Bryce Young, Football, Alabama
Alabama’s current QB has set a lucrative precedent. It pays to be the starting quarterback for Alabama, and Nick Saban can now weaponize this idea for future recruiting. Sophomore QB Bryce Young reportedly earned over $1 million in NIL deals…before making his first collegiate start. With zero career starts under his belt, Young inked deals with Cash App and memorabilia outlets such as Leaf, Onyx and Wild Card.
Young is a five-star recruit out of Southern California and possesses the ‘skills to pay the bills’. A bit undersized for the position (6-foot, 190 pounds), Young makes up for his lack of size by having an advanced mind for the game. He reads defenses extraordinarily well for a young player, and has the arm talent to deliver the ball to Alabama’s bevy of skill players. Young will be a star at the next level.
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Antwan Owens, Football, Jackson State
Somebody has to be the first. In the case of collegiate athletes signing NIL deals, Antwan Owens got the ball rolling quickly. On midnight of July 1, Owens celebrated an endorsement deal with 3 Kings Grooming — a Black-owned hair product company — making him the first D1 athlete to sign an NIL deal. Hundreds of deals from other players soon followed as college athletes across the nation celebrated the welcomed change.
The amount of money Owens received in this particular deal is unclear. Of course, it’s not overly important to know how much the former Georgia Tech rusher is set to make. What’s important is that the announcement signaled the start of student athletes being paid their worth. Owens will be the answer to trivia questions for the remainder of history.
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Hanna and Haley Cavinder, Basketball, Fresno State
It’s a two-for-one deal as it pertains to the Cavinder sisters of Fresno State. The basketball playing twins have been dominating social media over the last couple of years. Across all platforms, the Cavinders have over four million followers/fans. They’re especially big on TikTok, where their following rivals the platform’s queen — LSU’s Olivia Dunne. Make no mistake about it, these girls can also get it done on the basketball court. Haley is the reigning Player of the Year in the Mountain West and Hanna has been selected to the all-conference team two years in a row.
To nobody’s surprise, the twins cashed in early and often with the new NIL ruling. In some ways, the Cavinders have emerged as the face of this new era of college athletics. On July 1, the twins celebrated new endorsement deals with Boost Mobile and Six Star Pro Nutrition while in New York City. They recently announced a unique deal with PSD Underwear which will feature a Cavinder-inspired underwear line. It’s safe to assume the twins have already made upwards of six figures based on all of their deals.
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Bo Nix, Football, Auburn
In one of the more fitting NIL deals signed by a collegiate athlete, Bo Nix linked up with fast food chain Bojangles over the Summer. Nix is a star on the rise in the SEC, and plays an exciting brand of football. The dual-threat QB excels at making plays on the run and is always looking to throw the ball down field. The southern-based Bojangles isn’t the only company Nix has paired up with in recent months.
The three-year Auburn starter had no trouble securing a handful of NIL deals since the new rules took effect. On July 1, Nix became one of the first athlete to announce an NIL deal when it was revealed he had signed a contract with Milo’s Tea. Milo’s has no shame in playing both sides of a rivalry. Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Malachi Moore is also partnered with the team company — a major rival to Nix’s Auburn Tigers.
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Spencer Rattler, Football, Oklahoma
Spencer Rattler has emerged as one of the more intriguing cases of the NIL-era. Rattler is a former stud recruit out of Arizona. 247sports ranked Rattler as the No. 1 QB in the 2019 class, and he was the only pro-style quarterback to receive a five-star grade that season. Rattler sat as a freshman, but starred as a sophomore which led to the Sooner QB earning some Heisman hype entering his junior campaign. It all came crashing down in 2021 as Rattler struggled mightily and was eventually benched.
It begs the question, does a student athlete have to be good to earn money? Will their potential deals be solely linked to their on-field production? Rattler is estimated to make upwards of $800,000 based on the deals he signed prior to the season. Fowler Automotive Group — one of the biggest car dealers in Oklahoma — gifted Rattler two automobiles after agreeing to a partnership. Will those vehicles be repossessed now that the QB is benched?
