Top Louisiana recruits attempt to navigate NIL waters

Koki Riley
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

At the Elite 11 earlier this month, Walker Howard sat through a lot of meetings. One of which dealt with the topic of name, image and likeness.

"We had a meeting about that and how to handle the situation and understand, without breaking the rules, what we can do," Howard said. 

NIL makes up the legal concept "right of publicity," which allows a person to control their commercial identity.

Prior to June 1, collegiate athletes could not profit off of their "right of publicity."

Howard is not a collegiate athlete yet. But once the five-star quarterback at St. Thomas More arrives at LSU for the fall of 2022, he will enter a world where NIL will be a major aspect of his career.

"It's new for everybody," Howard said.

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Much of the potential profits athletes could accumulate through NIL is with their reach on social media. When Howard was at the Elite 11, the quarterbacks were given an app called Opendorse that tracks their worth and reach on social media.

"It was a really cool meeting about how to use our brand," Howard said.

Ronald Lewis, a three-star cornerback and Colorado commit from the Class of 2022, added that his presence on social media should help any potential future NIL opportunities.

"As soon as NIL started up, I worked on building my brand up a lot with social media (platforms) and everything," Lewis said. "I've got about 7,000 followers on my Instagram (and) I'm on TikTok. I've got about 10,000 followers on there."

Three-star wideout Landon Ibieta isn't a fan of social media. He considers himself to be a quieter guy.

But the 2022 Miami commit has changed course since the emergence of NIL.

"Before this, I never posted on social media, I hated it," Ibieta said. "But I mean, social media is how you get paid now."

Kody Finley, a 2022 three-star wideout, is in a unique situation when it comes to NIL. His brother, T.J. Finley, is a quarterback at Auburn and is already receiving profit opportunities through NIL.

His brother's guidance and initial experience on the subject has helped him understand this new financial window in college sports.

"He's told me a lot of things to do and not to do," Kody said. "He said, don't be too antsy to sign a(n endorsement) deal. Be patient with it.

"If you're worth $100,000 right now, and you're not starting yet, how much are you going to be worth when you do start?"

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Some schools have used NIL as a recruiting tool, while others did not mention it in their pitches to prospects.

According to Ibieta, Miami revealed their future NIL plans on his official visit with the school. 

"There was a whole section of the official visit on NIL," Ibieta said. "They're definitely using that to their advantage."

Colorado on the other hand, according to Lewis, did not mention NIL during his visit. Lewis said he picked Colorado because of its football program.

But in his eyes, the earlier he starts preparing for NIL, the better. He's already trying to develop his own logo.

"I'm glad I'm staring early, so by the time that I get to my school, it'll be bigger and I cant get some profits from it," Lewis said. "Wherever I go, I'll already have a big brand."

Ibieta agrees that getting a head start on preparing for NIL is important.

"If I could give anyone advice, start at a young age and build (your profile) up from there," Ibieta said.