ATLANTA ( Associated Press) — Last season, the most notable moment in Will Lewis’ career as a college football player may have been eating an unpeeled banana,
A year later, the Kentucky quarterback has become an interesting NFL prospect with an active and entertaining TikTok account. This combination of personality and athletic ability has never been more valuable in college athletics.
The first year of the name, image and likeness era of college sports has allowed thousands of athletes to capitalize on their fame and Lewis is one of the most prominent. But as the saying goes: with great power comes great responsibility.
Lewis recently told the Associated Press at the inaugural NIL Summit held in Atlanta, “I think if anything, NIL really helps young individuals to become men and become women first and just those older, adults.” decisions and helps to understand how the world works.”
For Lewis, that means balancing short-term gains with long-term goals and ensuring that the brand he’s building as a player can successfully become the face of an NFL franchise.
“If you’re in college doing a million deals, who are you?” Said Beth Lewis, Will’s mother. “Maybe you don’t care. But with Will, I think he has a strong identity. So we have to be careful how we navigate the water.”
The NCAA lifted a year ago a ban on athletes being compensated for the use of their name, image or likeness. This Friday, one of the biggest changes in the history of college athletics. It regulated the market lightly and lacked uniformity, without detailed guidelines and with a patchwork of state laws.
Results have been positive for most athletesBut angry college coaches and administrators Worried about how NIL has already sneaked into recruitment and become corrupt.
Lewis, a Connecticut native, said he’s signed about 13 endorsement contracts over the past year, working with an agency called Athlete Advantage based in Lexington, Kentucky, home of the Wildcats. Deals include a Lexington car dealership, a national apparel brand, and a race horse named Will of War from one of Kentucky’s well-farmed farms.
He said that he has also turned down many opportunities.
“With the current setup right now, we have to defend ourselves,” he said. “But we need to understand how some do deals, how many deals we do, what kind of deals, what kind of companies we are working with, how does it reflect our brand and our image and its What could be the results. ,
Before college athletes were paid for things like autographs, appearances, and advertising, Lewis became interested in the benefits of brand management.
Jim Cavalle, founder of INFLCR, a company that works with schools on NIL programming and compliance, said he first met Lewis in 2018, when the quarterback was a freshman at Penn State.
“(Will) came to me right after. He shook my hand, questioned me what I had talked about on brand building, social media, how often should he post, what should he post about,” Cavalle said.
Lewis spent three seasons at Penn State as a least-used backup before relocating to Kentucky after the 2020 season, where he became a starter. Even before he took a picture for Wildcats, he became famous on the internet after a TikTok video in which he was seen eating a highly ripe banana with its peel on. spread rapidly.
After leading the Wildcats to a 10-win season, Lewis’s potential was discussed. The 6-foot-3, 232-pound Lewis has a chance of being a first-round draft pick in 2023.
Beautiful, charismatic, social media savvy and QB1: Lewis was inspired to take advantage of zero liberties and many people were interested in representing him. Cavalle cautioned Lewis not to rush into anything and to avoid long-term commitments.
“Here’s the thing: Agents really want to sign you for zero so they can build a relationship with you with a little help from your zero. But their hope is that you’re going to sign for them to do your NFL contract. are,” Cavalle said he told Lewis.
Beth Lewis declined to reveal how much her son earned in NIL deals. Whatever he has earned during Zero’s first year, there is a good chance he could top it in 2022.
Beth Lewis said Will Williams is also working with Morris Endeavor, a talent agency with a sports roster that includes Tom Brady and Kevin Durant. He said he had no obligation to sign it with the agency when it entered the draft.
Will Lewis said he would like to refine the content he creates and his social media strategy.
“But it’s also really tough as a quarterback,” he said. “Because you can’t have your fan base and your teammates and your coaches can see you posting on social media and be like, ‘Does this matter to them more than the main thing,’ which Is it football?'”
Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at http://www.appodcasts.com.
More Associated Press College Football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25