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Bryan Bresee, Football, Clemson
Clemson pass rusher Bryan Bresee is an unmistakable figure. That’s what makes him an ideal client for any business looking for recognizable athletes. The 6-foot-5, 290-pound 20-year-old has been an internet sensation ever since he was dominating smaller humans during his high school football days in Maryland. The highly-touted recruit suffered an unfortunate setback in September when he tore his ACL in a double overtime matchup versus NC State. It’s debilitating news for a player who was on the rise for a top program.
While it’s never good to see somebody get injured, Bresee’s particular situation does perfectly illustrate the positive benefits of the NIL rules. Though he will be sidelined for the remainder of the year, Bresee still has a chance to earn a sizable income as he nurses back to health. Bresee’s current list of partnerships include Bojangles, Fred Caldwell Chevrolet, and PlantFuel.
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Hercy Miller, Basketball, Tennessee State
Meet the highest paid college athlete in the country. Hercy Miller is an incoming freshman at Tennessee State who inked a deal with Web Apps America for a whopping $2 million. The 6-foot-2 guard is a three-star recruit out of Minnesota. He has yet to play a single college game. Miller also just so happens to be the son of rapper, label executive and entrepreneur Percy Miller (also known as Master P).
It goes to show that you don’t necessarily have to be a star player to get paid. Miller gained a majority of his notoriety due to having a famous father. However, the 19-year-old was also targeted by the company due to their desire to support student athletes hailing from HBCU’s (historically black college and universities). Miller selected Tennessee State over offers from UCLA, USC, Arizona and LSU.
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Jordan Bohanan, Basketball, Iowa
Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon loudly supported the proposed NIL rules which would allow college athletes to cash-in on their name, image and likeness. The longtime Hawkeye pushed for a change over the last several years. He announced that he would return to school if the bill was passed prior to the 2021 season. It passed and Bohannon is now set to be back for his sixth year on campus. Of course, all athletes were given the option to return in 2022 following the COVID-stricken 2021 campaign.
It looks like Bohannon will take full advantage of the extra season. Bohannon and Iowa Boomin’ — a fireworks store — announced their partnership shortly after the clock struck midnight on July 1. He’s made several paid appearances in the ensuing months, and even started selling a line of clothing sporting his own personal logo.
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Derek Stingley Jr., Football, LSU
Derek Stingley Jr. has been an impact player for the Tigers ever since he stepped foot in Baton Rogue. It comes as no surprise that the nation’s top corner has had no trouble inking several NIL deals. He’s already partnered up with Raisin’ Canes — a fast food chain which specializes in chicken tenders. He also made deals with some local businesses including a Baton Rogue bar by the name of Walk-On’s and a Lafayette-based food delivery service called Waitr. Much like many of his peers, Stingley Jr. inked a deal with a notable car dealership named Jimmy Granger’s Ford.
One major factor that cannot be overlooked is Stingley Jr’s jersey number. He dons the No. 7 for the Tigers, a storied numeral in the LSU history books. It was previously worn by all-time great LSU players including Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and Leonard Fournette. The revenue Stingley Jr. will earn from his jersey alone might be more than a majority of NIL deals signed by other players.
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Ga’Quincy “Kool-Aid” McKinstry, Football, Alabama
There isn’t a more perfect pairing among all of the partnerships that have been made public. Naturally, McKinstry struck an early deal with none other than…Kool-Aid. Yes, the company that is known for making the classic drink mix is now partnered with ‘Kool-Aid’ McKinstry. With a name like Kool-Aid, it’s easy to see why Alabama’s star cornerback is one of the most marketable athletes in Tuscaloosa.
Deals like these are why we wanted to see the NIL rules take effect in the first place. Student athletes getting together with big brands, earning more exposure, and getting paid for their efforts in the process. McKinstry celebrated the partnership by tweeting out a photo captioned with “OH YEAH!” (the signature saying of the company’s mascot, the Kool-Aid Man).
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Trey Knox, Football, Arkansas
On July 1, PetSmart named Arkansas wideout Trey Knox as the first athlete it would be partnered with under the new NIL rules. PetSmart is a nationwide supermarket that contains everything a pet owner might need for their furry friends. Knox himself is the owner of a Siberian husky named Blue. He announced the partnership with a picture of himself and Blue advertising the superstore. Of course, Knox will be happy with the compensation he’s receiving for his role in the deal. However, Blue might be getting the best end of this bargain. Just imagine all of the free toys and treats PetSmart will be sending to the Knox residence. Blue is going to be living his best life in short order.
