Blake Martinez appears in a game for the Las Vegas Raiders against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Martinez is wearing number 54
Credit: Las Vegas Raiders

Gotta Collect Em' All

NFL player reportedly retires after selling rare Pokémon card

Linebacker Blake Martinez, a seven-year veteran of the NFL, abruptly retired on November 10. However, it was not due to injury or a lack of ability. Reports indicate that the NFL player hung up his cleats after selling a rare Pokémon card for $672,000.

Blake Martinez, Pokémon collector

The sage of Blake Martinez’s abrupt NFL retirement begins with an Instagram live stream. Martinez was doing a mystery bag unpacking of Pokémon cards when he revealed an Illustrator Pikachu card. Also known as “Swirllustrator”, the card is incredibly rare. Professionals say that the Pikachu holographic, which was only released in Japan, has around 40 copies in circulation. In February 2022, a Swirllustrator sold for $900,000.

Martinez claimed in a later video that he had acquired the card through a dealer he had met during the pandemic. An avid Pokémon collector as a child, Martinez reportedly took the hobby up again during the pandemic. According to Martinez, the dealer presented him with a number of rare “trophy cards” and Swirllustrator was among them.

Pokémon card > NFL career

However, is a Pokémon card really more lucrative than an NFL salary? For players like Blake Martinez, yes. Martinez was drafted in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. He spent four seasons with the Green Bay Packers before joining the New York Giants in free agency in 2020. However, Martinez was sidelined for most of the 2021 season with an ACL tear. The Giants released Martinez in September 2022

Despite only being 28, the injury deterred many teams. Martinez eventually signed a 1-year, $1.035M contract with the Las Vegas Raiders. However, the Raiders signing coincided with Martinez receiving a valuation of $1.5M on his card.

Next: Cop fired after trying to steal $400 of Pokémon cards

The Raiders also sucked. The team was 1-3 when they signed Martinez and sat at 2-5 the day his Swirllustrator sold for $672,000.

Martinez was playing off the bench and as an injury replacement for a bad team while selling one Pokémon card to make around half the value of his NFL contract for the year. And so, with the Raiders at 2-6 after on November 10, Martinez announced his retirement.

If Martinez truly retired to further pursue the world of Pokémon cards, Jaxon wishes him happy hunting.