Casey Thompson showed the email to his teammates a few weeks ago. This was a new one.
The message asked if the Husker quarterback would consider monetizing his name, image and likeness by creating some exclusive online videos. He could lead workouts, for example, or do instructional videos or QB training. The catch, for Thompson – the offer came from OnlyFans, a website commonly associated with adult content that also dabbles in other areas like fitness and music.
Everyone asked the same question: Was he going to do it?
No, Thompson said. First, it might be a compliance violation. Second, it’s not the kind of brand association he’s looking for.
“I probably could make double just by signing with all these different people,” Thompson said. “But I want to be smart about who I’m working with.”
Such was one nugget from Thompson’s appearance this week on the national podcast “Bussin ‘With The Boys,” hosted by former Husker linebacker Will Compton and Michigan defensive lineman Taylor Lewan. Current NU outside linebacker Garrett Nelson and coaches Scott Frost and Erik Chinander were also guests.
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NIL-related discussion dominated much of the two-plus hours of interviews. Nelson said the ability of student-athletes to profit through private ventures has “completely changed the game financially.” Frost repeated his well-known sentiment that he’s glad rules won’t allow him to be involved.
But Thompson, the Texas transfer who has quickly become Exhibit A for the earning potential of a high-profile Husker, offered the most insight into the climate behind the scenes in an NIL era that began last summer.
Said Thompson: “You’re going to make six figures as a player here. If you’re a starter here on the football team, you can make over six figures. “
Such numbers floored Compton and Lewan, both of whom played collegiately a decade ago before careers in the NFL. Compton said he thought he “was living” with a monthly $ 850 scholarship check when rent and utilities cost around $ 400. Lewan said he wouldn’t have handled it well making big money in his early 20s. “I would not have been a guy you would have liked to have around too much in college,” he told Frost.
The breadth of opportunities is what has stood out to Thompson at Nebraska.
At Texas, he said, he knew of three football starters with NIL deals. NU reps told him when he arrived out of the transfer portal in January that at least 17 players had agreements for vehicles or places to stay. He and Frost both said around 80 student-athletes across multiple sports have capitalized on offers.
Thompson said he doesn’t seek out the interest, it comes to him. Last year, it took him half the season to give thousands of signatures for a deal with trading card companies. Now the quarterback builds NIL into his schedule: He’ll use off days Sunday and Monday to get on the phone with people and sets aside a window of 1 to 5 pm on other days as needed.
Having signed with an agency in the fall, he began to learn what to tell interested parties when they asked his price for appearances or endorsements. He’s also on board with a wealth management firm and continues to soak up knowledge about taxes and financing. One recent surprise to him was that even “free stuff” like cars will be taxed.
“I’m not looking at it as how can I get rich quick,” Thompson said. “I’m looking at it more like how can I become a businessman? How can I build my brand? How can I be around other millionaires and billionaires and see what makes them successful? And how can I become a professional in this space of working with companies and brands? It just makes you definitely grow up and become mature really fast. “
Players can pursue their own deals through third-party platforms like Lincoln-based Opendorse. But many of the larger payouts have come through Athlete Branding & Marketing LLC (ABM), owned by former state attorney general Jon Bruning and operated in part by former Nebraska football chief of staff Gerrod Lambrecht. Both are longtime friends of Frost’s.
The company is a collective of sorts, pooling money from various boosters and donors. It has organized myriad deals including camps, a hunting trip with football players and multiple exclusive player interviews with one local recruiting website.
On a macro level, Frost said, off-the-field opportunities for players like Thompson are quickly becoming a central ingredient in whether the Huskers can again approach the dominance they once enjoyed. NIL is where many top prospects now begin their research, with it carrying as much weight for NU as its ongoing state-of-the-art facility project in North Stadium.
“I think about it all the time: For us to be elite again, NIL has really gotta take shape in Nebraska,” Frost said. “We’ve got to be able to recruit a little better, you gotta catch momentum where you have a good year and then you recruit better and have another good year.”