MIAMI — Francis Suarez, the mayor of this city, held the football jersey up for the cameras to capture. His last name crawled across its back—SUAREZ—a gesture for his appearance here at The Wharf for a somewhat historic ceremony.
The jersey in his clutches, Suarez glanced toward Miami quarterback D’Eriq King, smiled and geared up to drop his one-liner.
“So if you sign it,” he motioned toward the jersey, “I’d have to pay you?”
Everyone chuckled. Suarez smiled. And King slightly nodded.
Yes, mayor, you’d have to pay.
On the first day that college athletes could earn compensation from their name, image and likeness, King offered a glimpse into what life may be like for high-profile quarterbacks. His older brother has turned into his manager, for instance. He received a five-figure signing bonus from one business, inked agreements with three more companies and experienced what may be the new normal for guys like him—juggling money-earning events with football duties.
“It’s been crazy,” says Keshon King, D’Eriq’s 25-year-old brother and manager extraordinaire. “His phone is ringing nonstop. He’s trying to take the deals that fit him best.”
King has been as active as any college athlete on Day 1 of the NIL Era. He’s signed deals with three businesses as well as Dreamfield, the digital marketplace that he helped create and is now part owner. He’s signed with College Hunks Hauling Junk moving company, Murphy Auto Group and The Wharf, the open-air bar and event space that he and his UM teammates frequent on offseason Friday nights.
The deals should net him more than $20,000, he says, and he received an immediate five-figure signing bonus from College Hunks. He’s also started selling his own branded line of clothing. King says he has no immediate plans for the money.
“Save it,” he quips.
“He’s cheap,” laughs his brother.
There’s plenty more on the way, too. In fact, King says he’s heard from representatives of at least 50 brands across the nation, all attempting to crash into this new space where, suddenly, more than 400,000 NCAA athletes are available.
Most of his deals are built around endorsing the three companies on his social media accounts. He may eventually make appearances, too, and he hopes to involve his teammates. While King is comfortable financially, that’s not the case for everyone in the locker room.
Many of his teammates, in fact, send part of their monthly cost-of-attendance stipend to their families, some of whom are struggling with expenses. After rent, King usually has $500–700 remaining to live off of the rest of the month. His teammates? Some of them send that home.
“I don’t have to do that but they do,” King says. “We’re trying to find ways to help each other.”
“He’s going to look out for his linemen,” adds Keshon.
One of those ways? King suggests a multi-player signing ceremony or appearance at a local business. The revenue for the event would then be split evenly among all players—a generous gesture that makes King wonder why the NCAA prohibited such actions until the year 2021.
“It’s all surreal,” he says.
And exhausting. King signed his College Hunk’s deal in a ceremony at 12:01 a.m. Thursday—the earliest that it became legal under state law. He went to bed around 1 and was up by 5 to participate in UM’s two-and-a-half hour summer workouts. He then went to physical rehab for two hours, ate lunch and then traveled to the Wharf for a 3 p.m. ceremony.
He returned to the bar on Thursday night for a celebration appearance with his teammates, but he couldn’t stay out too late. He’s got more workouts Friday morning.
It’s a balance that some major college stars—and those with large social media followers such as the Cavinder twins—will have to strike.
He has more plans for NIL ventures, such as holding a camp in Houston and hitting the speaking engagement tour.
“I want to tell people my story,” he says.
And there’s one other thing, too. There is a specific brand in which he’d like to sign: the athleisure company Lululemon. He hasn’t heard from the company yet, but he’s put out feelers. Maybe they’ll call soon. After all, now it’s legal.
Like a light switch, the NCAA flipped on the ability for athletes to do what every other student on a college campus can: Make money off of themselves.
Still, King says, the goal remains the same.
“I’m still focused on winning a championship,” he says.
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