College athletics are so much different from what we saw even five years ago. Not only has the transfer portal allowed for more movement for student-athletes if they find the situation at the college they committed to isn’t quite what they were looking for, but NIL has totally changed the game for student-athletes.
We have already seen the effects of NIL here at Ohio State. It feels like Rick Ricart has supplied every Buckeye football player with a vehicle, which still feels weird after what happened to Maurice Clarett during his short time in Columbus. There also was former Buckeye offensive lineman Harry Miller, who donated his NIL earnings to humanitarian efforts in Nicaragua. It has been incredible to see not only the type of NIL deals that have been struck as we are approaching a full year now that NIL has been available to student-athletes, but also what some are doing with what they have earned from those deals.
What would have been really interesting would have to see how past Ohio State student-athletes would have fared in an NIL world. Just looking at some of the big names in football and basketball over the years, there was a lot of talent that came through Columbus that many local and national businesses would have been itching to throw some money behind.
Today’s question: What former Ohio State players would have fared best in an NIL world?
We’d love to hear your choices. Either respond to us on Twitter at @Landgrant33 or leave your choice in the comments.
Brett’s answer: Archie Griffin
Just look at how popular Archie Griffin is in Columbus even to this day. The two-time Heisman Trophy running back still is in commercials for numerous local products and companies. Woody Hayes said of Griffin, “He’s a better young man than he is a football player, and he’s the best football player I’ve ever seen.” Not only was Archie Griffin amazing to watch on the football field, he was is the type of guy you wanted to be friends with.
This year will be the first chance we’ll get to see the effect that winning a Heisman Trophy has on NIL deals for a player returning to college, as Alabama quarterback Bryce Young wasn’t yet eligible to declare for the NFL Draft after winning the Heisman Trophy last year. Had NIL been around in the 1970s, I would have expected Archie Griffin to have cleaned up. You know that just about every business that could afford to around central Ohio would have been trying to get in business with Griffin, and there also would have been plenty of national advertising campaigns with their eyes on the running back, as well.
I know that C.J. Stroud has to be getting a ton of NIL offers after the huge season he had for Ohio State last year. I truly think what Stroud has had come across his desk would pale in comparison to what Archie Griffin would have seen. The biggest difference is that Griffin grew up and went to high school in Columbus, so he would carry even more weight around town.
Knowing Archie, he probably would have ended up taking less and putting it back into causes around Columbus. Maybe in terms of money, Griffin wouldn’t have made the most when it comes to past Ohio State players, but he certainly would have had the most interest from companies both locally and nationally that were looking to strike NIL deals with the outstanding running back.
Meredith’s answer: Eddie George
There’s something about running backs and NIL that makes a magic combination. For this week, I’m going to have to go with Eddie George. We’ve seen what he’s done during and after his NFL career, and we’re left to imagine what such a charismatic character would have managed in his collegiate days when it comes to capitalizing on his own name, image and likeness.
One of the differentiators for NIL is personality, something George has in spades. A true Renaissance man, he seems just as comfortable on the football field as on stage for an off Broadway musical, and we could see George leveraging his personal brand to promote any number of products, services or other businesses around Columbus. Heck, he could have been the OG RB for Arby’s.
It doesn’t hurt that, like Archie, George won the Heisman Trophy during his time in Columbus. Of course, George won the trophy after his final season with the Buckeyes, which would certainly have impacted his NIL earnings as a result.
Further, the fact George had a hot start to his pro career (including making four consecutive Pro Bowls) makes the idea of NIL investment during his college days even more valuable. He became a fixture as a public spokesperson in Tennessee, including as part of a campaign to prevent diabetes.
Even after his professional career ended, George continued to build up his personal brand. He completed his degree in landscape architecture from Ohio State and even got his MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
Now, George is head coach for Tennessee State, and has demonstrated his skills as a recruiter, selling Tennessee State to numerous transfer portal players who are opting to play for the Ohio State legend.
He’s the perfect spokesperson who always feels like the hometown hero, and if he were playing today, he’d be raking in sponsorship deals left and right.