The Clemson QB already has a national TV commercial and a fast food sponsorship — but the game will always come first for Big Cinco.
Filling the shoes of No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick and generational prospect Trevor Lawrence as starting quarterback at Clemson is difficult enough, but expectations are still lofty for the Tigers this year all the same — even with a new quarterback who’s only made a single start.
But for DJ Uiagalelei, the intrigue surrounding his debut as a full-time starter combined with all the opportunities afforded to the college game’s top stars thanks to name, image, and likeness reforms is the kind even Lawrence never experienced. And though Uiagalelei has already secured a couple of bags courtesy of Dr. Pepper and fast food chain Bojangles, Saturday’s marquee game against Georgia is his undisputed No. 1 focus.
And if you want to know who to thank for this, send a gift basket to DJ’s mom.
While much of college athletics’ inaugural NIL class inks deals early and often, Uiagalelei says he’s taking things as they come. He’s able to do so thanks to the support of his business team — which notably includes his mother, Tausha.
“For me I just let my team handle it,” Uiagalelei said via Sports Illustrated. “I have a marketing team, I let them handle it, my mom handle it. They do all this stuff for me, I’m just there. All the relationships [are] through them.”
What better person is there to help you build your brand than the one person who knows you better than you know yourself?
“I’m just here playing football. I’m just trying to focus on that, that’s my main goal,” he said. “First to be a student, then be an athlete. I’ll just let everybody else handle NIL.”
The Big 5inco Following
He may be just 20 years old, but the St. John Bosco High School product is already a household name among college football fans — even if that name is a bit difficult to spell on the first try.
As his first campaign as Clemson’s QB1 arrives, let’s take stock of Uiagalelei digital reach and how his preseason buzz stacks up within the greater NCAA andscape:
- Instagram followers: 159,000
- Twitter Followers: 39,300
- Brand name: Uiagalelei embraces the moniker “Big 5inco,” which applies to his size and jersey number.
- Heisman Trophy odds: +900 (No. 2 overall)
- Ranked No. 28 in ESPN’s top 100 college football players
Uiagalelei is the No. 9 quarterback on ESPN’s top 100 list. Just ahead of him at No. 8? This weekend’s opposition, Georgia signal-caller JT Daniels.
With two more years of college eligibility even after the season wraps, DJ Uiagalelei is likely to reach legitimate millionaire status well before he signs an NFL check.
And while young guns like Alabama quarterback Bryce Young and Ohio State’s Quinn Ewers have reached seven-figure territory already, Uiagalelei’s earning potential is not to be underestimated.
- NIL Agency: VaynerSports
- Key endorsement deals: Dr. Pepper, Bojangles
- In his own words: “I love it, it’s cool. You get to show a little different personality of yourself. I think it’s cool for football players to be able to do that.”
Scoring deals with two national brands after having only started one game is remarkable, but such is the life of the starting QB at an elite national program.
Expect to see his first Dr. Pepper’s “Fansville” television ad frequently throughout the college football season. The campaign, an episodic parody that began in 2019, features former Oklahoma superstar Brian Bosworth as Fansville’s local sheriff. This year, in addition to adding former NFL pro-Joe Theismann, Uiagalelei becomes the first student athlete to participate in a national TV promo campaign.
“DJ is an outstanding athlete and one of the most formidable college football players in the NCAA,” said Keurig Dr. Pepper CMO Andrew Springate via Forbes. “Dr Pepper is proud of its relationship with college football, and excited to align with an athlete that embodies the spirit of the game like DJ.”
Big Cinco will certainly have access to many, many more avenues to cash in on NIL while he’s a Tiger. And while he won’t hesitate to remind you that “It’s Bo time” thanks to his Bojangles partnership, it’s notable that such a young man already has such a strong team in place that ultimately allows him to stay laser-focused on the action on the field.
The NIL era feels like a brave new world. But DJ Uiagalelei’s ability to stay grounded and focused on what’s most important despite so many new distractions is a throwback — and as timeless as it gets.