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Lexi Sun, Volleyball, Nebraska
Lexi Sun is an extraordinary volleyball player. For those who aren’t familiar with women’s college volleyball, Sun is simply one of the nation’s elite talents. The gifted outside hitter started her college career at Texas where she was named an All-Big 12 first-team selection during her lone season in Austin. She then transferred to Nebraska and has been an All-Big Ten selection two years in a row, and helped the Cornhuskers make the 2018 national title game. 2020 was Sun’s senior year, but she made the decision to return after hearing about the NIL rules.
In August, Sun announced a deal with Borsheims — a jewelry store located in Omaha. They released a line called “The Lexi Sun Edit,” which features a collection of rings and other accessories inspired by Sun. She didn’t stop there — Sun also released her own clothing line called Ren Athletics, which is comprised of active wear suitable for both men and women.
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D’Eriq King, Football, Miami
D’Eriq King was one of the nation’s most exciting quarterbacks during his four-year career at the University of Houston. However, he didn’t start becoming a household name until he transferred to Miami. Being the Hurricanes’ starting QB is an enviable position for any young gunslinger. The Miami fans are loud and proud, and anybody suiting up under center for the Canes is an instant celebrity. King cashed in on his new situation in a big way.
He inked a deal which included a hefty signing bonus with College Hunks Hauling Junk — a moving service. Additionally, King — along with FSU QB McKenzie Milton — helped create a digital marketplace, Dreamfield, which both players are part owners of. In total, King has signed with at least six businesses including the NHL’s Florida Panthers in a first-of-its-kind partnership. King earned $20,000 on the first day deals were allowed to be signed, and is being paid $2,000 per hour whenever he’s set to make an appearance.
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Kayvon Thibodeaux, Football, Oregon
Kayvon Thibodeaux is going to make a lot money in the near future. The probable No. 1 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, Thibodeaux projects to be a star at the next level. It’s only logical that the Oregon pass rusher gets a head start on his career earnings. Thibodeaux has his own NFT (non-fungible token).
Essentially, an NFT is a digital collectible that stores information (usually a short video-clip or a piece of artwork) that is then owned by the buyer upon purchase. It helps to have friends in the right places. Thibodeaux worked with Nike co-founder (and noted Oregon alum) Phil Knight and Nike designer Tinker Hatfield to create the art. His partnership with the corporate giant is said to be worth six figures.
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Quinn Ewers, Football, Ohio State
Ewers will likely be one of the first of many top recruits who choose to forgo their final year of high school eligibility to cash in on NIL deals. The Ohio State gunslinger joined the club just a few months after his 18th birthday. Ewers wasted no time inking several deals, which will set up the Buckeye QB for the remainder of his collegiate career. His most lucrative payout will be issued by GTSM — one of the biggest athlete autograph companies. GTSM decided to make Ewers its first-ever athlete signing and the two sides agreed to a multi-year deal that is reportedly worth over $1 million.
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Montana Fouts, Softball, Alabama
The NIL rules aren’t only limited to fast food joints and car dealerships. In today’s day and age, there are seemingly an unlimited amount of ways to make money on one’s name, image, and likeness. Alabama softball pitcher Montana Fouts knows this first hand. The First-Team All-American is a superstar on the field and on Cameo. For those that don’t know, Cameo is a website where people can pay celebrities and athletes for personalized videos.
Fouts is the most requested collegiate athlete on the app — and it’s not even close. Fouts has been booked at nearly double the rate of the next closest student athlete, Kentucky basketball guard Davion Mintz. Additionally, making revenue from Cameo is especially efficient. It costs $55 to get a 30-second personalized video from Fouts. Businesses have to pay even more, with Fouts’ Cameo rates running $385 for companies looking to have the softball superstar endorse their brand.
