Photo by Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports.
For Your Edification* is a weekly Slice of Culture series where staff writer Ed Daniel take topics — Hudson County or national news related — and provides social commentary.
Last week, the NCAA ruled to allow student athletes to earn money off their Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) so it’s is time we take a little stroll down memory lane with athletes who — within the last 20 years — would have made a lot of money from the NIL ruling.
This list is based on athlete familiarity and popularity; the size of the school and the money the surrounding community has; and the athlete’s personal style and charisma, which would generate interest, which translates to the big bucks.
Let’s start shall we!
10. JJ Redick (2002-2006) Duke
We start off our list with an athlete who is probably as hated as he is beloved.
Redick was a two-time All American during his years at Duke. He won every ACC award his final year and was the National Player of The Year his final season at Duke.
Accomplishments aside, what makes Redick so marketable is the lineage of popular Duke athletes before him; Danny Ferry, Bobby Hurley and Christian Laetner. (Google those athletes and you will se what they have in common).
Yes, he received 50-75 hate calls per day when students from rival schools found his number. He was the target of many profanity laced chants in opposing arenas.
Despite all the hate, being the star white player for Duke basketball would have amazing perks. How could you not see him in a Nationwide or StateFarm commercial during his successful years?
9. Baker Mayfield (2013-2017) Texas Tech/ Oklahoma
Baker Mayfield has had a decent NFL career as a quarterback.
He and Flo are battling it out for the most recognizable Progressive car insurance commercial character, which is a long award title so here is a shorter award title: the Heisman.
The Heisman award is the most coveted individual player award in college football. Mayfield was a Heisman finalist three years in a row, winning it in his final year at Oklahoma.
During his time at Oklahoma, he was known for his antics on and off the field.
Good stuff would be him dancing in front of his teammates and the bad stuff would be him gesturing towards his privates against Kansas.
Another not so good video is him being apprehended by cops then running away from cops just to be arrested — never said he had blazing speed.
He had some fun, but dumb stuff, which was him planting the Oklahoma flag in the middle of the Ohio Stadium — also known as The Horse shoe — after beating Ohio State in a big game.
If you’re a lawn or turf company wouldn’t you want Baker to be your spokesperson after that hilarious failed attempt at flag planting supremacy?
The most marketable fact about Baker is he’s a former transfer walk-on from Texas Tech.
How many speaking gigs would other schools pay to hear the underdog-turned-Heisman winner talk about himself believing himself and never giving up?
8. Candace Parker (2004-2008) Tennessee
We see her now as a future WNBA Hall of Famer and TNT analyst who is constantly serving fellow analyst Shaquille O’Neal great basketball analysis with caustic wit.
But before that, Parker was a McDonald’s All American women’s high school basketball player. She is also the two-time High School Player of The Year and has won the men’s dunk contest — that was not a typo; she won the McDonald’s dunk contest in high school.
You can almost see it now: Parker eating a cheeseburger and McDonald’s advertising to girls everywhere that if they eat McDoubles, they will be able to grow up and dunk over the boys like Candace.
She went to Tennessee and played under legendary coach Pat Summit and took the Lady Vols to two straight national titles.
At the time, Parker was the biggest star in women’s basketball since Lisa Leslie and that’s before turning pro.
7. Matt Lienart (2001-2005) USC
Lienart was the star quarterback for USC during a time when there was no pro football team in LA.
On top of that, his team won a Rose Bowl during his first year starting, a national championship trophy and a Heisman in his second year.
Coming into his third year starting, he accomplished everything that he needed. A quarterback with that much success in LA would have bags of money on his doorstep just for appearance fees.
During this time, Lienart would probably make guest appearances on TV shows like The O.C., or Entourage.
He spent five years at college and took ballroom dancing as a class in his final year, so a potential Van Wilder spinoff could have been there for him.
He would’ve been on the Late Night Circuit every year because most of those shows film in LA. Who knows, maybe he would have developed an acting career if he had the opportunity during that time.
6. Skylar Diggins -Smith (2009-2013) Notre Dame
A national Gatorade Player of the year and Gatorade female athlete of the year, Diggins was a highly touted point guard going into Notre Dame.
Timing is also important here.
Diggins was coming up right at the beginning of the social media bubble. Companies would be foaming at the mouth to have her sell women’s sportswear.
During her college years, Diggins wore distinct styles colors for her headbands. The headbands were so popular that in the basketball community they called them “Skylar Diggins” headbands and started a phenomenon called “Headband Nation.”
Outside of her capitalizing on women’s wear and style, she would obviously get commercials for big brands like Nike, but also probably get a lot of party hosting opportunities.
Though South Bend, Indiana is not the wild party capital of the U.S., with all the money she is making with her headbands she could just get on the jet to Chicago to collect that check.
The sky — or Skylar — would have been the limit for Mrs. Diggins Smith. See what I did there?
