When the career of an NFL player ends, a new “season” begins. Though we hear many stories of post-football failure, post-football success is attainable. It’s a transition that can be difficult for some, but New York Giants wide receiver, Michael Clayton, already is well prepared for life after the game.
Clayton is as passionate about what he does off-the-field as his play on-the-field. Father, business entrepreneur and philanthropist round out a resume that includes a stellar college career at LSU, first-round draft pick in 2004 and 8 NFL seasons thus far with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Giants. His athletic career, fashion ventures and philanthropic efforts all have a common thread: helping youth.
Unlike many of his peers, Clayton had a great support system growing up in Louisiana, where his godfather served as one of his mentors. “He helped me develop work habits to be successful. If you ever have the opportunity to help a kid, never hesitate. He told me that and I never forgot it.”
Michael has used his own personal experiences to help fuel his charitable efforts. While with the Buccaneers, he and his wife Tina started the Michael Clayton Generation Next Foundation, a non-profit organization that assists with local charities such as The Tampa Bay Pediatric Cancer Foundation and the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile. “You want to just make sure every child in the world has an opportunity to be successful and to have somebody to love them or tell them that it’s gonna be okay or send them down the right path. I believe that that was my calling. I take a great deal of pride in being there for kids of all ages.”
A football career has helped and will continue to help Clayton achieve his goals outside the game. A Glam Slam spoke to Michael in more detail about the Giants season thus far, his fashion and philanthropic efforts and what else he hopes to accomplish post-football. Check it out:
The Giants are off to a good start this season. What is it going to take for the team to maintain their lead in the division? What do they need to do to improve?
It’s gonna take a lot of hard work. The important thing is to be able to critique yourself, get better every week and have the discipline to stay locked in day in and day out. It’s a very long season. Though we’ve had success, we haven’t yet played to our full potential so to remain where we are, we have to get better as a team which will take a full effort. Like I said, that involves us critiquing ourselves, being honest with each other as teammates, being able to address when we’ve made mistakes and being able to fix those mistakes so they don’t happen again. We have a lot of veterans on our team to get that done. These guys have won a Super Bowl and it’s a pleasure for me as a newcomer to be a part of that atmosphere.
What are you doing to stay healthy and get back on the field?
For me it’s a day-to-day grind. I’m in a position where I’m kind of like a fill-in. My job at practice is to service our first team defense so with every single rep that I take, I try to challenge our defense to be the best that they can be. Right now it’s such a good feeling to be out there competing against the number 1 defense. I’m just waiting on my opportunity to get a chance to play and until that day comes, it’s about working to critique my craft. It all works hand-in-hand because it helps me to be ready for the opportunity when it presents itself and it also makes our defense better because they have an offensive guy who is going to challenge them everyday at practice.
Given the hype about the Eagles off-season, are you surprised by their slow start?
No, I’m not surprised. They didn’t call that movie “Any Given Sunday” for nothing. I think that there’s added pressure with the comments made about the “Dream Team.” It’s hard enough as it is to win in the NFL. The added pressure with the free agent acquisitions that they made, bringing in new guys to help their team and the media talk, it all adds more pressure and that’s never a good thing.
They got off to a bad start but one thing is for sure about the Eagles, they have a very explosive team. And at any given time they can completely turn it around. When you have a dynamic player like Michael Vick, he has the ability as a tremendous leader. They have a great coaching staff there too. I think that they have a path and they really want to bounce themselves back so as far as the Giants, we don’t overlook them just because they got off to a bad start. We know their capabilities, we know the guys on their team and we know the potential they have to turn it around. So our focus is to dominate and control what we can control.
We all know you had a stellar career at LSU. What’s your early prediction for this year’s BCS National Championship Game?
It would have to be my LSU Tigers. It really doesn’t matter who you put at #2. The Tigers are having an awesome year. They’ve had to overcome some adversity but I think they are in good a position right now. They know the guys that came before them, they know the expectations and what we expect from the University and our players and they do an exceptional job of going out and displaying that every Saturday.
