At Big 12 Media Days, football players say NIL opportunities are a mixed bag so far

Scott Wright
Oklahoman
Kansas State Wildcat defensive back Jahron McPherson speaks to the media during Big 12 media days July 14 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

ARLINGTON, Texas — New Name, Image and Likeness regulations throughout the NCAA could lead to more green in the pockets of college athletes.

But for now, some players are more worried about the gray — as in, the areas of the new rules that aren't yet black and white.

"For me, so far, I'm just sitting back and watching. It's such a gray area for athletes. I don't really intend to do anything yet," Kansas State linebacker Jahron McPherson said Wednesday at Big 12 Media Days at AT&T Stadium.

McPherson sees the positive possibilities in the future. But for now, he's hesitant.

So, too, is West Virginia's Dante Stills — but for a different reason.

"I'm trying to take it slow," Stills said. "I feel like a lot of players are rushing it and it's taking them off the main goal. I don't want that happening to me. I don't want to get too caught up in NIL, rather than focusing on my football."

Stills, a defensive lineman and the brother of Las Vegas Raiders rookie Darius Stills, is one of the more recognizable Mountaineers. He and running back Leddie Brown attended a youth camp and signed autographs earlier this month, but otherwise, Stills is keeping a low NIL profile.

"There's definitely a lot of people approaching me," he said. "At the same time, I try to tell them, 'I'm gonna be patient. I'll let you know,' or 'I'm very interested, but right now I'm focusing on football.' "

Of course, plenty of athletes are jumping at the opportunities before them.

"I'm still a college athlete," said Brown, who has signed with Sports & Entertainment Group for NIL representation. "I still go to class, all that. The only change is that I feel like I get to provide for my family quicker than I was expected to."

Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler was one of the first athletes to sign with an agency, announcing a deal with Steinberg Sports and Entertainment on July 1. Rattler has deals with Cameo (a celebrity video-sharing website) and Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers, along with self-branded merchandise sales.

Iowa State running back Breece Hall has come to agreements with Cameo, Go2 mouthpieces and CycloneFanatic.com, which recently released some Hall-related merchandise.

Hall doesn't feel like life with NIL regulations is making a major impact on college athletes yet.

"I wouldn't say it has changed much. I haven't changed," he said. "It's just that I have new opportunities. That's all. With the new opportunities, it's been fun. It's been a learning process, but I feel like nothing around me has changed, nobody around me has changed, so it hasn't really affected me."

Hall has been forced to learn the art of negotiating.

"The negotiations, it just comes down to whatever makes sense, pretty much," he said. "It could take one negotiation or you could go back and forth. But you have to come to an agreement at the end of the day."

While some have suggested that programs in or near bigger markets will have more NIL opportunities, Kansas State coach Chris Klieman believes small-town and college-town schools will be fertile, calling Manhattan, Kan., a "home run" and a "gold mine" for NIL deals.

Kansas State defensive back Jahron McPherson tackles Oklahoma State running back Dezmon Jackson during their matchup Nov. 7, 2020, at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium in Manhattan.

His players agree.

"We have such a strong supporting cast in Manhattan," quarterback Skylar Thompson said. "Everybody loves K-State football. Even though it's not the national trademark deals or whatever the case may be, I feel like our guys will have a lot of opportunities if they so choose to take advantage of them. That's unique. I think that's really cool to have that support, to have that backup from companies in Manhattan.

"The biggest thing for us as players is just realizing whenever you do sign to put your name on something, that represents you."