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‘We Have To Be Out There Chasing Every Opportunity’: Inside The NIL Strategy Of Penn State Fooball’s Nick Singleton

Penn State football’s star running back Nick Singleton tries not to worry about his name, image, and likeness.

After wrapping up a charity event on June 25, Singleton sits under a Gatorade tent surrounded by Gatorade cups after giving away $50,000 to two different organizations, money that he said he split with Gatorade.

But partnerships like the one that he holds with Gatorade, one that he’s been a part of for a year, aren’t what he says is most important. The deals can come his way while he focuses on what he feels is more important.

“I try to wait a little bit, I’ll let them come to me. I don’t really look for it. I always have to work on football and school,” Singleton said. “But it’s been really good.”

Singleton gets some help from Penn State NIL collective Happy Valley United, a recent merger of Success With Honor and Lions Legacy Club. He can earn some decent money from the collective’s stipends, but James Franklin doesn’t want Singleton or his teammates worried about NIL money.

Franklin keeps the team focusing on football first, Singleton said. With winning comes the deals, but first comes practice and schoolwork.

“We’re not giving money out to all these players,” Singleton said. “Franklin’s real strict about that.”

That’s where Austin Lyman comes in. Lyman is Singleton’s representative with Athletes First, an NFL-based agency that represents football talent that ranges from Aaron Rodgers to Joey Porter Jr.

Singleton may feel that he lets opportunities come his way, but it’s quite the opposite according to Lyman, who manufactures deals for the young talent.

“I think sometimes we shield him from the work that is done behind the scenes, but we can’t be reactive or passive,” Lyman said. “We have to be out there chasing every opportunity and knowing that none of these opportunities just naturally appear.”

Partnerships like the one that Singelton holds with Gatorade don’t come naturally. Singleton was only standing underneath that tent because he had connected with Athletes First earlier that year. He’s been part of the brand even before he was tearing up the grass at Beaver Stadium.

It isn’t too hard to work with Singleton, Lyman said. He’s one of the flashiest players in the country playing at a popular position. As talented as some players on defense can be, companies often prefer to work with players who touch the ball more often. With Penn State, few players provided the offensive impact that Singleton did in 2022.

What can be a little more difficult, Lyman noted, was getting companies to believe in Singleton as a person. Once he began starting games for the Nittany Lions, it was clear that there was an on-field product for companies to get behind. But brands want to be comfortable with both the person and the athlete that represent them.

“It’s more about me putting my reputation on the line. I’m not going to tell a brand partner that he’s this wonderful human and then they do a shoot he’s not that person then that brand is never going to trust me ever again,” Lyman said.

Events like that Gatorade event are perfect for Singleton and Lyman. During the football season, Singleton has to balance school and football, meaning that Lyman can’t overwhelm him with NIL opportunities. The offseason is when Singleton can take advantage of his star status.

All the same, Lyman says that Singleton is in control of what he takes on. With the offseason winding down and preparation beginning for Penn State’s game against West Virginia, it’s nearly time for Lyman to take a step back. He’ll let the Nittany Lion running back return to the field, and if Singleton performs as expected, the offseason becomes that much easier for Lyman to negotiate.

“We’ll … let the football season play out and then let him kind of steer the ship and tell us the direction he wants,” Lyman said.

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About the Author

Joe Lister

Joe is a junior journalism major at Penn State and an associate editor at Onward State. He covers Penn State football, and enjoys yelling on Twitter about Philadelphia/Penn State sports. If you want to find him, Joe's usually watching soccer with his shirt off or at the gym with his shirt on. Please send all positive affirmations and/or hate mail toward him on Twitter (iamjoelister) or via email ([email protected]).

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