TALLAHASSEE, Florida – McKenzie Milton and five Florida State the teammates walked into Miller’s Ale House, sat at a long table, ordered food, and eagerly greeted the first fan to approach them at their first name-era paid event , image and likeness.
During the 1.5-hour shoot, they signed helmets and posed for photos, including with a woman who wore a Florida Gators face mask, eliciting cheerful teasing from the players.
Many UCF fans, stunned with excitement, came specially to see Milton, who transferred to Florida state in January after a five-year career with the Knights. One said she cried during her transfer. Another asked if she could hug herself and made sure to get multiple photos. A young footballer, dressed in his Seminoles gear, asked the players to sign his cleats.
Nothing in the event suggested an impending “Wild, Wild West”, as some coaches and administrators have described this new NIL era in college athletics. With little to no guidance from the NCAA on how to handle name, image, and likeness, and varying legislation in states across the country subject to interpretation on each campus that came into effect on the 1st. July, the narrative focused more on the impending disaster and worrying about exactly how it would all play out.
On the contrary, the scene of a quiet Thursday night inside a popular sports bar and restaurant in a college-obsessed city suggests that the hubbub leading up to the day had more to do with all the strangers. that come with unprecedented change, and less with what reality in a NIL world would look like with gamers smiling, laughing, taking photos and signing autographs.
Across the country, players from all sports have joined NIL platforms, sponsorship deal announcements, fundraising page creation and event booking. But they also continued with their off-season conditioning, meetings and team activities, and college athletics continued without collapsing.
“It’s an exciting time in college sport,” Milton told ESPN. “I know there may be some hesitation in the minds of some people, but in the long run it will be a good thing.”
Although it will take more than a few days to live in a NIL world to get us closer to answering some of the most important questions in the varsity athlete market and resolving many gray areas in state law and regulations. NCAA guidelines, Florida State players at Thursday’s event gave a lot of thought to whether that day would ever come. Cam McDonald stressed that Thursday looked like a national holiday, as athletes could finally celebrate what had been brewing for years.
“I’ve been focusing on personal branding since high school,” said McDonald, a close member of the state of Florida. “I had no idea that I was going to be able to enjoy it during my studies, but to be able to spread the fruits of my labor and finally to release my personal logo, that means the world to me.”
We haven’t heard enough from players about what NIL means to them as they’ve been at the mercy of administrators, the NCAA, and Congress as they try to figure out what to do. In the void of player voices, opponents stepped in, predicting that teams would fracture because some players in a locker room might win more than others; players would lose focus on their sports while working on marketing and branding; they wouldn’t know how to navigate finances and taxes with new income; and they didn’t deserve this opportunity because they were already paid with scholarships.
“It’s not all about the money,” said Florida state offensive lineman Devontay Love-Taylor mentionned. “At the end of the day, our main goal is to win football games. As for the fall camp, I won’t do anything with NIL. I’m focusing on that right now while it’s live, but once football comes, then I’m 100% football. “
McDonald pushed back those who made negative comments on NIL, saying, “The people who say these things about us are people who usually put athletes in a box. They say all they can really do is play football. I’m not going to say that I take offense because I just let it brush my shoulder. [To the] people who say things like that, I just say, “Do you really know us as individuals? Do you know that we are capable of doing more than just football? With NIL, we have the opportunity to broadcast this, so I take these posts with a grain of salt because these people don’t really know what they’re talking about, anyway. “
Indeed, countless players with talents outside of college sports – from musicians and artists to entrepreneurs and clothing designers – have been unable to capitalize on these talents, unlike the general student body on their campuses. This is why the change is so important. For some, it may just be about making as much money as possible in college. But for others, it is simply the opportunity to earn that money, because luck has never been there before.
“I think this is a great opportunity for people with other passions to show that we are more than football players,” said Love-Taylor. “If you have a passion for gambling, you can reach out and do something involving gambling. Whether it is clothes, food, you can just branch out and do other things besides being a football player.”
There are countless examples of actors in the recent past who have either been unable to monetize their external business interests or have been declared ineligible to do so. In a quiet moment before Thursday, Milton reflected on the case of his former teammate, UCF kicker Donald De La Haye.
In 2017, De La Haye was declared ineligible because he made money from popular YouTube videos who showed his experiences as a student-athlete at UCF, and the public outcry that followed was one of the defining moments leading up to today. Watching De La Haye clearly had an impact on Milton, who has become one of Florida’s most vocal advocates of NIL law. It also had an impact on his former UCF teammates. At a press conference in Orlando on Thursday, the UCF defensive lineman Kalia davis said he watched The Hague YouTube channel as a rookie. They ended up with their lockers next to each other.
Davis started monetizing his Twitch streaming account on Thursday because it is now in compliance with the rules. Davis said football remains his top priority, but in his spare time he plays, so he might as well make money doing it. Davis called De La Haye a “great inspiration”. De La Haye still has his YouTube channel Deestroying, with 3.4 million followers, and on July 1 posted a video celebrating the decision that begins with three simple words: “We did it!” This video has over 125,000 views.
“He really crawled so we could walk, so yell at him,” Davis said. “We will take the torch from him.