing. You can see him everywhere. Snacks (Damon Harrison), JC (Jonathan Casillas) and DRC (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie), those guys do great things in the community, and are trying to do different things. Something that I question them about is how they do it and how they got the time to do it. Those would be the guys I would say I look up to. I question about and try to become something besides the great NFL football player.
National title game this year. Obviously a very interesting one. Where were you? How’d you watch it?
I was actually commentating. I was actually on the ESPN broadcast. Yeah, got to be right there commentating the whole game. Walking up and down the sidelines, interviewing, interviewing people that.
Is that the first time you’ve done something like that?
Commentating? Yes. On the sideline, yes. Commentating, no. First time at that level, at a high stakes level, I wasn’t expecting it to be that bad.
Nerves? No, because I’m always in front of the camera. It wasn’t that bad being in front of the camera and talking and trying to be myself. More, trying to do the play-by-play stuff. That’s where the problem was at because I’m a ‘Bama fan. They’re my boys, so I’m trying to watch the game and commentate at the same time. That’s the hardest part for me.
Uproxx was invited on a hosted trip by adidas during Super Bowl weekend.