5 Athletes Giving Back Through NIL

Brittany Zion  |  Nov 07, 2022

With the spotlight shining on NIL deals and the student-athletes inking them, we wanted to pause and highlight some standout players committed to excelling both on and off the field, pledging to donate a portion of their NIL profits to charitable causes and making a difference in their own communities and beyond.

Dillan Gibbons, Florida State University

Dillan Gibbons started his college football career as an offensive lineman for Notre Dame. Later, he made the difficult decision to transfer from Notre Dame to Florida State University to play his remaining two years of college football while obtaining his MBA degree. The decision was more complicated than expected because of his friendship with a Fighting Irish fan named Timothy Donovan. Timothy was born with a condition called VACTRL and Charcot-Marie-Tooth syndrome, a rare medical disease that requires the full-time use of a wheelchair.

When Dillan told Timothy about his move to FSU, he and his family were very supportive of his decision, declaring themselves Noles fans, and perhaps more importantly, Dillan Gibbons fans.

Shortly after he arrived on campus in Tallahassee in June of 2021, Dillan learned that the State of Florida passed a law allowing NCAA student-athletes to use their name, image, and likeness for profit for the first time ever. At that moment, Dillan began to implement his plan to use his NIL to help Timothy.

On July 1, 2021, the very first day that NCAA student-athletes across the country were allowed to use their name, image, and likeness for profit, Dillan started a GoFundMe to help bring his friend Timothy to Tallahassee to see Dillan’s first game as a Florida State Seminole as he played against his former teammates at Notre Dame.

As it turned out, Dillan became the first NCAA student-athlete to use his NIL for a charitable purpose. The GoFundMe that Dillan started to bring Timothy to Tallahassee – TakeTimothytoTally – met its initial fundraising goal of $30,000 within 23 hours and later exceeded $55,000.

His success with TakeTimothytoTally inspired Gibbons to start his own Florida non-profit corporation called Big Man Big Heart, Inc. with the goal of teaching other NCAA student-athletes the value of using their NIL for good and guiding them through the process of setting up a successful fundraising initiative through GoFundMe.

Dillan’s nonprofit organization has helped other athletes use their NIL proceeds for good causes, raising more than $150,000 to date.

Harry Miller, The Ohio State University

Ohio State junior offensive lineman Harry Miller plans to donate all of his name, image, and likeness earnings to humanitarian efforts in Nicaragua. A former four-star prospect from Buford, GA., Miller has taken annual mission trips to the Central American country since he was in the seventh grade, volunteering at a school and distributing food and medicine to underserved families in the region. He’s also a board member at Mission 4 Nicaragua in Los Brasiles.

“You don’t need much to have much,” Miller said. “That’s probably the biggest lesson I’ve learned from Nicaragua.”

Miller was one of 22 players named to the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team for his philanthropic efforts, which recognizes student-athletes for their exemplary community service, academic dedication, and impact on and off the field. Allstate donated $10,000 to the charity of Miller’s choice, which further benefited those in need in Nicaragua.

Nick Evers, The University of Oklahoma

Nick Evers, a quarterback in OU’s 2022 recruiting class, announced a partnership with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. As part of the deal, Evers will attend or arrange events, such as autograph signings or meet-and-greets, and donate all proceeds to Make-A-Wish.

“I see all these kids are going through so much,” Evers said. “I mean, they have these life-threatening diseases. And, you know, to see them have a smile on their face — even though they’re going through all this stuff — because of the things that I can provide for them, and all these other athletes can provide for them, I think is really amazing.”
Brad Barghols, President and CEO of Make-A-Wish Oklahoma, said since Evers made the announcement to donate his first NIL deal proceeds to the charity, other athletes have followed suit.

“What’s neat about this, too, is that I’ve been getting calls from other Make-A-Wish chapters with athletes that are reaching out to them wanting to follow Nick’s lead,” said Barghols. “They thought it was great. And so it’s not just Oklahoma and Texas that will benefit. There’s schools all over the country that will benefit from Nick’s idea.”

Tyler Linderbaum, University of Iowa

Early in Linderbaum’s Iowa football career, family members wore “Baum Squad” apparel to games. The merchandise was printed by a company owned by his father’s cousins called Top Promotions.

That gave Linderbaum the idea to sell special shirts to raise money for the UI Children’s Hospital, located directly across from the football stadium. At the end of the first quarter of Iowa home football games, fans, players, and staff pause to wave to the patients and families within the hospital.

Top Promotions handled everything, including the design, which shows Tyler waiving to the hospital in his No. 65 Hawkeye jersey. The sales of the limited edition apparel generated $30,000 in proceeds, all of which were donated to the hospital, as neither Tyler nor the apparel company kept any money.

Jack Bech, Louisiana State University

Bech, a talented tight end at LSU, learned about a non-profit organization called the Dreams Come True Foundation that grants dreams to children in Louisiana battling life-threatening illnesses. He immediately agreed to partner with them, offering to grant the dream of a local teen whose favorite college team is LSU. The two spent the day together and toured the LSU campus and facility.

“Being able to do that for him and showing him what it’s like to be an LSU player, one of the dreams in his life, it was really special for me and him”, said Bech.

Additionally, Bech pledged some of his NIL funds to the Dreams Come True Foundation to help raise awareness of the organization and allow them to make more dreams come true.

These five charitable student-athletes are a small representation of a larger number of collegiate athletes pledging their well-earned NIL opportunities to impact local and national non-profit organizations. As student-athletes, families, and coaches build awareness and education of NIL, the potential for more donations to aid philanthropic efforts is not just possible, but likely.

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