While his teammates were packing up and jetting off in the down time between minicamp and training camp, Martellus Bennett was hard at work – albeit a different kind of work. Marty spent the weekend taking selfies, reading and celebrating imagination as part of a pop-up shop in Boston to honor the release of his first children's book, "Hey A.J., It's Saturday."
Families filed into the bright, polka dotted shop and stumbled upon A.J.'s Imagination Lounge, where Marty read and signed the first book of his series. He even brought his family and did a reading at The Hall at Patriot Place's annual Field Day with Dad event on Sunday.
While Marty released a short film last year and has other children's books, a novel and full-length films cooking, he said he considers the character of A.J. his Mickey Mouse. He said publishing A.J.'s series first made sense, though the books are just the beginning of his creative projects.
Though the tight end is a force on the field, Marty said his family encouraged his artistic habits, and he grew up with watching and reading the stories that would eventually shape his own work.
"A lot of it comes from Willy Wonka and Tim Burton. You see Terrell Owens and those guys growing up, and you want to play like them," Marty said on Friday. "At the same time, watching 'Edward Scissorhands' or 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' or 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,' all of these movies inspired me from childhood just the same way watching Michael Jordan or Hakeem Olajuwon play. Tim Burton was my Michael Jordan."
Families wandered into the store or heard about it on social media throughout the weekend, and even Julian Edelman stopped by on Friday to support his teammate. Marty has found that his new and former teammates, friends around the league and teammates of his brother Michael, who plays for the Seahawks, have embraced his ventures.
"It's really cool because I think a lot of guys know that I'm different, and they accept it. In the locker room in football, it's one of the most eclectic groups of people from all over the world … Everyone meshes so well, so we have all different dynamics of people," Marty said. "For me, everyone knows that I'm a little weird but we speak the same language, which is football. As long as I show up and my stiff arm is working and my moves are working, I think everybody is ok with the things that I create, but a lot of guys think it's very cool."
ith another children's book author in the Patriots locker room, Marty said he and Malcolm Mitchell have connected over their mutual passions and he has offered guidance to the rookie.
"I try to help and mentor him as much as I can with different things, not just making a book but becoming a company and running a business. The dynamic is a bit different right now the way we do things," Marty said. "We talk all the time. I'm super proud of him."
Being able to juggle an NFL career as well as creating art is no easy task. Difficult as it may be, his passions coincide and keep things exciting.
"If I'm not creating, I'm not playing as well as I should play. I have to be doing all three things – hanging with my family, creating and playing football because it makes me most balanced," Marty said. "When I first started working on my first film, that's when I made my first Pro Bowl. I was doing both at the same time, so I try to keep that dynamic in my life because that's when I feel most sane."
For more pictures from the pop-up shop, check out the gallery below.
Martellus Bennett's pop-up shop to celebrate his new children's book and its companion app, "Hey A.J. It's Saturday," includes signings, readings and a run through of the app. The shop is open June 17-19 on 91 Newbury Street in Boston.