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Caleb Williams’ NIL Prospects Take Flight

Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams has a laundry list of NIL deals. As he promotes his latest with United, Boardroom talks with the star QB about NIL, business, and more.

Now that two years have passed since college sports’ name, image, and likeness era began, we have a good handful of athletes who have been there since the start. Caleb Williams — USC quarterback and projected top pick in the 2024 NFL Draft — is one of them, and he’s made more NIL deals than most.

Doing media for his new deal with United Airlines, Williams spoke to Boardroom about that partnership in particular and how the NIL landscape has evolved in the short time it’s been around.

“When [NIL] happened, it was just like a jumpstart,” Williams said. “Now there’s more of an understanding. People are getting smarter, people are getting better with this whole thing, which I think is great.”

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It’s been sort of a stock answer from the beginning that players want to be selective in their NIL deals, teaming up with brands whose values align with their own. That remains true. But Williams is speaking to something a little bit more. It seems NIL is becoming less transactional and more about partnerships that can carry beyond an athlete’s college days.

This United deal, for example, offers a seamless integration into Williams’ everyday life. He already flies United and already loves to travel (he’s an aisle seat guy, but really just covets the exit row). Yes, Williams will post about United on social and participate in photo shoots. He will promote the program the brand has introduced, adding direct flights this football season between college towns before select major matchups.

But he’s also been a United guy since far before NIL. He recalls family vacations and trips with his dad to camps around the country. He called United a staple in his life.

“I never really thought that you could even have a partnership with an airline, as an athlete,” he said. “I guess times have changed.”

To say the least. In addition to United, he also has deals with Playstation, Neutrogena, Beats By Dre, Fanatics, and more. While his exact earnings remain private, On3 estimates his NIL valuation at $2.6 million — a hefty sum for any college student, but a far cry from what he stands to make in the pros.

For now, that means Williams can go at his own pace.

“You learn how to add this portion of it to your life when you still have a lot of resources around you,” Williams said of navigating endorsements. “Doing it at this level, I think, has been great because you’re not making the money at pro level. The main reason for college is to prepare yourself for the next level, so I think it’s been great.”

On the field, it’s hard to figure out more ways Williams could prepare himself to be a pro. He already has a Heisman to headline his mile-long trophy case. Off the field, he leans on the team around him — the same family and friends who have advised him since high school — as he still gets a handle on the business world.

In the meantime, USC opens its season on Aug. 28 against San Jose State. USC’s road game that United will add direct flights for will be at Notre Dame on Oct. 14.

Just make sure that if you plan on making the trip to South Bend, you get an exit-row seat for the true Caleb Williams experience.

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About The Author
Russell Steinberg
Russell Steinberg
Russell Steinberg is an editor and writer at Boardroom. He came to the brand in 2021 with a decade of experience in sports journalism, primarily covering college basketball at SB Nation as a writer, reporter, and blog manager. In a previous life, he worked as a social media strategist and copywriter, handling accounts ranging from sports retail to luxury hotels and financial technology. Though he has mastered the subtweet, he kindly requests you @ him next time.