Matt LaCosse is a tight end for the New England Patriots — and an avid trading card collector.
After playing for Illinois, LaCosse made his NFL debut with the Giants in 2015 before spending two seasons with the Broncos. He signed a two-year contract with the Patriots in March of 2019, but after recording 13 catches for 131 yards and a touchdown, he opted out of the ’20 season to attend to the birth of his son. In 33 career games, LaCosse has 40 receptions for 403 yards and two TDs.
During the break in his playing career, LaCosse and his partners started “Matt’s Packs,” where he interacts with fans on Instagram while “breaking” open boxes and packs of trading cards that they’ve reserved. He then ships the cards to the buyers.
Sports Section caught up with the 28-year-old LaCosse, who is in the Boston area preparing for the 2021 Patriots season, and talked trading cards, playing in the NFL, and more.
How did you get into trading cards?
I was really into trading cards as a kid, and pretty much any money I made went into a local card shop. Like a lot of people, I fell out of it as I got older. Then this year with COVID and everything, I kind of saw what was happening again with sports cards.
These guys on Vintage Breaks had me on a show, and that piqued my interest. I got on a couple more shows with them, broke some cards myself for them, and then I just dove head-first into it and we started our own breaking company. Also, I started buying a bunch of stuff for my own personal self.
Trading cards experienced a boom during COVID. Why do you think that is?
There weren’t a lot of sports on TV at the beginning of COVID, at least, so I think it was just an outlet for people to join a community, talk about sports, and have a tangible product to show off and discuss with your buddies. People enjoy being a part of those communities during a time when there’s a lot of alone time.
Tell me about your collection. Did you save things from when you were a kid, or are you starting over?
I saved a bunch from when I was a kid. I wasn’t very good at card collecting as a kid because I didn’t have a ton of valuable cards. I do have a bunch of Griffeys, Jordans, and Walter Paytons from then.
I mainly collect baseball right now. I’m really into the Topps Bowman Chrome products. I’m a big Ronald Acuna Jr. collector, and Jasson Dominguez. I just bought a bunch of Riley Greene cards, the Detroit Tigers’ No. 1 prospect. I’m a huge baseball fan, but I also have a bunch of football as well.
Football cards? Any of a certain Patriots tight end?
I have not collected myself. I feel like that’s kind of weird. I don’t know why I think that’s weird.
But I have not collected myself at all. Panini gave me a bunch of cards, so I do have cards of myself, but I don’t actively seek them out.
What’s the best card in your collection?
Probably a Walter Payton rookie card from back in the day. That’s my favorite.
I have a Jasson Dominguez Chrome Safire PSA 10 that’s pretty valuable. All my Acunas are PSA 10. He’s having a heck of a year, so hopefully his prices keep going up.
Are you combining passion and business here?
Exactly. It’s not so much the business aspect, but it’s super-fun for me. I think we do see the business side, as well, creating a product that people want to be a part of. It’s not every day that you get to open cards with someone who’s in the profession, right? Our quote-unquote “customers” and fans really enjoy that aspect, and they learn a couple of new things here and there — a couple of cool stories they might not hear somewhere else.
I honestly just enjoy talking to people and seeing what cards they have.
I enjoy watching you interact with fans during breaks. Do you embrace that aspect of this?
We’re super-fortunate right now. We have a small community, but it’s just full of a bunch of good deeds. There’s a bunch of people who are happy to be there and want to pick my brain about certain topics. Honestly, we talk about anything. It doesn’t feel like a fan-athlete relationship, if that makes sense. It’s more like people talking about sports cards and getting to know each other. So we’ve been very fortunate to have good people in our community.
Is “Matt’s Packs” a future career for you when you’re done playing?
We’ll see, we’ll see. I’ll take it as far as it wants to go. Once it stops being fun, I’ll stop. But it’s more just like a fun little side hobby for us right now. Will this be my 9-to-5? Probably not, but I definitely enjoy doing it.
What’s the card-breaking process?
There are many different ways to do it. The way we mainly do it, for example, is: I have a box of football cards, right? And say you collect the Chargers, and you don’t want to spend a ton of money on the box when you only collect the Chargers and don’t care about other teams.
There are 32 teams you can purchase, and you’ll buy just the Chargers. So every single Chargers card that I pull out of that box is yours and only yours. There are also ways you can do it where you randomize teams. You pay a flat rate, and you can get a random team. You could get the Chargers, but you could also get the Jaguars. So it’s just kind of a guessing game there.
What’s the purchasing process? Do you go right to the card companies, get a big delivery, and then break them open?
About once a week we place an order with a retail company and hobby stores. We’ll buy a bunch of boxes from one of those places, and then we’ll announce that these are the boxes that we’re opening on this specific date. Let us know if you want a spot or a team, and then that’s how we go about that.
Let’s talk football. You opted out of the 2020 season out of caution surrounding the birth of your son in November. What does this season look like for you?
I’m in Boston right now, and I’m just going through OTA workouts with my teammates, and it’s awesome to be back. There’s only so long you can just work out in your garage and not get sick of it. So it’s good to be working out with my teammates again, it’s good to see a bunch of familiar faces, and I’m very excited for the season, definitely.
We’ve had some awesome additions. I just look forward to getting back and playing, honestly.
After a year off, you kind of have FOMO, the fear of missing out the entire season, so I’m just happy to be back and ready for camp to start.
What do you think of the Patriots’ chances this season?
Your guess is as good as mine. I think we have a lot of good pieces. This coaching staff is obviously extremely good and is proven. It’s an NFL season, and obviously our goal is the same each year. Without trying to give you too generic of an answer, we’re going to go in there and work, and what happens, happens.
Chris Kuc is a sportswriter who covered a myriad of sports during his career with the Chicago Tribune, The Athletic, and the Chicago Blackhawks before joining Sports Section. You can reach out to Chris at Chris.Kuc@thesportssection.com or on Twitter: @ChrisKuc.