5. Vince Young (2002-2005) Texas
Vince Young, also known at Texas as “VY” (Could have trademarked that), led Texas to two consecutive classic Rose Bowl wins, one including a national championship comeback win against USC who had two Heisman winners including Lienart and another person on this list.
Young was also known as an athlete who always recited rap lyrics and quoted hip hop artists before and after games.
You could see Young rap the lyrics of popular rapper at the time Mike Jones during the post game of the 2006 National Championship.
After watching that video every Texas rapper would want Young in their videos and every club would want him as a party host or promoter.
According to CNN Money, in the 2006 fiscal year, the University of Texas was the nation’s richest and most profitable football program, with revenue of $53.2 million, and a profit of $38.7 million.
The University of Texas and the surrounding community would have made their national championship winning quarterback a very rich man during his time there.
4. Zion Williamson (2018-2019) Duke
Now given that we are in the social media age, Zion WIlliamson has the advantage of exposure.
He was almost a household name before he even announced his commitment to Duke University, and we are talking about a kid who was raised in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Williamson was so famous that if you search his high school highlights on Youtube you would see videos with view counts in the millions.
ESPN’s Youtube channel made a highlight package before he stepped on the court at Duke.
With dunks like that, it’s easy to see why Williamson would be so marketable.
His combination of speed and explosive power makes him compelling to watch and his joyous personality make fans want to root for him. Despite playing for one of the most hated teams in college basketball, the product endorsements online, and the amount of TV commercials he could’ve received would make Mr. Williamson the King of Durham, North Carolina.
3. Johnny Manziel (2011-2014) Texas A&M
Who could forget the infamous Johnny Maziel or, better known as, Johnny Football — a nickname he trademarked in 2013.
Manziel was such an accomplished high school football star in Texas that many believed he achieved hero status in the state.
When he played for the Aggies, he won the Heisman his redshirt freshman year, dazzling the audience with plays like this:
Manziel also was known for his off the field antics, one of them included an NCAA investigation for autograph signing in January 2013.
The NCAA found no evidence of Manziel accepting cash, but this is proof that if it was perfectly legal at the time, Manziel would be making a lot of money at A&M.
According to Good Bull Hunting, Texas A&M saw a $15 million increase in rights and /licensing between 2012 and 2013. Johnny Football would have received some of that profit.
2. Tim Tebow (2006-2009) Florida
As you can see from this list, being a successful quarterback in a prominent program is a great way to make money.
Tim Tebow would not be in short supply of opportunities.
A famous highschool football player and even more famous Heisman winner and two-time national champion for the Florida Gators would be raking in the cash during his collegiate years.
He achieved another level of fame after this famous speech.
Florida would go on to win the national championship that year; that is the sort of narrative that can make you a college football legend and national star.
Tebow’s Jersey sales would go through the roof and sponsors like Gatorade for the Florida Gators’ best player would be a match made in Heaven.
Tebow is also known for his outspoken Christian faith. So aside from all the regular endorsement money he would receive, we undoubtedly would’ve seen him as the face for faith based organizations like Chick-Fil-A andChristian Mingle talking on faith panels with megachurch stars like Joel Olsteen.
Being a clean cut all-american faith-based Heisman winner would be a huge money maker for Mr. Tebow.
1. Reggie Bush (2003-2005) USC
No. 1 on our list is Reggie Bush.
In the fall of 2005 every sports fan knew the human highlight reel that was Bush.
As a running back at USC, Bush carried on the legacy of flashy larger than all carriers. Stars like O.J. simpson, Charles White and Marcus Allen were great, but none of them were quite must-see TV like the 2005 Heisman Winner who graced our screens from 2003-2005.
Everything about Bush was flashy, even the eye black that had his home area code painted on.
His ability to catch like a receiver, his joystick running style and his flare for the big play made him the most exciting football player in the country.
How can you not find someone exciting with plays like these?
Like his teammate Lienart, Bush being the best athlete at USC meant he was possibly the most popular athlete in Los Angeles behind Lakers star Kobe Bryant at the time.
Being a star in LA means you are basically a national star.
On top of the jersey sales he would receive, Bush could’ve gotten money from gracing video game covers like the popular NCAA Football franchise. A game in which he did become the cover athlete after his time at USC.
He had the looks to be a model — we would probably see him on the cover of Men’s Health magazine. He would probably make tons of money in the LA party host scene like most of these popular athletes.
Unlike Tebow who would dominate the southeastern region in the United States, Bush playing for USC and his laid back personality would make him easy to market throughout the whole country.
Allison Stoke California University ( 2008-2011)
Saquan Barkley Penn State (2015-2017)
Leonard Fournette LSU (2014-2016)
Terrelle Pryor Ohio state (2008-2010)
Diana Taurasi Connecticut (200-2004)
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