Gatorade signs first HBCU athlete to Name Image Likeness deal

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Jackson State University

By WVUA 23 Digital Reporter Jeremy Bryant

Jackson State freshman Shedeur Sanders and Gatorade are teaming up and making history with their Name Image Likeness deal. Sanders will now become the first student-athlete to sign with the prestigious brand as a part of an HBCU college. Sanders is looking to this as a way to inspire change among top athletes in wanting to choose to play at an HBCU. Sanders originally committed to Florida Atlantic out of high school. Ultimately, he decided to change his decision to go play for his father and NFL hall of fame cornerback Deion Sanders when he was hired as the head coach in 2020.

Sanders instantly became one of the most notable names in college football as the starting quarterback of Jackson State, leading the team to a 11-2 record. Sanders enjoyed more than  just team success as he also became the first HBCU athlete to win the Jerry Rice award given to the FCS freshman player of the year. He threw for 30 touchdowns to eight interceptions along the way to the school’s first ever SWAC championship title. The season did not end the way he envisioned, as JSU would lose a rattling game to South Carolina State in the Cricket Celebration Bowl.

His father has long a been an advocate for wanting to level the playing field so HBCU athletes can get the same recognition as players who attend Power 5 schools. This would be another step in the right direction as JSU has been busy in recruiting this year. The No. 1  recruit in the nation, Travis Hunter, shocked the sports world when he decided to commit to JSU in December 2021 during the early signing period. Not too long after, Deion grabbed another top recruit in Kevin Coleman.

Sanders’ deal is going to create a big impact on college sports as he will be joining some of the best athletes in the world under the Gatorade umbrella, including Serena Williams and J.J. Watt. Sanders expressed that his intentions with the brand is to help create exposure and convince more student-athletes to attend the school that fits them best, rather than choose the school that would garner the most TV ratings.

For the longest time, the perception was HBCU colleges could not compete with PWI schools because they do not get on TV enough to be recognized. While that may be true in most cases, some of the best NFL talent to play at the highest level have come from an HBCU, including Walter Payton, Michael Strahan, or even the well-known sports analyst Shannon Sharpe. More former players have endorsed athletes in choosing a HBCU in recent years because if a player is good enough the NFL will find them.

Sanders has taken full advantage of the NIL rule as he now will have his third NIL agreement, He also has NIL partnerships with Beats by Dre and Tom Brady’s clothing brand, Brady Brand. The initial idea is for Gatorade to use this deal as a way to invite more HBCU athletes or student athletes in general to consider signing. UConn Huskies women’s guard Paige Beuckers became the first college athlete to sign with Gatorade last year after the rule was put in place.

JSU already has the No. 1  2022 recruiting class in the SWAC division. Sander has seemingly been a team first player that has exuded plenty of leadership through a successful season, and this deal would go a long way to carving out his own legacy and changing the narrative of  how HBCU colleges are viewed.

Categories: College Sports, Sports