NIL Delivering Paid Players To NFL Draft Combine

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, who reportedly earned millions from NIL deals, could end up as the first QB selected in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Players attending the NFL Draft Combine before last year went through college not eligible to receive compensation for their Name, Image, and Likeness.

They showed up in Indianapolis with the mindset to go out and impress NFL coaches and scouts in order to get drafted and eventually sign a NFL contract — or their first lucrative deal.

That’s no longer the case for some ever since the NCAA enacted on July 1, 2021 the NIL policy, which allows student-athletes to receive compensation for use of their Name, Image, and Likeness.

Combine attendees like Alabama quarterback Bryce Young and Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud —projected as Top 5 selections in the 2023 NFL Draft on April 27 — arrived in Indy having already acquired significant cashflow through NIL deals. Both have reportedly earned more than a million dollars from NIL deals while playing in  college.

Of course, every college athlete hasn’t landed the kind of  NIL deals that Young and Stroud have received as starting QBs for two of the most recognized college football brands in the country. Most of the NIL deals that are signed by college students are far less. The average Division I athlete had been compensated $3,711 through NIL deals,  according to Icon Source, a company that connects athletes with brands.

LSU defensive back Mekhi Garner said the NIL deals he acquired during his one year attending LSU allowed him to help his family in Mesquite, Texas.

“Half of the money went back home to my mother, my son, and my little brother,” Garner said, during a media session at the Combine.

Garner, a 6-foot-2, 212-pounder, was among the latest select group of college football players that received an invitation and participated in the NFL’s annual event where NFL scouts and coaches interview and evaluate future NFL players. This year’s group was unique from most Combine classes of the past because this was only the second year since the NCAA enacted the NIL policy. Prior to last year’s Combine, players invited to the weeklong talent evaluation setup were not eligible for NIL deals — compensation for Name, Image, and Likeness — while in college.

Southern Mississippi’s Jason Brownlee, a 6-2, 198-pound wideout, was also among the group of wide receivers interviewed and evaluated at this year’s Combine that took place Feb. 28-March 6. He was also one of the attendees that had been fortunate enough to have received NIL deals while in college.

“It’s just starting to really come at the end of my (college) career, so I didn’t get as many as I wanted to,” said Brownlee, referring to NIL opportunities.

Brownlee, who attended East Mississippi Community College before finishing his college career at Southern Miss, caught 55 passes for 891 yards last fall to help him earn an invite to the Combine. As he prepares for the chance to become drafted by an NFL team, his thoughts about the NIL are that it’s here to stay. 

“I think it’s a good opportunity,” Brownlee said. “I feel like college athletes should be paid. It’s just a great opportunity overall.”

Cincinnati’s Arquon Bush, a six-foot, 187-pound cornerback, also supports the NCAA policy that gave the green light for student-athletes to receive compensation for their Name, Image, and Likeness. He had “a couple” of NIL deals while playing in the Bearcats defensive secondary.

“NIL is great,” Bush said. “Players bring in a bunch of money. Why not let them earn money off of it?”

Even if student-athletes like Bush look at the NIL policy favorably, there have been detractors to the idea of paying college athletes. Concern about student-athletes being mature enough to manage lucrative NIL deals has been raised by some opposers of NIL.

Bush doesn’t think that’s a big enough concern to ever re-think NIL. He sees the concern as possibly a case-by-case situation.

“It all depends on how you grow up, your background, because money shouldn’t change you,” Bush said.


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