![Alt Text](https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/56c346b607eaa09d9189a870/3cc65eaa-a6cb-495d-bcd0-990e6f5d446a/182_Flaunt_FirstTimeOffenders_DKMetcalf_Cover.jpg) The wide receiver in the NFL has, in recent years, morphed into something of a cross-cultural lightning rod. A Roaring 2020’s phenomenon of multi-hyphenate bad boys. An Instagram feed-flexing jet set, not afraid to climb invisible stairs into the air to play make. To dangerously diagonal into multi-lane traffic. To cameo in music videos. Not afraid to rock pink hair and Alice Cooper-like eye black and piles of drip. So how come? The reasons are many, but simply: emboldened by a sort of new school gameplay (i.e. restructured offensive backfields, thus a lessened criticality in the run game), plus the fan appeal, plus the WR’s agency in both playmaking and penalties that can move yardsticks more than any other scenario and… poof! You’ve $100 million contracts and burn scars up and down the state-of-the-art turf. The position has, of course, long enjoyed glamour and stardom categorically exempt of most players (consider the vast majority of professionals will never score a touchdown). Still, I’d argue this all-in phenomenon is unique to the last five or six years. Powering this gridiron shockwave is DK (DeKaylin Zecharius) Metcalf of the Seattle Seahawks. At the time of this interview, Metcalf is negotiating a contract extension with the Hawks. And if that doesn’t tickle his shoulder pads, a new contract will alight elsewhere, either of which will make him very rich—having now notched a handful of prove-it seasons at a comparatively modest pay rate—with millions and millions and millions guaranteed, even if he were to never play a snap of pro football again. This potential contract has meant a lot of hubbub in the media. Metcalf has pot-stirred, just a touch, on his social feeds, and more overtly asserted a put-up-or-shut up position with a demonstrative no-show at the Hawks’ “mandatory” pre-season mini-camp this June. As such, he was served a fine that amounted to relative pennies, i.e. a new Lexus or six months of normal guy rent. Something tells me, though, the cat-and-mouse maneuver will indeed land not just the fat block of cheese, but the right one for Metcalf. It’s a complicated identity for someone, 24, who cannot yet legally rent a car. Yet, the high stakes and commercial theatrics swirling his profession have instilled a kind of maturity in the youngster you might be stretched to find in his peer set. Despite this, Metcalf’s head-on-his-shoulders-ness comes with a sort of tender wonderment at the world he’s somehow landed in, all sparkling and cheeky and a pleasure to be around, coolly effused from a physicality carved from the likes of a superhero comic. There is a now sweepingly famous viral moment in Metcalf’s young pro career—which commenced in Seattle, following a three-year collegiate performance at Ole Miss in his home state of Mississippi. The clip is unreal. Cornerback Budda Baker, only seconds before tasked with defending Metcalf, intercepts the ball from now departed superstar quarterback, Russell Wilson. Baker is effortlessly on the cruise for a touchdown, before Metcalf—who reportedly reached a top speed of 22.64 miles-per-hour in the pursuit—appears from the left side of the frame, his larger, imposing body almost grim-reaper like, a la a gazelle-in-demise Planet Earth highlight, to catch Baker and save the shoe-in six points. The moment stands as a kind metaphor for this new school of wide receivers. Youngsters who gender bend with bold fashion, land Hollywood acting roles (more on that below), play their hand at making the Olympic Trials for the 100m dash, launch and develop charity and awareness platforms, shoot high fashion editorials, and show up for a minimum of 16 weekends in a row every fall into winter, whereby they play one of the most physically demanding sports in the history of the world. We sat down after Metcalf’s photo shoot in Hollywood at Dust Studios on La Brea Blvd, to understand the superstar’s psyche, his role in reshaping contemporary masculinity, and other feats he hopes to achieve in the course of the exciting race. Let’s talk about what you’re doing in LA at present. Obviously a photoshoot today, but you’re one of those athletes that’s also dipping their toes into other pursuits. I kind of moved here to LA trying to expand my brand, who I am—not only as a football player, but as a person, as an actor, as a fashion guy, a chef. Just trying to expand and not be boxed in. When you say your ‘brand,’ I feel like the last several years have really reinforced the imperative of building one’s individual brand. What’s something you’ve learned about that process? I would say trying to mimic how some of the greats did it, like Michael Jordan and LeBron, Shaq—how they capitalized on who they were outside of the game, and just built a name for themselves. Not only as an athlete, but as a business person as well. Owning restaurants, starting brands, just strategic business models that set yourself up—building a legacy that people will talk about you when you’re dead and gone. So it’s a lot of listening to the elders? Exactly. Yeah. Being a student, not only of the game, but a student of life, a student of business, and, you know, it’s a lot more listening, taking notes, and following leads more than being the leader. What about those moments when you’re scaling your brand and you need to project confidence, you need to be ice cold? I know I’m a confident person off the rip, and I just know I have to just be put into those rooms with those