Mint Musings: Redskins’ Ray Hamilton’s Panini Initiation – The Washington Redskins’ tight end recently traded his cleats for cardboard as part of the NFLPA’s externship program. Ray Hamilton is currently working with NFL trading card licensee, Panini America.
According to the NFLPA’s website, the program is designed to allow current players to gain experience in career opportunities they may want to pursue after football. With his externship, Hamilton has had the chance to be involved with several aspects of Panini’s day-to-day operations. He took a break from his duties to let us know how things have been going. The following interview was conducted via email.
KS: How did you become involved with Panini’s NFLPA externship program?
RH: I became involved by receiving an email from the NFLPA about the externship program opportunity in the offseason. I responded to that email and got in touch with NFLPA to learn more about it. From there I sent my resume and filled out their application for the program.
KS: What responsibilities do you have in your role?
RH: My responsibilities here vary from week to week. For the first week, I worked with the product development team. I had the chance to brainstorm some ideas for current and new ideas for product. Then for the second week, I had the opportunity to work with the acquisitions team. They even gave me the opportunity to go to the NFL Scouting Combine to see how they get players to come through the Panini room and sign some autographs and start building relationships with the players. Then for the third week, I will be with the marketing team.
KS: How similar and different would you say it is from your professional football career?
RH: Some of the characteristics you need to have to be successful in your role within the company are similar in terms of work ethic, ability to get the job done, and personal drive to succeed. In terms of physically, obviously very different demands.
KS: Overall, how have you felt about the program so far?
RH: I have loved my time here with Panini. The people here are what make this company so special. Day in and day out these guys have made it so enjoyable for me to come in and be involved. I also am very interested in this industry itself. It’s been very cool to see this side of the business.
KS: What do you think is the most surprising thing about the trading card world you’ve learned working with Panini?
RH: I am not sure anything has been necessarily surprising just because I had no idea what to expect coming in. But just to see all that goes in to making a card, and the process for it to get to the collectors is really cool to see.
KS: Who would you say is the coolest person you’ve met so far doing this?
RH: When I went to the NFL Scouting Combine with Panini, I had the opportunity to sit and talk with 2015 Hall of Fame Inductee Will Shields who used to play for the Kansas City Chiefs. He could not have been a nicer guy, and just took some time to sit and talk with me about football and beyond. He even let me check out his Hall of Fame ring which was incredible to see and hold.
RH: Basically every football, basketball, or baseball autograph I’ve seen around here. All of the memorabilia and game-used stuff I would love to keep for my man-cave one day.
KS: If you had to pick your most amusing story/experience with the program, what would it be?
RH: Learning the names and faces around the office especially for the first couple of days was a challenge. One of the first days I was here, I was talking to one of the employees and he said a name that I was not familiar with yet. I then asked who that person was, and of course that person was standing right next to you. I knew the face, but was not up to speed on his name yet so I was quick to apologize there as we shared a good laugh.
KS: What was your exposure to the trading card and sports memorabilia world before you started the externship?
RH: My exposure was pretty limited as I was only familiar from when I collected cards when I was younger. I was big into collecting cards and jersey cards up until I was probably about 12 or 13.
KS: Do you plan to stay involved with trading cards and memorabilia once the externship ends?
RH: I’ve enjoyed my time here, and could definitely see myself working in this industry with this company when my time playing comes to an end. I would love to stay involved in sports and to get in on the business side would be a dream job after football is over.
RH: I think that’s a better question for the staff here. They’ve got their hands full on a daily basis here, but if they ever threw me in a product…that’d be pretty sweet.
KS: How bizarre do you think it would be to pull a card of yourself out of a pack?
RH: It would be awesome, always something I wanted to do as a kid collecting growing up.
KS: As a football player, you’re no stranger to signing autographs. What is the strangest thing anyone has asked you to sign though?
RH: A mom asked me to sign her son’s forearm. I never understand why anyone would want a body signature, because once you shower it’s gone.
KS: If you could give any advice to players participating in the NFLPA externship in the future, what would it be?
RH: Just jump right in to whatever you have the opportunity to do. Don’t just go do it, just to say you did it. Take full advantage of the opportunity to learn from some of the best people in their respective industries.
Lear more about the NFLPA’s Externship program.
Kelsey’s ability to bring hobby coverage to the mainstream sports fan as the producer of ESPN’s Mint Condition has been a true asset. GTS is happy to feature his thoughts on the hobby in Mint Musings. The opinions expressed are his and do not necessarily reflect those of GTS Distribution.
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