On July 1, 2021, the livelihoods of college athletes changed forever. But this time it had nothing to do with gameplay.
Starting that summer, college athletes were finally granted allowance from the NCAA to be able to profit off of their name, image and likeness (NIL), after years of debate between the NCAA and its student athletes.
According to the interim NIL policy, “Individuals can engage in NIL activities that are consistent with the law of the state where the school is located,” and “College athletes who attend a school in a state without an NIL law can engage in this type of activity without violating NCAA rules related to name, image and likeness.” As one of the biggest advantages to the policy, student athletes can partner with “professional services providers” in order to take advantage of their name, image and likeness.
One of the biggest aspects that has impacted universities across the country is that “Student-athletes should report NIL activities consistent with state law or school and conference requirements to their school.” ACU is no exception.
Yet, ACU has not only made sure their student-athletes follow the NCAA policy, but also, has aided its students, as well as, as the policy states “be a resource for state law questions.”
The primary person making sure student-athletes and ACU is being compliant to the NCAA’s policy, plus coming alongside the athletes is Heather Wyatt, associate AD for compliance and student services. From giving business law advice to partnering with athletes in helping with their partnerships, Wyatt has helped athletes through it all.
Most recently, Wyatt and ACU athletics partnered with Opendorse to open a NIL Marketplace open to all student-athletes, where people and companies can strike deals with student-athletes to produce paid content, and appear at practices or events.
“This move to the Marketplace is one step in a continual process to equip and educate our student-athletes on the evolving NIL environment,” Wyatt said. “Our department plans to continue programming throughout the year to ensure our student-athletes are able to take full advantage of these opportunities.”
With all the change regarding NIL policy, multiple Wildcats have already taken advantage. One was former ACU men’s basketball guard, Reggie Miller, who started his own clothing brand that was well supported by the ACU community. during his time as a Wildcat.
Another is Laurén Schiek, a graduate pitcher for the softball team from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, who partnered with Bang Energy in 2021. Schiek is looking forward to not only continue to build her image, but also, to keep her faith in the center of it.
“I’m looking forward to just having the opportunity to utilize my platform to not only showcase the product that it is,” Schieck said, “but more so like how can I use this to like show you can live your life to the fullest and you can go after your dreams. I want to tailor it in a way that I can still put Christ at the center of everything. So, finding unique creative ways to still incorporate a Christ-centered mentality and approach is something that I’m looking forward to continuing to build as I create content for them moving on.”
Miller and Schiek are not the only athletes to profit from the NCAA’s NIL Policy, or the aid of the ACU community. One of the student-athletes that has taken the biggest advantage of the policy is senior Peyton Mansell, quarterback and safety from Belton.
Mansell’s NIL journey was initially began the summer the NIL legislation passed when he partnered with Volleman’s Family Farm. He had liked their products for many years, so he decided to reach out.
“A couple of weeks after that legislation passed, I was driving by their farm and I just was like, I like their milk. So I messaged them on Instagram and said, ‘Hey, I’m the quarterback at ACU. I’d love to partner with you guys.’ They responded and said, ‘Yeah, that’s something I would love to do.’ We partnered up and then, it was great. I mean, it taught me a lot.”
Mansell kept his partnership with Volleman’s Family Farm from June 2021 year through up until midway through 2022. The safety decided to divert and pursue a new path of starting his own business, Big Country Beef Jerky.
The origins of the company begin during Christmas break in 2021, where Mansell started making his favorite snack. Once school was back in session in 2022, he brought gallon bags filled with his jerky to campus. Soon, after his teammates started trying his jerky, they asked him to make his jerky and paid him for it.
All of a sudden, Mansell had a business in his hands.
“It got to the point where I was losing money just sending out the jerky. I told the guys on the team, who were my biggest customers to begin with, ‘Hey, I can’t, I can’t afford to keep handing you guys jerky.’ So, I started the business, and then it kind of just blew up.”
When he launched his business in spring of 2022, he was able to meet demand for his jerky by making it himself with his special recipe which keeps it to the basics, using seasonings like pepper flakes, onion powder and garlic powder. Mansell also avoids using artificial products, and the jerky is dehydrated himself in his garage.
But his company now has grown into fulfilling large orders, like sending 3,000 bags to a beef jerky subscription box company. To help keep up the demand, Mansell’s family has took on the bulk of the orders as Mansell played in the 2022 season.
Along with the support from his family, he has received support from the Abilene community. The Circle H store began to carry his jerky in the fall of 2022, while ACU began selling his product in the Campus Center. His biggest customers are still his teammates who buys his products and wears the company’s clothing line.
As a business owner, Mansell now sees the other side of working on NIL deals, partnering with several student athletes across the country, specifically students at ACU, to sell his beef jerky and reach out to new clientele.
“It was a great feeling when you have a company, like Volleman’s Milk, who wants to partner with you,” Mansell said. “Now, being able to return that favor by being on the other side, and being able to say, ‘Hey, I want to sponsor you,’ is really nice. Especially at a school like ACU, which doesn’t have the national reach like other universities.”
As for what is next for Mansell, he plans to graduate in May. Then, he plans to move back home with his wife to Belton, where they also plan to start a family and continue to grow his business.