For most sneakerheads, special pairs unavailable to the general public made in limited numbers for team-specific players and staff are unobtainable.

It's an out-of-budget unicorn that rarely sees the light of day, but there's a contingent of collectors within sneaker culture who only shop for the rarest kicks, which makes Gabriel Salazar's acquisition of player-exclusive Jordan IIIs handed out within North Carolina's football program earlier this year an enviable get for his store.

"By no means is acquiring player exclusives easy," said Salazar, the owner of Greensboro's Request Boutique, in an exclusive interview with 247Sports. "It’s really hard to get my hands on an Oregon PE. Being close to this school (UNC) helped. After this commotion, they’re probably worth a little more now. I saw one listed (recently) at $4,000 and it sold in an hour."

Nine North Carolina football players will serve four-game suspensions for selling their exclusive sneakers including sophomore quarterback Chazz Surratt, along with projected defensive line starters Malik Carney and Tomon Fox. Four additional players will miss time for selling pairs.

UNC ordered 175 pairs of the team-edition shoes, in which 152 pairs were provided to players and staff on Jan. 11, 2018. The NCAA deemed the shoe sales as a secondary Level III violation after North Carolina self-reported the issue. Most of the pairs that left the university have since been recovered.

“The NCAA has now put fear in the kids,” Salazar said. “I had a pair (of PEs) that I was hopefully going to be able to get, but that person is way too scared now. I don’t want them to get in trouble and I’m not pressing the issue."

Salazar, one of two consignment store owners named as an individual in the NCAA's case summary, says policing a student-athlete's means to make money with footwear given to them is unfair.

“Let’s say you’re a student athlete, you wake up early as hell and have go to practice then classes,” Salazar said. “By the time you’re done, you’ve been awake 12 or 13 hours grinding for the school. Meetings, practice, everything. You can’t have a job, obviously. You get no money. Your family probably wouldn’t have sent you to school if not for the scholarship. Your coach calls you in a meeting and gives you shoes worth $3,000. What are you going to do?

"I don’t understand how they can give these kids expensive sneakers and expect them to keep them. It should be their property."

Salazar declined to discuss the matter with UNC's compliance office in January, according to the case summary.

An old Instagram post from Request Boutique revealed the store was able to acquire at least 11 pairs of the rare gems through various resources, some coming not necessarily from within the athletic department. Salazar is not giving up his plug and declined to say how much he paid for them.

One active listing via Flight Club, one of the most well-known sneaker consignment shops worldwide, set it's price for a size 13 of the Tar Heel Retros at $12,000. Completed eBay listings feature varying sale prices for the special sneakers, including one in a size 9.5 that sold for $1,100 on May 24.

It's an extreme challenge however to ensure authenticity through a secondary market outlet like eBay, where fakes are prevalent, especially on high-end items. 

It takes a special client to buy sneakers that fetch thousands of dollars on the resale market, Salazar says. Raleigh native and Houston Rockets forward P.J. Tucker flashed a pair of the UNC IIIs on his Instagram this week while Denver Nuggets guard Isaiah Thomas was spotted courtside at a recent WNBA game wearing a pair.

Unless Tucker and Thomas were on Nike's VIP list during the production process, those pairs on their feet are from North Carolina's allotment.

“You’re looking for a collector, maybe a really big fan of the school,” Salazar said. “It’s not a normal person. That’s a lot of shoes. Someone who appreciates the history behind the shoe is looking for (PEs).”

One way universities can regulate the sales of team-issued sneakers and apparel is making players return them after use. This started at Oregon in 2013 after two basketball players — Ben Carter and Dominic Artis — were suspended from the team for selling Jordan exclusives. In an interview with Complex earlier this year, Oregon equipment manager Kenny Farr says student-athletes know to return team-issued travel gear the following week after a game.

The Ducks place Jordan PEs under lock and key until a player graduates or exhausts their eligibility to avoid potential compliance issues. New Jordan Brand schools Michigan, Oklahoma and Florida are expected to institute similar guidelines — if they haven't done so already.

“There are guys who graduated and after the bowl game came in the next day and they had five pairs of Jordans worn only a couple of days,” Farr told Complex. “There is a lot of temptation for a 19-year-old when somebody is offering you quite a bit of money for shoes off your feet. We want to help them out.”

For owners of consignment boutiques, all that matters is getting these sneakers in their possession. Salazar says, “margins on a shoe like this are small. Anything I pay over $1,000 for, profit is usually really low.”

Request Boutique, which celebrates its three-year anniversary in September, caters to a primary customer base looking for sneakers that weren't necessarily easy to get on release day, but aren't breaking the bank, either. Much of the store's business comes from a pre-owned selection of footwear.

“There’s always going to be demand for the other stuff,” Salazar said. “But you’ve got to think about every customer. We want to see the $3,000 buyer, but we have the $100 buyer in mind, too.”