Tuesday October 3, 2023

Wisconsin NIL Collective Enlists Russell Wilson to Mentor Athletes

  • The collective, formally launching Thursday, wants to prepare athletes for their post-collegiate careers in addition to procuring deals.
  • It has enlisted business leaders and former Badger athletes like Russell Wilson and J.J. Watt.
Samantha Madar / USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
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October 3, 2023 | Podcast
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In the ever-evolving recruiting landscape, NIL collectives are looking for ways to differentiate themselves. 

A new collective at Wisconsin, The Varsity Collective, is looking to create a “unique” experience for athletes by blending elements of other collectives with a career development program.

As a 501(c)(3), it will help connect athletes with deals for charitable causes — one of several that has the somewhat controversial nonprofit designation. Similar to other collectives, it will provide brand building and NIL education to athletes.

The collective sets itself apart by enlisting a star-studded cast of alumni to mentor Wisconsin athletes for their post-college careers, executive chair Rob Master told Front Office Sports.

The program, called “Life Currency,” will offer mentorship training and speaking events. Pro athletes include Badger alums Russell Wilson and J.J. Watt, as well as entertainment and business leaders, who have agreed to participate.

It took little more than phone calls to convince even some of the most high-profile Badger alumni to get involved. “Every person I called … and we said, ‘Hey, this is what we’re doing’ — it was, immediately, ‘I’m in,’” Master said.

Unlike some competitors, The Varsity Collective does not have a specific fundraising goal, Master said. The group wants athletes focused on building long-term careers rather than just getting quick cash.

“It’s not just about saying, ‘Oh, we’re going to go do stuff where we teach [athletes] about life,’” Master said. “We’ve already lined up programming and speakers for half a dozen of these Life Currency courses.” 

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