Graduate student Rayquan Smith breaks a tackle against Livingstone 
on Saturday, Sept. 23. Photo contributed by Rayquan Smith.
Graduate student Rayquan Smith breaks a tackle against Livingstone on Saturday, Sept. 23. Photo contributed by Rayquan Smith.

‘King of NIL’ spreads wealth for HBCU athletes

Graduate Student Rayquan Smith has excelled in NIL receiving over 100 deals

Name, Image and Likeness (NIL), in its most basic form, refers to the procedures by which college athletes are permitted to obtain monetary rewards. Use of an athlete’s name, likeness, and image for marketing and promotional purposes is referred to as NIL. This might involve postings on social media, endorsing products, signing autographs, and more.

“The King of NIL” as they call him, Mr. Rayquan Smith, graduate student from Norfolk State University now attends Virginia State University as a Mass Communications graduate student. He grew up in Richmond, Va., starting his football career at a young age and now becoming the new face of NIL.

At the start of his NIL process, Smith had no knowledge about the deals prior to his signing date. He developed a strategy on how to pitch himself to several brands for NIL.

“I didn’t know much about it until I learned about the process two hours before it happened. I wrote the format down and sent it to 100 companies and only got three responses. Two of them were a no,”  Smith said.

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It’s crucial to comprehend what NIL does not indicate at the same time. Schools are still prohibited from paying players directly per NCAA rules.

As a result, high school athletes cannot be paid directly by colleges for their athletic accomplishments or receive financial incentives from college coaches to come play for their teams.

It is impossible to pay athletes for their on-field performance because the NCAA still seeks to keep sports as amateur competitions. NIL, on the other hand, is a workaround that allows athletes to be compensated without actually being seen as professional athletes, who earn a living from their activity.

Although Smith didn’t get as many responses as he expected, that didn’t stop him from trying to conquer his purpose. He fondly remembers locking in his first NIL deal with Smart Cups, then soon after receiving a partnership with Eastbay.

From there, Smith has excelled in NIL, receiving over 100 deals. Smith was not nervous at all in the start of his NIL process. He believed that the advantage with social media, with creating content on his own, allowed for NIL to put him on a bigger platform.

“All I heard was money… to be paid just to post content and promote was easy. All I have to do is be me,” Smith said.

He explained his strategy when playing with Norfolk State University and why it felt great to play against his old alma mater.

“I just wanted to make sure we were prepped and ready to play against Norfolk State, making sure we did the little things right. The whole one month of preparation getting ready was fun and good and we did what we had to do,” Smith said.

Smith expressed that he brings a breath of fresh air. Being connected with NIL, he believes he is the key to helping other athletes secure an NIL deal. The goal is to put Virginia State on a bigger sports platform.

“That’s really the main goal, creating a change for student athletes. If they want to work with me, they have to work with my teammates too,” Smith said.

Being a member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, crossing spring 2021 at Norfolk State University, he knew he wanted to bring something different to the fraternity.

“I wanted to help out and make us bigger than what we already are,” Smith said.

Smith believes being a part of the fraternity increased his network through the sport as well. It did not only help off the field, but on the field too.

Smith expressed Virginia State is his finish line. He assured his journey here will be the light that he needs to carry out his goals.

His end goals are to help all HBCU athletes.

“NIL is going to get better every year. Just because you go to an HBCU, it doesn’t mean you can’t be in NIL. My job is to make sure they get the deals and go about it the right way.”

After graduate school Smith plans to come back and encourage student athletes to invest in themselves while they can with NIL deals.

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About the Contributor
Charnese Small
Charnese Small, Photographer
Charnese Small is a first year feature photographer for The Virginia Statesman. Small is a junior Mass Communications major with a sociology minor. In her free time, she loves to take pictures, watch movies and eat ice cream. After graduating from Virginia State she plans to start her own professional photography business. She also plans to build her own recreational center in her hometown and expand her talents to other cities.
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