Looking Back at Name, Image and Likeness Deals in the 2021 College Football Season

Looking Back at Name, Image and Likeness Deals in the 2021 College Football Season article feature image
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Brian Bahr/Getty Images. Pictured: Spencer Rattler.

On July 1, Name, Image and Likeness came on to the scene and college athletes all of a sudden could get paid for endorsement deals and social media. The floodgates opened, but did companies get their value from using college athletes?

Perhaps. But that would only be because the initial announcements got so much publicity.

Yes, LSU gymnast Olivia Dunne and Fresno State women’s basketball players Haley and Hannah Cavinder got big money, but among the college football players that smiled at the money in their bank account, almost none of them delivered.

Unlike other endorsement deals, the rules stipulate that companies can’t pay a player by performance, which means that there are no incentives and no pullback if a player doesn’t play well or even leaves the team.

The lack of success of the first class of NIL makes one wonder if companies are going to be more hesitant into the basketball season or even if it manifests itself in the dollars offered to college football players next season. Others suggest that the so-called failures of this class means nothing, as name, image and likeness will merely serve for some as an inducement by a booster to lure a certain player to a school, even though technically that’s not allowed.

Below we highlight some of the biggest names in NIL this season and how those deals look in hindsight.

Notable NIL Deals

Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma

Rattler was the odds-on favorite to cash in the most on NIL as the Heisman favorite. He signed deals with Raising Canes and Fowler Auto, a car dealership that gave him two cars. He also signed a sizeable autograph deal and was the first player to have a public signing — at The National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago. But he was benched during the Texas game, freshman Caleb Williams took over and Rattler was all of a sudden QB2. He’s since announced his transfer to South Carolina. 

D’Eriq King, QB, Miami

King prided himself as being one of the first out of the gate with a slew of NIL deals. He immediately signed deals with College Hunks Hauling Junk moving company, Murphy’s Auto Group and a bar named The Wharf. He co-founded a business called Dreamfield, a site where people and companies could book college athletes for appearances. He later signed a deal with the NHL’s Florida Panthers to be an ambassador. But King turned into an afterthought after the Hurricanes got beat by Alabama and Michigan State. King hurt his shoulder and was out for the season and finished his season with three touchdowns and four interceptions.

DJ Uiagalelei, QB, Clemson

Uiagalelei, who was marketed by a firm run by influencer and social media icon Gary Vaynerchuk, was the only player to be featured in a national commercial (Dr Pepper). He also had a prominent deal with Bojangles. Although Clemson finished the season 10-3, Uiagalelei struggled, ending the year with 10 TDs and 9 INTs. 

JT Daniels, QB, Georgia

Daniels was also supposed to be a big winner, but he was hurt several times during the season. Even though he’s 7-0 as a Bulldogs starter, he was eventually replaced by Stetson Bennett. Daniels had a big reported six-figure deal with a new trading card company called Superglow. 

Bryce Young, QB, Alabama

Young might be the only one who has seemed to have worked out given that Young and the Crimson Tide have consistently been in the national title conversation. Alabama coach Nick Saban said early in the season that Young had signed $1 million in deals, but it’s been tough to get a handle on the number. He signed a deal with CashApp and a trading card deal with Leaf. He also signed a local Tuscaloosa deal with Logan’s Roadhouse.

Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina

There were big plans for Howell this season. Unlike the others, he made it through the season, but after a bowl loss to South Carolina, the Tarheels finished the 2021 campaign with a 6-7 record. Once considered a potential No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft, he’s not currently mentioned as the best prospect at the position. Howell also had a huge Superglow deal. 

Myles Brennan, QB, LSU

Brennan was in line to be the Tigers starter, but he broke his arm before the season and never played. Before he got injured he signed five deals — Raising Canes, Smoothie King, GameCoin, Small Sliders and Hollingsworth Richards Ford. All might not be lost. Although Brennan initially said he was entering the transfer portal, he is now back in Baton Rouge for another go.

Quinn Ewers, QB, Ohio State

Ewers left his Texas high school before his senior year and signed on with Ohio State, just so that he could cash in on a name, image and likeness deal. Ewers signed a huge autograph deal with GTSM Marketing for a reported $1.4 million. He took two snaps for the Buckeyes and has since announced a transfer to Texas. 

Emory Jones & Anthony Richardson, QBs, Florida

Both QBs signed deals with Outback Steakhouse and Richardson signed a deal with Gainesville Dodge as well as activated his AR-15 merchandise line. But both suffered from relevance problems, as the Gators lost five out of the last seven games and didn’t play in a major bowl game.

Graham Mertz, QB, Wisconsin

Mertz was the first player in the NIL to introduce his own logo and come out with a merchandise line. Things fizzled pretty quickly for Mertz, whose Badgers lost 3 of their first four games. They finished the season strong, but Mertz wasn’t a big enough star to believe that anyone in Madison would want to wear something with his logo on it. 

Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon

Thibodeaux might be the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, but he wasn’t as top-of-mind this season as we thought he would be. Thibodeaux had deals with Nike co-founder Phil Knight for an NFT and launched his own cryptocurrency, $JREAM, which failed to get significant traction. 

McKenzie Milton, QB, FSU

Milton put himself out there as a face of NIL, as he co-founded Dreamfield with King. But Milton’s season highlight was as the No. 2 QB in almost engineering an upset of Notre Dame. After starting the next two games, he was benched again and never returned except in mop-up duty. 

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