TEMPLE, Texas — On July 1, 2021, the world of college athletics changed. Athletes were now able to profit off of their name, image and likeness. Star players could sell jerseys in their name, hold clinics, accept sponsors and more.
Next thing we know, companies and boosters were rushing in to be the first one to cash in.
Caleb Williams has landed three NIL deals with Beats, Fanatics and grooming brand Faculty. Longhorns' own Bijan Robinson has signed with Lamborghini Austin. Baylor star, Richard Reese, announces a deal with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (how fitting).
This opened up a new door with many layers and various complications. It all starts with recruiting at the high school level.
It's the best time of the year. High school football season in Central Texas is filled with Friday nights under the lights and do or die post season play.
Some of these athletes hope to make it to the next level... with one added complication.
"It puts some pressure on the kids, it puts some pressure on the families," Terry Gerik, Connally High School head football coach, said. "Instead of maybe choosing where that kid may have the best fit, he may be choosing something because of money.”
Since the NCAA's decision, college athletes have been able to profit off of their name, image and likeness -- also known as NIL.
"Your name, image and likeness is not because of the last name you’re given. You have to go do commercials. You have a contractual obligation," Scott Stewart, Temple High School head football coach, said. "This is all stacked on top of full time student, stacked on top of full time athlete.”
When Junior season hits, all eyes are on the recruitment process. Each Friday night is a chance to showcase your talents.
"I never lost myself. I was never wondering when the offers would come. I never became impatient," Taurean York, senior RB and LB at Temple High School and Baylor commit, said. "I know I work hard and I knew it would pay off in the long run. And eventually, it did.”
From Wildcat Stadium to McLane Stadium, senior Taurean York is officially a Bear and after 120 tackles this season, he’s Baylor bound.
York is the kind of athlete who takes the extra step to set himself up for success.
“Taurean’s one that he doesn’t need as much help. He brings in his own scouting report every Monday morning,” Stewart said. “He watches film and if I don’t share game footage with him by 12 a.m., I get a text.”
The moment NIL was passed, York did his research and saw a positive future.
“I think it’s right that you’re getting compensation because you’re bringing in a lot of revenue for these programs. It can be a negative or a downside if you can’t handle it the right way,” York said. “As long as you have guidance and care with money, I think it’s a good thing.”
Down I-35, one junior Cadet is in the heart of his recruitment process.
“He’s got a lot of schools looking at him,” Gerik said. “Really and truly he has all the major schools in the country except for Alabama and Georgia right now.”
Kobe Black has offers from 25 schools, and now NIL is one more thing for him to think about. It’s an aspect he considers with his college decision.
“I wont say it plays a huge part, but it does play a part. Obviously, I want to take advantage,” Black, junior WR and DB at Connally High School, said. “If I go to a college and they have that, that’s just a plus for me. It will be good to have a little extra money just because of who I am and helping out other businesses.”
Larger cities mean more NIL opportunities, and Kobe Black understands that, but he has other priorities.
“I don’t want to go to a place that is in the middle of nowhere. So, it kind of factors in a little bit,” Black said. “I just want to go somewhere where I can go play early, get a degree and get coached by the best.”
These are 17 and 18 year old athletes who have to balance school, sports and now NIL, with the advice and support from their coaches and parents.
“It’s not my responsibility, but I’ll be dadgum if I let these kids be sent out to the wolves,” Stewart said.
“You have to find a right fit for you and throw all of the NIL out,” Gerik said. “If the NIL wasn’t there, what school would you pick? And that’s probably where you should go.”
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