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Great NIL Superstars: Honey Badger, Johnny Football, and More

Nov 19, 2011; Oxford, MS, USA; Louisiana State Tigers cornerback Tyrann Mathieu (7) advances the ball on a kick off return during the game against the Mississippi Rebels at Vaught Hemingway Stadium. Louisiana State Tigers lead the Mississippi Rebels at the half.
© Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

In the decade beginning in 2010, it would be eleven more years before the NCAA would allow college football players to earn money based on their name, image, and likeness (NIL). However, one player managed to earn money anyway off his name, image, and likeness, drawing what amounted to a slap on the wrist (a half-game suspension) from the NCAA.

Had NIL been the law of the land in college football back then, the players listed below would have earned a ton of money just for being themselves on a football field.

Note: This list may not include ALL players.

NIL Superstars of 2010-2019

DB Tyrann Mathieu, LSU Tigers (2010-2011)

·       Nicknamed the “Honey Badger” for his attacking style of play.

·       1st Team All-SEC under Head Coach Les Miles.

·       Consensus All-American, 2011.

·       SEC Defensive Player of the Year, 2011.

·       Chuck Bednarik Award winner as the Best Defensive Player in College Football, 2011.

·       2011: two punt returns for touchdowns; two fumble returns for touchdowns; two INTs; 76 tackles; 7.5 tackles for loss; nine pass breakups; tied for 4th in FBS with six forced fumbles.

·       2010: tied for 2nd in FBS with five forced fumbles; two INTs; two fumble returns; 57 tackles; 8.5 tackles for loss; 4.5 sacks; seven pass breakups.    

·       3rd round pick by the Cardinals in the 2013 NFL Draft.   

RB Derrick Henry, Alabama Crimson Tide (2013-2015) 

·       Rushed for 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2015 under Head Coach Nick Saban.

·       Scored at least one rushing touchdown in every game he played in 2015.

·       Nine games with multiple rushing touchdowns in 2015.

·       Heisman Trophy winner, 2015

·       Doak Walker Award winner, 2015

·       Walter Camp Award, 2015

·       Offensive Player of the Year in the conference, 2015.

·       Unanimous All-American, 2015.

·       Known as “King Henry” in high school, Henry rushed for 4,261 yards and 55 touchdowns in his senior year. Rushed for a career total of 12,124 yards in high school, breaking the career record set by Ken Hall that had stood for 59 years.

QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville Cardinals (2015-2017)

·       Youngest winner of the Heisman Trophy at 19 years old, in 2016.

·       Rushed for 1,538 yards in 2016, the most ever by a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback.

·       4, 928 total yards in 2016 under Head Coach Bobby Petrino, the 2nd most in the award's history.

·       Maxwell Award winner, 2016.

·       Walter Camp Award, 2016.

·       Unanimous All-American, 2016.

·       ACC Athlete of the Year, 2017-2018.

·       9,043 career passing yards, 69 TDs, 27 INTs; 4,132 rushing yards, 50 TDs; 13,175 total yards in his collegiate career.

·       1st round pick of the Ravens in the 2018 NFL Draft.

·       2-time NFL MVP, 2019 and 2023.

QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M Aggies (2011-2013)

·       SEC Offensive Player of the Year under Head Coach Kevin Sumlin in 2012.

·       2-time All-SEC selection.

·       Heisman Trophy winner, 2012.

·       5,116 total yards, 45 touchdowns, 2012.

·       Heisman moment: 345 total yards, two passing touchdowns in leading the Aggies to a 29-24 victory over #1 ranked Alabama on the road in Tuscaloosa.

·       Davey O’Brien Award, 2012.

·       Manning Award, 2012.

·       AP College Football Player of the Year, 2012.

·       Consensus All-American, 2012.

·       As the #1 high school quarterback in the entire State of Texas in 2010, Manziel accounted for 5,283 total yards and 75 touchdowns during his senior season at Tivy High School in Kerrville, TX.

QB Cam Newton, Auburn Tigers (2010)

·       3,998 total yards, and 48 total touchdowns in 2010 for undefeated Auburn (14-0) under Head Coach Gene Chizik.

·       Heisman Trophy winner, 2010.

·       Maxwell Award winner, 2010.

·       SEC Offensive Player of the Year, 2010.

·       AP Player of the Year, 2010.

·       Consensus All-American, 2010.

·       Chose Florida out of high school and was a backup to QB Tim Tebow in 2007.

·       Left Florida and attended Blinn Junior College in Texas, leading them to a National Junior College Championship in 2009.

·       #1 overall pick by the Panthers in the 2011 NFL Draft.

·       Spent nine seasons in Carolina, winning both the NFL MVP and NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 2015.

·       Also, won the Bert Bell Award as the Top Player in the NFL in 2015.

Like it or not, NIL has changed the game of college football forever. It is the elite upper-echelon programs with deep pockets vs everybody else. Team camaraderie and hard work have fallen by the wayside in favor of the “me” culture, and how much money can be made by transferring as many times as necessary to feed the greed and the need to find a perceived better situation for themselves. The grass may not always be greener on the other side, but the money sure is.













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