millionaires, billionaires, and tell my story. And they’re gonna know that I’m serious about who I am, and my legacy, just by having a simple conversation with me. What kind of pressures are different than say previous generations in the NFL? I think the social media era, in general, is very different from past generations. I think there’s a lot more unneeded pressure that the world puts on us to perform. Every eye is on every athlete. No matter if you’re a rookie just started, undrafted, or if you’re Tom Brady—everybody’s watching your every move, waiting for you to fuck up. And how about advantages to social media? The advantage is people can make their own brand and can build off of one viral moment, and set yourself up for the rest of your life. People can definitely take advantage of it for the right reasons. I feel like social media also gives you the chance to mess with people a little, to turn things on their head a little bit. What’s fun about that? Well, I’ve learned you cannot take social media so seriously, and you have to learn to joke on yourself and take everything with a grain of salt. I’ve learned the internet is undefeated, so you can’t take it too seriously. Just have fun with it like everything else in life. I imagine it’s hard to keep that levity and that lightness with all the pressure and the high stakes that you’re surrounded by. What’s exciting about the high stakes? I think everything about it is exciting because, like I said, everybody’s watching. So everybody’s watching that big moment. The greats are gonna rise and the good ones are gonna fall. So I think with everything on the line, like this upcoming season, everybody’s talking about there’s no Russ [Wilson], no Bobby [Wagner], team’s changed and everything. I mean, I think it’s great because it’s another opportunity for people like Geno Smith to get a chance. People like Jordyn Brooks and Jamal Adams and Quandre and everybody else who were not overshadowed, but their names really weren’t called, because you had two great players and two great leaders in front of you. Now it’s time for new people to step up and step into different roles. Let’s talk a bit about style choices and fashion. You obviously have great personal style, and today, you intersected with a lot of new clothes and things. Have you always been into self-expression that way, or it’s kind of come with some of your success? I believe I’ve always wanted to do it, but never really got to express myself how I have wanted to. So, when I moved to Seattle, it was like, ‘Okay, now I can really be who I want to be.’ It took knowing myself and finding myself to get to that point. A big person I look up to is Dennis Rodman and how he carried himself. He wore whatever he wanted to, but he was so comfortable in his skin that he didn’t care what anybody else thought. That thought process and that mindset really is what I want to get to, because I don’t care what people say, or what people think about me. I’m still gonna color my hair. Still gonna rock my piercings and still gonna wear whatever the fuck I want to. Obviously your work ethic, your physicality, your competitive edge are, I think, fairly obvious inspirations for audiences far and wide. But what about the idea of encouraging kids that are in places that have a little more narrow mindset about self-expression? Does that speak to you? Yessir, because I came from that environment, and from that culture, mainly in the South. What I preach today is to just be who you are, and be yourself, and be comfortable in your own skin. There’s only one of you and everybody else is taken—as cliche as that may sound—but it’s very true. I feel like the conversation around mental health is a more elastic idea these days. What’s important to you about mental health conversation? For DK himself, but also those who are paying attention to you? Well, I know as men, and mainly football players, we’re taught to suck it up. Anytime we’re hurt, or anytime we feel something, it’s always, ‘Suck it up, and go on to the next play.’ And that’s good to a certain extent, but, we need checking on, too. We have feelings, too. So in order to properly express those feelings, I went to therapy. It took a whole year and a half for me to get to this point, where I am today, to be able to talk thoroughly about how I was feeling. I felt like I was staying in a box, and in a cage, to where I didn’t know how to properly express myself. I had to do some soul searching. Talking through my childhood, and my upbringing, and pinpointing some things that I went through as a younger kid to get to this point in my life—to where it’s okay to be expressive, and it’s okay for a man to say how he feels, or, ‘I’m sad today.’ Expressing that to other young people in the next generation—that it’s okay to feel that way—that’s what drives me. And, I don’t even like to use the word therapy. I use ‘life coach.’ She’s my life coach, and she’s helped me a lot. Would you describe that as being open to vulnerability? For sure. That is a hundred percent what it boils down to—being vulnerable and really just being honest with yourself about how you really feel. And so it’s almost as if you’ve got an opportunity to reshape ideas of masculinity? Exactly. How else might you describe masculinity? I mean, I come from the South, so masculinity is always the man doing the yard work or always working. But I know women want rights too, and want to be treated equally as men. So that’s just how I view everything. I’m not going to try to take a job away from a woman, or tell a woman not to do anything. We’re all on this earth together. We’re all living together on this earth. So, just shaping my mindset to where everybody is equal. In my eyes, everybody has equal opportunity. Do you feel like there’s a generational divide around that kind of vulnerability? Like amongst more senior players or coaching staff? Yes, I think it’s definitely a generational divide. A lot of those older players have already lived their life—and I’m not gonna say they’re stubborn, but they are already set in their ways, which is fine. I mean, that’s them, that’s how they were brought up, and that’s how they wanna live their lives. But this next generation—my generation—I think are the ones that are changing that narrative. Where’s the pressure in that? There’s no pressure. None? There’s no pressure in being who you are and trying to change the world for the better. The wide receiver as a role and identity is in one of its most exciting spaces in a long time—with changes in offense structures, or strategies, or play calling. What’s exciting about that? Right now, at the wide receiver position, there are a lot of great players and it’s a very exciting position, which it has always been, but everybody wants to be a receiver right now. Everybody wants to be a receiver, which is a very exciting part. Being at the forefront of the receiver market, and I know there’s a lot of us at that point in our careers… I think it’s very exciting because the future is very bright with people like Davante Adams, Justin Jefferson, Ja’marr Chase, Cooper Kupp, and I can go on and on, but everybody wants to be a receiver. I mean, every team has a superstar. Let’s talk about acting a little bit. What are you working on? Last year, I got a chance to work with Jerry Bruckheimer on a project called Secret Headquarters. I shot there for a whole day and it was just amazing how comfortable I felt, and how at home I was feeling. So, I took acting classes all throughout the season last year on my off day. I enjoyed that, and I’ve just continued to hang around actors and actresses. I met the cast members of Outer Banks, and I’ve been hanging with them quite a bit. Charles Melton is another one of my close friends. So, just surrounding myself with people that are upcoming and making a name for themselves in the acting space, and already made a name for themselves. How did those classes, throughout the season, translate to the field? Me just being expressive and me just opening up and not having another reason for not caring how I feel. Cause when I was on set, before I really started taking the acting classes, I was very timid and in a shell. But once I started using my voice, and opening up and using personalities—acting—it really just allowed me to come to shoots like this, and really start dancing, open with everything, just having fun, and just taking the opportunity—another chance to show who I really am as a person. And what about Los Angeles? What moves you about the city? I can really just walk around and be who I am. I drive up Sunset at 10, 11, 12 o’clock at night, and I just get inspired. The lights just motivate me to where I wake up the next morning and go to work—I’m going to be an actor, and I’m just going to do big things. There’s always so much culture. You can walk into the grocery store and be one hand shake away from being a millionaire, meeting the right person, or being in one movie. You’ve also intersected with the world of music a bit, cropping up in the odd music video here and there—what’s the community like in that space? Tell me about it, that’s gotta be a lot of fun. Yes. I had a chance to be in a Young Thug/Gunna music video. It was very fun. It was a lot to see, a lot going on—I would say that. But, just being on that set, and just seeing how they interact with each other, and how they move, was very interesting to me. And hanging out with that crowd, which I think must be a lot of fun…There’s not as many limits there compared to the lifestyle of a professional athlete. How do you draw the line and create boundaries there? I see how they get to really and truly live their lives, and not really care what anybody has to say. They don’t have any restrictions. Like I have restrictions, so I mean, I’m just dipping my toe in that water, and just pushing the limits on that side of life. But, it is just really another side of life that I get to see people live, and I’m basically living through them. Do you ever feel like athletes are overpaid? Is that something that gets said to you? No, never. I really haven’t heard that. If anything, we’re underpaid. Tell me about that. I’ve only been playing football for 12 years since I was 12 years-old. I know there is a lot more people who started at 7, 8 years old. You imagine the work you have to put yourself through from 7, to make varsity. Then from making varsity to earn the scholarship, going to college—that’s brutal in and of itself. Imagine, if you have to go to college for five years, that’s five spring practices. You have to go through five brutal off-seasons of work, and then to make it to the NFL, and then perform at a high level at the NFL, or in the NBA, doing the same thing, going from basketball or track or whatever the sport may be. That’s a lot of hard work and early mornings that you really have to dedicate your mind and body to. It’s a lot of hard work, so of course, you’re gonna reap the benefits of all that hard work. Anything you want to add? Go Hawks.
Photographed by Ian Morrison
Stylist: Dex Rob
Groomer: Jenna Nelson
Art Director: Andrew Steiger
Creative Director: Nate Mitchell
Stylist Assistants: Kerrick Simmons and Rodney Williams
Production Assistant: Frankie Benkovic