The Eccker 10 – Braden Mullen
Ivy League football offers a unique college experience. You’re a division one athlete playing at the FCS level, but you’re balancing that D1 lifestyle with going to one of the top schools in the nation. For Braden Mullen, that was a challenge he wanted to undergo head on. Coming from one of the top prep schools in Chicago, Mullen worked hard to find himself playing D1, with NIL coming to the forefront of college sports immediately upon his arrival at Dartmouth College. We caught up with Braden on his best experiences as an athlete, his advice to high schoolers learning about NIL for the first time, and what it’s like being an Ivy League student athlete.
Tyler: What is your greatest memory as an athlete?
Braden: Currently it was the spring football season of my senior year of high school or winning the Ivy League last year. It’s tough for last year to be the favorite though because I didn’t play much, but it was still fun.
Tyler: What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as an athlete and how were you able to work past it?
Braden: Coming out of last year I didn’t play much during the year and in the offseason, it didn’t look like I was going to get much playing time this year either, but I knew there wasn’t anything I could do about it but put my head down and grind every day. I was able to do that and earned some playing time for myself.
Tyler: Do you have any unique or hidden talents?
Braden: I can down huge protein shakes… like 2000 calories plus in like six seconds. My calories per second consumption are unmatched.
Tyler: What was your first NIL deal?
Braden: I did a deal with Barstool like everybody else did when they were doing their athlete programs when NIL first launched. They sent me a sweatshirt and sweatpants and that was about it. It wasn’t a huge deal but it was cool and pretty easy.
” I would say that above all else, you’re at college to play football. So play football. Give everything you have towards football and don’t let NIL interfere with the time you spend getting better at the sport because NIL is based on you playing the sport well.”
– Braden Mullen
Tyler: How has NIL impacted your experience as an athlete?
Braden: NIL is really cool because it gives anybody the opportunity to do whatever they want. You’ve got a lot of guys on my team who are doing stuff where they get paid, and they work more than I do but they’re getting compensated for it which is great. I’ve also got friends who will do deals where they post about a taco joint back home and then they eat for free whenever they’re over there. I just think it’s such a good way for athletes to make money, which I think they should be doing, and for athletes to integrate themselves with local or national brands.
Tyler: How do you determine which brands to partner with?
Braden: I’ll research the brands and ask someone who may have some insight into the brand I’m considering partnering with. If I decide to partner with a brand, I’ll submit a form to the NCAA compliance office and they’ll review the contract the brand sends over and then give it the green light if it’s good to go.
Tyler: How do you educate yourself on NIL?
Braden: When it first came out there were a few articles floating around about NIL and our coach sent the whole team a few articles to read over just to figure out what’s legal and what’s not. For example, when NIL came out people were asking if colleges or benefactors could pay us directly. Our coaches shot that down quickly and made it clear we couldn’t accept money just because we’re football players. They taught us about submitting forms to the compliance office and getting the okay from them before doing anything. I feel like that’s how I really first educated myself about it. Other than that I don’t have to do much, I just focus on listening to the compliance office.
Tyler: How has education played a role in your NIL experience?
Braden: I haven’t had any deals turned down by compliance, but I have a couple of teammates who had things turned down by the compliance office. They’ve said no way on a few things people have proposed. If someone shoots me a DM or I’m looking at a brand’s page to figure out if I could do some NIL stuff with them, the education makes it easier to evaluate what type of deals might get accepted by compliance.
Tyler: If you could change one thing about NIL and how it’s worked so far, what would it be?
Braden: I know there are a lot of questions around coaches setting a whole team up with NIL deals. I also know there are a couple of schools who have gone forward with that whether it be through loopholes or cheating or whatnot. I do wish there was a way for a benefactor to come to a coach and be able to hook up the team with some t-shirts or something like that. I know there are ways to work around it but coaches can’t really get involved so I wish they could do little things like that.
Tyler: What piece of advice would you give to high school athletes as they start their NIL journeys?
Braden: I would say that above all else, you’re at college to play football. So play football. Give everything you have towards football and don’t let NIL interfere with the time you spend getting better at the sport because NIL is based on you playing the sport well. Don’t worry about it too much because it’s not a huge deal if you’re not out there signing huge contracts…not everybody does. Especially if you’re at a smaller school, it can be tough because these brands understand how many Instagram followers you might have and how many people you might be reaching which is less at a smaller school. But definitely explore what opportunities there are. Find what’s out there and look up things like “cool NIL deals” because you can find some good stuff. I know there are good clothing brands out there that make great gear that have a super solid NIL program. There are plenty of brands with free apparel, food, nutrition supplements, and plenty of other things. I’d also tell them to make sure that any supplements or anything you’re promoting is approved by the NCAA because you can lose eligibility if you’re not aware of the rules.