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When NIL Gives Back

Not every college athlete’s earnings from their name, image, and likeness rights goes into their pocket — these four have decided to serve the greater good.

Remember all the hot takes pre-emptively lamenting the collapse of athlete integrity (and college sports in general) once name, image, and likeness rules erased the very idea of amateurism? That NCAA athletes would have their moral compasses forever distorted as soon as they were permitted to earn money off their achievements?

Well, that never happened. In fact, the NIL era has given us an altogether wholesome subcategory of athlete monetization.

Boardroom profiled Georgia quarterback JT Daniels at the beginning of the college football season, as he was not only one of the more prominent athletes to sign notable NIL partnerships early on, but made a point to share the benefits of those deals with his teammates. Now, across the nation, student athletes are going further and further in their efforts to pay it forward, from supporting charities, community nonprofit organizations, and beyond.

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Texas A&M’s Ainias Smith: No Aggie Left Behind

Ainias Smith is rightly seen as one of the nation’s most versatile offensive weapons. Listed as both a running back and wide receiver, Smith leads the Texas A&M Aggies in receptions and returned a kick for a touchdown against South Carolina.

But he has decided to be an even more valuable teammate.

Smith tweeted back on July 2 –the day after the NCAA NIL floodgates opened — that he would share any benefits with every one of his teammates. He aims to divide a percentage of his payouts evenly among them regardless of what the total figure turns out to be. Going a similar route as JT Daniels, Smith wants to extend a special thanks to the brothers in arms he runs out of the tunnel with every Saturday.

Though the junior playmaker does not have any publicly known endorsement deals as of this writing, look for him to keep his word when the day comes.

Texas’ Casey Thompson: Community Cameo MVP

Cameo, the platform on which celebrities and other public figures earn money to record special messages by request, mainly exists as an avenue for some quick profits on the side. And like many Cameo stars, Texas Longhorns quarterback Casey Thompson is available to record messages for $50 each — but he’s not pocketing the proceeds for his own benefit.

Thompson has stated that every dollar he earns from Cameo will go directly to the No Kid Hungry program. “All the proceeds will go to NoKidHungry.org,” Thompson said in a video appearing on his Cameo page, according to Sports Illustrated. “That’s an organization that helps bridge the gap between the one in every six Americans that go hungry every year. As many as 13 million children in America could go hungry this year, and I’m happy to donate all the proceeds to the organization.”

Pitt’s Jordan Addison: Helping Kids Dream Bigger

Pittsburgh sophomore Jordan Addison is one of the main reasons quarterback Kenny Pickett and the Panthers are having a magical season. They’ve become a fun watch as one of the best offenses in the country, but star pass-catcher Addison has kept himself grounded in his community despite all the extra national attention.

He’s mostly taken a wait-and-see approach regarding NIL deals so far, partnered with Tickets for Kids — a charitable group that provides at-risk children with inspiring experiences — to gift one lucky youth a ticket to Pitt’s Veteran’s Day game against ACC rivals North Carolina on Nov. 11. “Every kid should dream big!” Addison tweeted on Nov. 8 in announcing the partnership.

Tennessee’s John Fulkerson: Redefining “True to Your School”

Guard John Fulkerson is in his sixth season with the University of Tennessee basketball team. After over half a decade in Knoxville and now with the ability to earn from his name, image and likeness, Fulkerson will invest back into the place that invested in him.

Fulkerson will donate one dollar from his NIL earnings for every point he scores this season to the Tennessee Fund, which helps cover costs for the Volunteers’ athletic programs. “My time as a Tennessee student-athlete has been life-changing and everything I could have asked for,” Fulkerson said in a school release. “This year, I’ve been very blessed to capitalize on some great NIL opportunities. This is my way of giving back and saying thank you for the incredible support I’ve received as a Tennessee student-athlete for all these years.”

A Tennessee native, Fulkerson’s is the first known case of a college athlete using his NIL earnings to give back to his school while still in attendance there.

And as this legitimately wholesome, even uplifting side of the name, image, and likeness era takes shape, don’t bet on Fulkerson being the last to go this route in expressing such gratitude for his situation.

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