From free cars to six-figure deals: Georgia college athletes cash in on fame

ATLANTA — For the first time ever, Georgia athletes can cash in on their success on the field. They’re making deals that range from six-figure incomes to free energy drinks.

Georgia Bulldogs outside linebacker Adam Anderson makes big plays on the field, and now he’s cashing in on his success. “It’s amazing,” said Anderson. He got a new Jeep Grand Cherokee worth tens of thousands of dollars as part of a deal with Sullivan Auto in Marietta. “Honestly, I feel like it just opened an opportunity for other athletes, or so I feel like doing more business like this help you, learn from a younger age,” said Anderson.

It’s all possible thanks to NCAA rule changes that went into effect July 1, 2021 that allow college athletes to make money selling their name, image and likeness (NIL).

“This is the biggest landmark change in college,” said Drew Butler, a former Georgia Bulldogs and NFL punter who works for Icon Source, a company that arranges deals for college athletes and companies.

Quarterbacks tend to get the most money. Bulldogs quarterback J.T. Daniels signed with Zaxby’s, clothing company Rhoback and inked a trading card deal that could reach seven figures.

Most deals are much smaller. “Sure, we have $10,000 deals, sure, we’ve done $50,000 deals. We’ve also got $100 deals,” said Butler.

Those smaller deals mean a lot to Georgia State University softball player Bailee Richardson. She promotes Celsius energy drink and Liquid I.V., an electrolyte drink mix. “I just have to promote them on my Instagram story, my Instagram feed and all that kind of stuff, and they just send me free products,” said Richardson.

Georgia Tech volleyball player Kayla Kaiser has more than 90,000 followers on TikTok. She has earned about $800 off her TikTok videos and used an app to get free sports braces from Bauerfeind. “Being able to get paid for something I love doing and always love doing is super-exciting, knowing that I can create content for fun and enjoy it, and even earn(ing) money from it really helps,” said Kaiser.

Press Sports is an Atlanta-based company with an app that allows users to store and share videos of their sports highlights. In January 2022 they plan to launch a creator’s fund that will pay users for their content, like TikTok does. “If they build an audience, post engaging content and share that content … they’ll be able to get paid every month,” said Press Sports CEO & co-founder Conrad Conley.

Georgia Tech defensive end Jordan Domineck uses the Press Sports app. “I love the idea that they want to now give athletes a chance to make money off their own name,” said Domineck. He is currently working on a couple of deals, but is staying focused on what is most important. “You can’t get engrossed in the ideas of making money, on doing this, that and the third. You have to make sure that you’re always trying to get yourself better because at the end of the day, if you want NIL deals, you’re going to have to win games,” said Domineck.

A lot of the deals are happening on apps that handle the paperwork and pay out the money. That makes it easy for these athletes, who are busy balancing school and sports.