We’re excited to welcome our first NFLPA Extern, Jalen Elliott, the Detroit Lions second-year safety. We sat down with Jalen to discuss his recently-wrapped rookie season and learn about his experience transitioning from life as a student-athlete at Notre Dame to professional football.
“I was able to earn a full scholarship to Notre Dame and go there and be a four-year starter and meet some of my greatest mentors and my greatest friends,” Elliott shared. “They helped me, pushed me, and molded me into the man I am today. I got a chance to play for the Detroit Lions going into year two, and I’m very thankful for the opportunity.”
Transitioning from college to the NFL
Elliott has nothing but great things to say about his collegiate experience. “I think Notre Dame did an unbelievable job of preparing me just for what was to come. You know, we ran as close to a professional schedule as you really could, being in college.”
He spoke about how he learned how to take responsibility for himself – from schoolwork to recovery and everything in between – and how that has helped him transition to life as a pro. With the COVID-19 pandemic and OTAs being off-site from the facility, it was a different year and required flexibility.
“I wish I would have learned just early,” said Elliott. “It’s just understanding that, yes, I have this free time, and it’s important to schedule it out because you can find yourself just going through the motions sometimes because you do have so much free time.”
The value of connections
A focus for Elliott off the field is connecting with fans during the off-season through social media. He noted that his feed is a lot more active in-season.
“The people that follow us and the potential followers that we could have want to see what we’re doing,” Elliott explained. “Just remembering in the offseason to continue to push and continue to post and maybe show my workout regimen or what I’m doing in the off-season when I’m not playing football to give them a little bit of inside to who I am.”
Elliott also knows that connections beyond social are even more important. These connections are mutually beneficial and can lead to growth in careers and life after his playing days are over. For example, Elliott is currently training with his mentor, retired NFL veteran and media personality Ryan Clark, to prepare for the upcoming season.
“I think the biggest thing for me and one thing that I’ve always tried to do is, continue to nurture connections that I make.” Elliott stated, “I think it’s so important to have connections because it’s not always about you going to be able to talk to or use somebody else’s connection. Sometimes they may need you. I think the more connections that you have and the more people you know, it allows your brand to grow very naturally and it’s not something where it’s like I have to be an influencer to push my brand and to grow.”
Elliott has already begun to find endorsement success in his young career, with the majority of his endorsement deals coming during the 2020 pre-NFL Draft process.
“I did a card deal with Panini, signed into Cameo, started getting that going, and had a couple of deals where, like Body Armor, Under Armour, and brands like that would send me gear to show for the next and upcoming year,” Elliott said.
“A lot of that stuff is pretty cool. I’m the type of guy that yes, I love money to the product, but I would also rather get the product as well. If it’s something where I can get 10 cases of Body Armor, like I love Body Armor, so I’ll take that, too. I think that’s important to remember and something that I keep in the back of my mind. Yes, a lot of deals are monetary, but, some you can get the product as well. I love those deals as well.”
Growing beyond the field
Considering his football career and beyond, Jalen has a strong passion for connecting with people. After majoring in marketing at Notre Dame, he’s earned exposure into many areas of the field, including broadcasting, and has gained more experience with Externships through the NFLPA.
“I was able to kind of see many different realms of marketing, but then also see a little bit of the broadcasting side and different things like that,” Elliott said. “That’s one thing I would love to do. Then also get an opportunity to come in and do great externships like this and just see how this business is run as well – and how you guys help so many athletes across the country is big for me as well. So those are kind of two things that I know for sure that I have found interesting off of the football field.”