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Shareef O’Neal, Basketball, LSU
Another college athlete with a particularly famous father, Shareef O’Neal is the son of four-time NBA Champion Shaquille O’Neal. Shareef gained notoriety as a high school prospect, and committed to play college basketball at UCLA (after de-committing from Arizona). Health issues led to the decision that O’Neal would sit out his entire freshman season for the Bruins. Once he returned to the floor, former coach Steve Alford had been replaced by Mick Cronin. O’Neal failed to crack Cronin’s rotation, which led to his decision to leave the program.
O’Neal landed at his father’s alma mater, LSU. He played 10 games for the Tigers last season, and figures to be an integral piece for the new-look squad in 2022. In terms of earnings potential, O’Neal is extremely high on the list of potential candidates. He inked a deal with the joint-venture of Influential (a leading marketing business) and Mirriad (an AI-based marketing platform) to become one of their social media proponents. The 21-year-old boasts a significant following on Instagram with over 2.6 million followers on the platform. He could make considerable bank by advertising any sort of product on there alone.
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Bubba Bolden, Football, Miami
Former USC standout Bubba Bolden looks to be the game’s next great safety. A perfect blend of size, speed, and explosiveness, Bolden has all the tools to become a premier defensive back at the NFL level. He joined a list of multiple high-profile Hurricanes on the season-ending injury list in October. Although, a bright future looks to still be in the cards for Bolden — who should be recovered from shoulder surgery at this time next year.
Before he hears his name at the NFL Draft, Bolden is set to have a massive payday during his final year on campus. Bolden transferred to Miami following his freshman year, and it’s proven to be a wise decision for the young safety. Like his team’s QB, D’Eriq King, Bolden also signed on with College Hunks Hauling Junk. Bolden is set to make $20,000 from that one deal alone.
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McKenzie Milton, Football, FSU
Who says backup quarterbacks can’t get in on the NIL fun? Of course, McKenzie Milton isn’t your average backup. The former UCF standout was once a Heisman candidate. The 6-foot gunslinger accounted for 92 touchdowns over his three seasons with the Knights. In 2017-18, Milton was the starting QB for a UCF team that went 25-1 over a two-year stretch and even has a (flimsy) claim for the 2017 national title.
A devastating leg injury in UCF’s final regular season game of 2018 kept Milton out for two years as he nursed back to health. Once he was ready to make his return, it was clear that a reunion with UCF would not be in the cards. Milton transferred to the QB-needy Florida State Seminoles. He’s started a handful of games for the Noles in 2021, but has mostly played behind sophomore Jordan Travis. Only being a part-time player has not stopped Milton from cashing-in. He joined Miami QB D’Eriq King as a founder of the platform Dreamfield, which will serve as an outlet for student athletes to book appearances, endorsements, and anything else NIL-related.
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Paige Bueckers, Basketball, UConn
Bueckers will soon be the face of Women’s basketball. The 20-year-old phenom is already widely considered to be the best player at the collegiate level. She dominated for UConn as a freshman, putting up averages of 20.0 PPG, 5.7 APG, 4.9 RPG and 2.3 SPG with stellar 52/46/87 shooting splits. Her infectious style of play and ability to toggle between scorer and playmaker made her a star at Hopkins High School in Minnesota. Her massive celebrity will continue to grow as she continues to dominate the sport.
It was expected that Bueckers would be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the NIL rules. She took her time deciding on which avenue to take, but in November – right before the Women’s college season kicked off – Bueckers reached her first agreement on a deal. The UConn star agreed to a multi-year partnership with StockX – an online marketplace for sneakers and other collectibles. Bueckers will help design exclusive products for the brand including footwear and other apparel.
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Olivia Dunne, Gymnastics, LSU
There may not be a college athlete with more money-making potential than LSU gymnast Olivia “Livvy” Dunne. The 19-year-old has emerged as a social media giant thanks to her massive followings across multiple platforms. Dunne currently has over 1.3 million followers on her Instagram page, which pales in comparison to the 4.5 million fans she’s accrued on TikTok.
It didn’t take long for Dunne to begin cashing in on her likeness. In August, Dunne signed with WME Sports — becoming the agency’s first-ever NIL athlete. Shortly after, she announced that she was entering a partnership with the activewear brand Vuori. This is just the first of many deals Dunne will likely agree to during her collegiate career — which will last, at least, another three years.
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