COLUMBUS (COLUMBUS BUSINESS FIRST) — Former Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones feels a responsibility to help current college athletes navigate the new world of name, image and likeness deals.
Jones, who advocated at the Ohio Statehouse for college athletes to be able to sign those types of licensing deals, has now formed a new talent agency with several prominent figures, including former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio Dave DeVillers, to manage such deals.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed an executive order allowing the practice in late June.
“It’s long overdue,” Jones said. “I knew I would never be able to capitalize on NIL. You want to leave something better than you found it. My thing is trying to leave college football, and in particular Ohio State University, better than I found it. I have no choice but to make (current athletes’) livelihoods, their college experiences, better than what I had.”
Joining Jones, who is serving as chief talent officer for Ten Talents NIL, and DeVillers, is Mehek Cooke, who will serve as general counsel, and Jordan Ohler, a communications professional.
Ten Talents is billing itself as a “one-stop shop agency for legal, crisis communications, marketing and helping to elevate athletes not only on the field, but by building a legacy,” Ohler said.
Jones said when he was a student, he didn’t have the business mindset that he has now. Students facing new financial opportunities need educated people around them to help guide them to make good decisions, he said, especially in a new industry like name, image and likeness.
He’s already received text messages and calls from players looking for guidance, and he wants to be responsive.
“When more players started to reach out to me about advice, and when I started to be more familiar with companies out there, I thought (some deals) weren’t in the best interest of the players,” Jones said.
The agency will also help athletes deal with the tricky world of social media and influence.
“The right or wrong response can make or break you,” Jones said of athletes who are faced with tricky situations.
DeVillers said the world of NIL laws and deals is complicated, and his role is “negotiating contracts for the agency and student-athletes and customers that are fair and equitable.”
“There’s a lot of stuff that could happen,” DeVillers said. “We’re in a position where we can navigate through that with the student athletes and colleges.”
The agency is focused on helping Ohio athletes secure deals with Ohio companies as well as nationally. Ohler said they want to help athletes from all sports, not just football.
“It’s a brand-new market,” Ohler said. “There are some big stories out there about big-time money. It will grow. The opportunities will get better, and the opportunities that are out there show corporations and businesses that there are great gains to be made (by partnering with athletes) who are going to be great representatives of their brands.”
The agency will make money by taking a percentage of cash deals that players sign. Jones said that’s a differentiator with other agencies, who are taking a percentage of all deals that a player signs, including where money doesn’t exchange hands.
He said he knows of one player who now owes money to his new talent agency because they charged him a commission on deal for a new car he received.
“That kid will be out roughly $2,000 in cash on top of paying taxes for that lease, on top of insurance,” Jones said. “He thought he was driving a free car.”
The group said one of their key drivers is protecting student athletes.
“There are going to be those who try to use these kids for the NIL for stuff that probably isn’t good, or you don’t want to be attached to,” DeVillers said.
Cooke said she has heard of “rogue people who aren’t professional agents who are reaching out to athletes.” Cooke said her job is to make sure that athletes are signing contracts are legitimate and fair, “not just saying yes to everything that comes in.”
Cooke said their agency is about helping athletes not only while they’re still in school, but for the long haul.
“We’re not in it just for NIL; we’re about the legacy,” Cooke said. “How do we build these kids so they come back to Ohio?”
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