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Ex-NFL LB Blake Martinez retired from NFL to sell Pokemon cards

Blake Martinez played seven seasons in the NFL for the Packers, Giants and Raiders. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
Blake Martinez played seven seasons in the NFL for the Packers, Giants and Raiders. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Blake Martinez made a non-traditional career pivot after he suddenly retired from NFL in the middle of the 2022 season. Martinez, who was playing for the Las Vegas Raiders at the time, decided he would dedicate all of his time to the side hustle he started during the COVID-19 pandemic: buying and selling Pokemon cards.

No, this is not a joke. Martinez went so far as to found his own company, Blake's Breaks, during the 2022 offseason. Martinez's company made a reported $5 million in revenue on Whatnot, a collectible reselling platform, according to CNBC's Megan Sauer.

Martinez, 29, began reselling his Pokemon cards in 2020 during the onset of the pandemic after he saw how much money other influencers were making off the trend. He even talked about Pokemon cards during some of his Giants press conferences in 2021 and spent thousands of dollars on packs of cards — some of which weren't worth anything. Martinez eventually struck gold when he sold a rare Pikachu card for $672,000 in October, which he also brought to the "Pawn Stars" Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas.

Martinez told CNBC he decided to spend more time on his company after the Giants released him in September after two seasons in New York. Even though he still signed with the Raiders, Martinez said he spent 80 hours a week on his company in between his time with the team. A quarter of the revenue goes back into the business, Martinez said, while the rest goes to him and the company's 15 contract employees.

This is quite the difference between playing football — especially linebacker. Martinez wracked up 706 combined tackles over 84 total games during his seven NFL seasons. He even led the league with 144 tackles in 2017 with the Green Bay Packers and averaged 148.6 combined tackles from 2017-2020. But three weeks into the 2021 season, Martinez suffered a season-ending ACL injury and was released a year later.

So after seven years of hitting and ailments, Martinez said pain-free living played a big role in his desire to leave the NFL for his company.

“Every single day when I wake up, my shoulder doesn’t hurt and my back doesn’t hurt anymore,” Martinez 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.’”