Gibran Hamdan

The NFL off-season is long. So long that backup quarterback Gibran Hamdan taught himself how to sew a shirt.

“I’ve always been an artist at heart,” says Hamdan, 30, who moved to Minnesota the day after he finished playing for the Buffalo Bills last year. He married Bud Grant’s granddaughter, Jenny Grant, and settled in Edina. He soon headed north to play for the Canadian Football League, but felt distracted. “I just had this moment where I knew I was done.”

And a fashion career was born.

In July, he launched Alial Fital (his parents’ names spelled backward), selling American-made men’s shirts— online, because “guys want to sit on the couch and shop in their pj’s.” The signature look is a fitted polo with a contrasting dress collar. “I wanted the casualness of a polo a guy could wear on the golf course but the dressiness of a shirt that would make a girl happy on a date,” he says.

Shaped by the Past | Hamdan was never the typical jock. His father is a nuclear engineer from Palestine; his mother is a beauty school owner from Pakistan. He was born in San Diego but soon moved to Kuwait for his father’s job. The family was on a trip to San Diego in 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait, and the Hamdans were left without a home to return to. They started over in Washington, D.C.

“You work hard your whole life, you do the right thing, and suddenly you’re broke with two young kids,” Hamdan says. “As an adult, I think all the time of what my parents went through.”

Good Sport | Hamdan threw his first football in eighth grade. “It felt so natural, so easy.” He didn’t get his break until senior year, when the regular QB transferred schools. Twenty-four touchdowns earned him a full ride to Indiana University. He played in a total of nine games, graduated with a business degree, and was looking for a corporate marketing job when an agent encouraged him to go out for the draft. In 2003, Hamdan was a seventh-round pick for the Washington Redskins. He played in one regular-season game and sat on the bench for the better part of the next seven years with five different teams. “I was a guy people liked to be around,” he says, ever the optimist.

Football behind him, Hamdan is anxious to make something “useful.”

“I want to create an American fashion house,” he says. “I want to hand something down to my kids.”