In the name, image and likeness era, the Sooners’ thrilling comeback and quarterback change has implications beyond the field.
Those within the name, image and likeness industry knew this was coming. But even they couldn’t have expected this.
A college football quarterback, dubbed as a future NFL first-round pick and Heisman Trophy favorite, rakes in thousands of dollars in endorsement and commercial deals only to spiral into oblivion during the actual season.
Three months into the NIL era, here we are. Oklahoma QB Spencer Rattler, the recipient of high preseason praise and an estimated $200,000 in NIL ventures, was benched for a true freshman. Forget about the first round and the Heisman—Rattler appears to have, in all likelihood, lost his starting job.
“He still has a great name for advertising,” jokes one industry source. “Can’t take that away from him.”
Behind Rattler’s replacement, rookie Caleb Williams, the Sooners stunned Texas, 55–48, storming back from massive deficits to win one of the most memorable chapters of the Red River Rivalry. Oklahoma trailed 28–7 in the first quarter, 35–17 in the second quarter and 41–23 with less than three minutes left in the third quarter. Coach Lincoln Riley’s team scored 25 unanswered points in a nine-minute span beginning with 1:04 left in the third, roaring to a win on a 33-yard touchdown jaunt from tailback Kennedy Brooks with three seconds left.
It was wacky. It was wild. It was weird.
And for NIL purposes, it presents one of the first quandaries for companies who poured money into the expectations and predictions of college-aged kids. NIL industry sources believe Rattler’s NIL endeavors are in the low six figures, around $200,000. He created his own logo and has a website to sell his own personalized merchandise.
He’s got a trading car deal, signed an endorsement contract with Louisiana-based chicken restaurant Raising Cane’s and was given two vehicles by a local Oklahoma automotive group after he threw for five scores against Western Carolina. The length and terms of the contracts will determine future payouts. Those are not made public.
“He’s already an influencer,” says one NIL executive. “Now he is about to be a player.”
But his coach is, at least right now, standing in the way of him seeking publicity in the media.
Riley denied a request from ESPN to interview Williams after the game, something reported by sideline reporter Holly Rowe, who even approached the quarterback to deliver him the news: You can’t talk.
It is somewhat normal for major college coaches to deny true freshmen to speak to reporters. However, in the NIL era, it’s a move that can be seen as a coach hurting his player’s potential exposure and future financial ventures.
In college sports, players have more power than ever.
“So what if player does interview despite coach edict?” asks one NIL expert.
Halfway through the second quarter of Saturday’s game, after having already run for a 66-yard TD in a brief first-quarter appearance, Williams trotted onto the field to replace a guy who was projected as the Heisman favorite before the season began. The Sooners were down 35–17. They then outscored the Longhorns 31–6 to set up a wild final few minutes.
Texas QB Casey Thompson tossed a 31-yard touchdown to tie it at 48 with one minute, 20 seconds left. Williams then marched the Sooners down the field on completions of nine, 10 and 11 yards, capping it with a handoff to Brooks for the game-winner.
He celebrated with teammates and high-fived coaches—the new rising star of the NIL era.
What happens to Rattler? That’s the wrong question, NIL experts say.
“What happens for Caleb Williams?” one asks.
“Hope he pays his taxes on those two cars,” joked another source within the NIL industry.
While Rattler’s star fades, another rises. Williams, a Washington, D.C. native, threw for 212 yards, ran for 88 and scored three touchdowns. He’s ahead in the NIL game, described by some as a savvy social media “influencer.” In fact, he’s got his own YouTube channel.