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Former Aggie, YouTuber Ryan Trahan Shows Hog Fans Positive Side to NIL

Razorbacks no longer have to give up on dreams, passions to stay with Arkansas
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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – For the past couple of years, Arkansas fans have bemoaned the negatives of the NIL movement within college sports. 

They despise being asked to pay even more money so the team can buy players and hate the idea of bringing in mercenaries who love the money rather than the Razorbacks. The meddling by other teams trying to lure away players also makes not only them, but the Hogs' coaching staff, insane.

However, this isn't a tale of the giant pile of out of control negatives surrounding NIL. This is a look at one of the few things that makes it great. 

Be warned though. This brings it back to the actual purpose of NIL, a notion long forgotten as teams race to take advantage of wealthy alumni bases to gain an edge on schools with fewer millionaires and billionaires in the arsenal.

It starts down in College Station back in 2017 with Texas A&M freshman cross country runner Ryan Trahan. Before moving to join the Aggies, he decided to document all the aspects of moving into and adjusting to being a college athlete on his YouTube channel.

Things were going well. His channel was starting to take off on a small scale and he had just finished third at the Aggieland Open. Then the lack of NIL rights not only threw his life off kilter, it forced him into a decision a lot of athletes had to make prior to July of 2021.

Depicted beautifully in a movie trailer of Trahan's life created by the Sticks YouTube channel, he was called in to the Aggies' compliance office and told he must choose between being an NCAA athlete and having a YouTube channel. He had worked long and hard to become a college athlete and it was clear the Texas A&M athletics department felt confident he would give up YouTube to keep running.

However, after asking for options and being told the only thing he could depict was typical college student things like studying, gutting what made his channel special, Trahan not only walked out on the cross country program, he quit college all together and put all his focus into building his channel. He was going to control his name, image and likeness, not Texas A&M or the NCAA.

The goal was to be able to make a decent living by 2021, which is when he would have graduated college. It didn't take nearly that long. 

Trahan hit that mark within a year, taking time to drive around the A&M campus rocking Post Malone's "Congratulations" with the windows down as his way of celebrating making the right decision. Two years later his name was among YouTube icons like MatPat, Markiplier, Rhet and Link, and Mark Rober. 

When he decided to use a penny to get him from one side of the country to the East Coast where he would deliver the penny to YouTube megastar Mr. Beast, he instantly blew away anything sticking around at Texas A&M could have provided. All profit had to come from the penny, all food, transportation and housing had to come from the result of the profit, and he had a goal of 30 days to get across the country. 

Documenting that month launched him into the stratosphere. It concluded with him crossing a finish line in North Carolina. The guys from Sticks decided to conclude the trailer with by showing him running toward the finish line at Texas A&M only to cross it in that field in the Carolinas to symbolize his journey of overcoming NCAA oppression.

In the behind the scenes video that shows the full process of deciding to make the trailer down to flying from Australia to Austin to set up a screening for Trahan without so much as his contact information, audio clips they used in their research of Trahan recounting the pain of being called into the compliance director's office can be seen. It's not something any Arkansas fan would want to have to hear from a former Razorback, but certainly may have happened at some point.

Trahan was one of the lucky ones. He bet on himself and used the focus and determination that made him a great athlete to become a massive star. 

Who knows how many Razorbacks along the way had that kind of potential, but chose instead to remain at Arkansas. There have been plenty of creatively brilliant, driven young men and women with the personalities needed to get over the hump in whatever their passion outside of football might be. 

Fortunately, they don't have to absorb that sort of risk. That's because, ironically, just over a month after Trahan would have graduated, use of name, image and likeness became legal for athletes. 

They suddenly had the ability to pocket a little money off sales of their jerseys, autographs, and, yes, YouTube channels. Now, if Layden Blocker and Landon Jackson want to put together a Twitch channel of them playing the upcoming EA Sports college football video game, they can do that and reap the financial benefits. 

If Anton Juncaj wants to put together a YouTube channel that details his path from high school football in New York to Nassau Junior College, then tell the story of becoming a dominant force at Albany while leading them to the FCS championship game, he can do just that. 

He's free to share regular weekly videos documenting adjusting to Division I football while trying to earn playing time as a defensive lineman in the SEC. It's a story that would be compelling if he has the skills and willingness to do it in an engaging manner. 

And that's the beautiful side of NIL. These players don't have to take the risk Trahan did. They can dabble in it a bit to see whether it's something that can take off without having to give up on their dream as an NCAA athlete.

Arkansas fans no longer run the risk of a cornerstone player leaving in the middle of the season because someone in compliance gave him or her an ultimatum. In fact, fans can get behind them and provide support in a much more organic way than the other aspects of NIL have forced upon them.

That's NIL the way it was intended. To avoid the next Ryan Trahan from having to choose between two loves and possibly breaking the heart of Razorbacks fans in the process. 

It's the one light in the NIL darkness that has caused Arkansas fans so much pain these last few years.


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