I first met Gibran Hamdan in 2007 as a fellow member of the Buffalo Bills practice squad. By that time, Gibran (who was drafted by the Redskins in 2003) had made appearances on five NFL team’s rosters and been the 2006 NFL Europa Offensive MVP. Gibran lead the practice squad with a level of professionalism that I found unmatched during my time in the NFL, while still managing a light-hearted mood that made “work” fun. While Gibran’s journey (both to and through) the NFL is impressive, it’s what he has done with his post-NFL career that has really impressed me.
Since retiring, he has built his own clothing line Alial Fital from the ground up. The line that started with just men’s polo shirts has grown to offer a wide range of products, including women’s apparel. I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Gibran and talk with him about his NFL career and his transition to clothing line owner.
Christian Gaddis: Could you start off by describing your NFL experience?
Gibran Hamdan: I was fortunate first and foremost to be drafted by Steve Spurrier when he was the HC for my hometown team the Washington Redskins having not played much in college. Some of my fondest memories had to be as starting quarterback in NFL Europe for the Amsterdam Admirals. While I certainly enjoyed some personal accomplishments over there – the friendships and experience were things that I will forever take with me.
CG: You have the designation of being the first player of Pakistani descent to play in the NFL. I know looking back you realize how important that is. Was that ever something you thought about actively while playing in the NFL?
GH: Not extensively. As you well know much of my time in the NFL was spent fighting for roster spots and continually trying to prove myself. I never really felt like my heritage or background was overly relevant to my NFL career. What I tried to focus on was performance just like everyone else. If I did add value to some youngsters that otherwise wouldn’t have been interested in football – looking back know I certainly am proud of that.
CG: When did you begin to think about your career after football?
CG: Why fashion/design?
GH: I was always interested in clothing, fashion, and art. I was fortunate to write a fashion blog for Brooks Brothers in my final season with the Bills and that kind of got my juices flowing. More than anything I love the aspect of creating something new that then exists in the world. Creativity and following through on that creativity to create something truly original is what drives me on a daily basis.
CG: I read that you taught yourself how to make a pattern… describe that process. And I have to ask – what was more difficult, teaching yourself that or learning an NFL playbook as a QB?
GH: What a great question! They are actually very similar in terms of difficulty. The key is that with experience they both become much easier. When I began teaching myself patternmaking I didn’t know some of the tricks of the trade or subtleties that could make you immediately more effective in the end. Similar to a rookie QB, you’re just trying to focus on the basics in the beginning. As you learn more you realize that a certain coverage tells you something’s not gonna be open before the ball is snapped so you move on quickly. I feel that way now – when I work on a new pattern, grade, or new fabrics – I’m gaining experience on the most effective way to do it so that it will turn out perfect in the long run.
CG: Did you take any steps while playing to work on your second career (internships, job shadowing, courses) while still in the NFL?
GH: I was mainly focused on broadcasting during my career as I thought that was the avenue I believed I was going to take. I thought after my experience at the NFL Broadcast Bootcamp that was definitely the road I was heading down. However, as time went on, having my own business and controlling my own destiny rather than being at the mercy of other people to determine how good I was or could be really rang true to me.
CG: What did you study in college?
GH: I have a business degree from Indiana University with a focus on Marketing.
CG: You retired from football in June of 2010 how soon after that did you begin planning Alial Fital?
GH: I would say the real development of AF began in August on 2010 with us launching Jan. 2011
CG: What is your personal fashion style?
GH: I like to call it classic with a twist. I feel that way about our shirts. Are they a standard traditional staple – certainly not, but our dress polos take classical styles and add a bit of punch to them.
CG: Going in to the fashion industry, did you ever think of partnering with someone currently in the industry to gain more experience before going out on your own?
GH: No. I actually have found the contrary by starting with no experience I have taught myself the business and haven’t been bogged down with misconceptions or old techniques. I have allowed myself creatively to explore and execute whatever comes to mind – at times more efficiently and effectively than counterparts that went to fashion school or have been in the industry or a long time.
CG: I know your parents were a large influence in your life and that is reflected in the name of your clothing line. Who have been your largest influences within the fashion industry?
GH: Well my favorite brands are Salvatore Ferragamo and Dries Van Noten. I really like what companies like Bonobos, Suit Supply, and Warby Parker are doing.
CG: What was the transition like going from professional athlete to being the owner of your own clothing line?
GH: It certainly has been challenging. However, I think the thing that made it easiest is the realization that the work ethic and dedication to your craft is ultimately what makes you successful. If I were talking to a current NFL player about the transition looking back on my experience it would be that regardless of how much money you have – start from the bottom. For example, I certainly had the capital to pay someone to design my website for me but instead I taught myself website design and did it myself. Was it hard – sure was, but so were summer workouts. But know I have a skill that I didn’t have 3 years ago that adds value to not only to my business but to my portfolio.
CG: Part of what I loved about football was the daily competition and looking for a second career, I sought out opportunities within competitive areas of business. Are there any aspects of the fashion industry that fill the same areas football did for you?
GH: Well everyone is different in this area. With regards to my life in fashion now it’s less about competing with others because in most cases the playing field is sooo far apart and more so competing with myself to see how much better our brand can get on a day to day basis.
CG: What has been the most difficult part of transitioning from the NFL to the business world for you?
GH: Working twice as hard and getting paid 1000 times less!
CG: What is the next step for Alial Fital?
GH: A focus on growing honestly, organically, and because our product is great. All I really focus on is putting out what I think is great gear and being honest with our customers. It’s worked so far.
To check out Gibran’s clothing visit his website www.Alialfital.com or watch it being worn on the PGA tour by Bo Van Pelt.
–By Christian Gaddis, Former NFL Center
Follow on Twitter @Cagaddis Click here on to learn more about Christian
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