Kayvon Thibodeaux Joins Payton Pritchard in Endorsement Deals

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After years of controversy, the NCAA has finally approved new NIL rules (Name, Image and Likeness) for collegiate athletes. The news comes in the wake of a range of policy updates, including a new of the federal ban on sports betting (2018). Clearly, sports are in for a shift—and updated NIL rules are designed to benefit top players.

Now, NCAA athletes are allowed to profit from sponsorship deals that use their name, image, and likeness (NIL). With universities raking in millions (sometimes hundreds of millions) from successful athletic programs, many have long argued collegiate athletes deserve compensation.

Others point to the high level of play, which is on par with the major leagues; hence, skilled athletes deserve to profit from their unique talents. This holds true… for the most part. Despite the level of competition and competitiveness that all NCAA DI athletes face, there’s one aspect of college play that doesn’t reflect the big leagues: scheduling.

Kayvon Thibodeaux eats up linemen on every play.

Players in the UK’s Premier League, for example, might face international travel for multiple games a week. Not only does this affect a team’s chances of success and player readiness, but it also drastically changes how players and staff prepare for matches. The result is more content for fans, as well as more challenges for those facing fixture congestion across various leagues and competitions.

Aside from the intensity of scheduling, most of the challenges faced by NCAA athletes will be comparable to a stretch in the NFL or NBA. There’s no schooling post-graduation, but there are other responsibilities that pro athletes must learn to balance, from a social life to relocations to contract negotiations.

Thibodeaux Deserves It All

Since the NCAA’s NIL announcement in mid-summer, defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux has already signed a lucrative six-figure deal tied to the 2021 season. The football star entered the school in 2018 after graduating as USA Today’s High School Football Defensive Player of the Year.

Since then, he’s racked up a series of accolades while also helping push the Ducks to Pac-12 Conference championships in 2019 and 2020. Along with Penei Sewell, Thibodeaux has been one of the most competitive Ducks to take to the gridiron under Coach Mario Cristobal.

Kayvon Thibodeaux is very polished with the media, hence ideal for NIL deals.

On his own, Thibodeaux has also nabbed a Pac-12 Freshman Player of the Year award (2019), a Morris Trophy (2020), a First-Team All-Pac-12 nod (2020) and the MVP of the 2020 Pac-12 Championship. Clearly, Thibodeaux is an indispensable talent on the gridiron—and that translates to cold hard cash for the Ducks football program and university.

Even so, Thibodeaux will never see a penny of that money aside from his full athletic scholarship, which will see him graduate from the university for free (should he finish his senior year). Under the NCAA’s new NIL rules, he’ll make money on his popularity alone.

The Six-Figure Deal

On July 7, Thibodeaux announced via social media that he was honored to partner with two athletic pioneers: Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, and Tinker Hatfield, an Air Jordans shoe designer. Thibodeaux announced an exclusive NFT deal with both, in which digital pieces will sell for around $100. Already, he’s in a position to sign deals with Nike once in the NFL. However, he’s also signed another contract with a memorabilia company, which will use his name, image, and likeness to create unique pieces commemorating his 2021 season with the Ducks.

Kayvon Thibodeaux at Ohio State.

Given this is expected to be Thibodeaux’s last year with the Ducks before opting to join the 2022 NFL draft, memorabilia are expected to be a huge success, with rumors swirling about a six-figure check for the year-long contract. (Assuming he returns to the field from his injury in the Fresno State game)

Though many approve of Thibodeaux’s move to opt into the current NFT fad, his memorabilia deal will likely see larger, more immediate profits. Autzen Stadium regularly fills with thousands of screaming fans—but even more fans watch remotely.

These tens of thousands of fans aren’t just interested in filling up seats, they’re eager for physical pieces that remind them of big wins. Since joining the team, Thibodeaux has been indispensable in orchestrating some of these wins, making him a prime candidate for memorabilia campaigns. As he plays well and the Ducks win–both will prosper with the new NIL rules in place.

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Top Photo by Scott Kelley

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