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Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Jeff Faine has become center of fashion

ORLANDO

The majority of his week is spent committing the intricate details of Jon Gruden's game plan to memory. But at this particular moment, Jeff Faine is demonstrating that he is just as adept in explaining why World War II era Japanese denim is some of the best money can buy. The Bucs center leads a visitor in his newly opened clothing store to a rack displaying the good stuff, a brand of jeans called Yoropiko, priced at more than $600. For Faine — the 27-year-old player spearheading the overhaul of what once was one of football's most wretched offensive lines — fashion is a passion. One of many, actually. But this goes well beyond looking good. It's about business and art and culture. So, Faine is putting the finishing touches on just his latest business endeavor, a place in his hometown that is part art gallery, part after-hours lounge and 100 percent cool.

Everything about downtown Orlando's newest retail establishment, Forty VII Clothing, screams Faine: the "T-shirt wall" used to artfully display the store's inventory of graphic tees; the pieces by local artists that adorn the walls and are available for purchase; the DJ booth on the upstairs balcony that helps fuel the festive atmosphere on weekends.

Nearly everyone employed at the store is a part-time artist or musician. Faine is neither, though he has plenty of artistic tendencies, from his extensive collection of paintings to his varied taste in music that includes an appreciation for jazz.

"I could sit back and enjoy life and not worry about money," said Faine, who grew up in Sanford, just northeast of Orlando. "This isn't about money. This is a creative outlet for me. I'm not the best artist. I can't play music.

"But this … this is my art."

He has a passion for football, too, which is among the reasons the Bucs targeted him as the centerpiece of their offseason retooling efforts, making him the highest-paid center in the NFL after signing a six-year, $37-million deal that included a $12-million guaranteed bonus. And Faine has become exactly what Tampa Bay hoped: the anchor of one of the youngest offensive lines in the NFL.

The 9-3 Bucs enter Monday's game at Carolina tied with the Panthers for the second-best record in the NFC. Down the stretch, Faine will continue to be a galvanizing force for his line mates.

And the principles he employs to push Davin Joseph, Arron Sears, Jeremy Trueblood and Donald Penn translate off the field, too.

As a result, Faine isn't familiar with failure as a player or as an entrepreneur. The Notre Dame alum has something of a Midas touch that has allowed him to succeed in several arenas. Faine, a first-round pick of the Browns in 2003, continues to run several successful ventures in the Cleveland area, including bars and restaurants. Although this foray into fashion in Central Florida would seem to come at a most inopportune time given the economic climate, Faine is undeterred.

"I've learned a lot of great lessons being around great coaches and great players like Derrick Brooks," he said. "It helps you learn how to be a leader. So, I push the team effort (in his businesses)."

Another reason this project has potential: It's personal. Faine owns two condos a short walk from this point at the intersection of Church and Magnolia. He wants to see the growing metropolitan atmosphere continue to develop, but he knows infrastructure is key.

It's no wonder, then, Faine is so willing to literally do the heavy lifting required to make this work. On the eve of the Nov. 26 grand opening, construction delays pushed final preparations to the last minute. There were shelves to be stocked, jeans to be hung, displays to be arranged.

"What does he do?" assistant manager Vince Maxwell asks. "He comes here straight from practice, jumps out of his Maybach, rolls his sleeves up and gets to work. And he was also pushing all of the rest of us to get it done. He was here till like 3 in the morning. I've known Jeff a long time, but right then and there, I realized he'll get his elbows dirty right along with us. I can see how he pushes his offensive line to be better."

On this day, the Bucs are off, but Faine is working feverishly. His BlackBerry chirps constantly, the sound of a hands-on owner. He knows his products in and out. He prefers the bold, "in your face" stuff like a certain lime green sweater by 10 Deep. He's also fond of William Rast jeans, a line produced by singer Justin Timberlake, and Greedy Genius street shoes. Faine is particularly excited about his Forty VII (a play off Orlando area code 407) collection due out in the spring. It's designed by Karle Strief, sister of Faine's former Saints teammate, Zach Strief.

Asked about Faine's leadership in a football setting, Gruden said, "It's not only as a player but as a behind-the-scenes leader. Those (linemen), they eat together every meal. If you go sit at their table, they tell you to get lost. They're all tight, and there's a genuine camaraderie there. Jeff Faine has a lot to do with that."

The Bucs are positioned to do some damage, and Faine loves the feeling.

"We control our own destiny," he said. "It's great that it's exciting to come to work every day."

With Faine, it seems that's true whether the work is in downtown Orlando or in the NFL's trenches.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Jeff Faine has become center of fashion 12/06/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 10, 2008 10:44pm]
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