Switching gears to life outside football, you are also the owner of 80 Stitches Apparel. Can you talk about the company and its offerings?
We started 80 Stitches about three years ago and we got off to a tremendous start. We opened it up in Louisiana because I wanted to be involved in my hometown. Unfortunately because of some issues our location was dealing with, we had to close down our storefront and we are now proceeding with 80stitchesapparel.com, which is now online. We are working with numerous vendors and we are trying to accomplish a lot of things with youth around the country, getting them affordable clothes for Christmas, around the holidays and back to school. There are many clothing lines that we offer. We are just now getting everything up and running with 80stitchesapparel.com but it will be available online sooner than later.
You know how to score points off-the-field when it comes to your style. Once you hang up your uniform, what can we expect to see you wearing?
I’m a simple guy. Day-to-day I don’t change, I kind of stick to my own. I’ve probably been wearing Rocawear outfits since college to relax in. But when I step out for a charity event or any type of event or for a football game, I think that there’s a sense of pride that comes with the way you dress. Athletes have a common saying, “you look good, you play good,” so you never want to take the chance of dressing down because you always want to play your best. For events, I enjoy putting together outfits that I personally picked out in terms of fabric and style. I have a company based out of New York that I’ve been working with since 2004 and they do a great job taking my ideas to the next level and really putting together some great pieces. I like to mix and match as well. I like to go shopping and look for the less expensive things. It’s a good feeling when people look at you and know you look nice and you only spent fifty bucks to put together an outfit. I enjoy doing things like that.
Did you always have an interest in fashion?
Fashion to me really affects the way that you feel so I like to dress up and look good everywhere I go and try to be the best-dressed. You know I want that title in New York City. To be the best-dressed football player on the team, I want that title. And a lot of guys want that title so a lot of guys put forth the effort in looking good and taking care of themselves.
Philanthropy is also very important to you, especially where children are concerned. How/why did you become involved with the causes you support?
The one thing I thought about when I went to LSU and had a great career and got drafted were the kids that didn’t have those mentors in their lives when we were young. And I really wanted to just capture a situation where I would create a foundation that would help those types of kids in those situations, low poverty areas, and give them the tools that they need to be successful whether it’s a mentoring program, one-on-one friendship, brotherhood, whatever it may be, I wanted to give that back to them.
And it has really gone further than just kids that just don’t have the opportunity for success, it has gone into children with cancer and how I’ve been available to them to make them smile just because I wear the NFL tag. I’ve been able to create these relationships with these young kids who go about their lives like nothing is even wrong with them. And they are so inspiring to me as a professional athlete when I look back on the things that affect me in my life.
I have three kids of my own and I know that charity starts in the home. I get such a warm feeling in being a father and taking care of my kids and it’s contagious. We just strive to help as many people as we can daily. We are able to see a large growth of people wanting to help and wanting to get involved and the more people we have to help the more kids we can help so it’s a great thought to be in that environment.
As a business entrepreneur and philanthropist you seem well prepared for life after football already. What else can expect to see from you down the road? Anything else you’d like to do post-football?
Absolutely. I left college early, as a junior, so I haven’t graduated. There’s a lot of things that I want to accomplish for myself, for my parents. I want to get into movies and do some acting, that is a passion that I have. I feel a strong need to be in front of a camera and allow others to hear my story of what I went through and how God has used me to better myself, my family and others. I think that there’s power in my story and any situation that I can place myself in to get my story out there or to teach life lessons to anyone who’s willing to listen, you know I’m willing to do.
I’ve also been building homes since 2004. I’ve teamed with some companies who have allowed me to design some homes, where it’s little or nothing to go into some of these low income areas and put up homes in a month. So there are a lot of things that I’m involved in. I just look forward to helping in any way possible, either in building homes, movies, TV, inspirational speaking, it’s all on my plate to try to accomplish at some point in my future life.