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Column: 15 minutes of fame flies by. Who can help student-athletes cash in?

Demand for Yeezys has recently spiked for a major reseller of high-end footwear and apparel…much to my chagrin.

Apparently, some people consider them a collector’s item despite (or because of) the well-known anti-Semitic musings of its creator, formerly known as Kanye West. So while it’s been reported that Adidas — which broke off its relationship with Ye over his offensive comments — is $500 million worth of Yeezys it can’t move, that reseller called Impossible Kicks is shaking out up to 7,000 pairs a month, some for as little as as much as $400.

I want you to keep all of that in mind as you ponder this question:

How much do you think a 2006 Tim Tebow shoe would cost today, if he could have sold items during the frenzy that surrounded him in Florida for four years? You know, like everyone else did.

Opinion columnist

LZ Granderson

LZ Granderson writes about culture, politics, sports and navigating life in America.

If Yeezys can still move after all the controversy, if a pair of shoes Michael Jordan wore as a rookie can cost nearly $1.5 million, Tebow would have given new meaning to the phrase “big man on campus” had the name student athlete/image/likeness deals were a thing when he was most popular.

That was always the sticking point for me in the ongoing debate about student-athlete compensation. There’s so little time for college kids to take advantage of their fame — 15 minutes, as the saying goes — and the NCAA owned every second. When TV deals started more than eight digitsto pretend this arrangement was fair would be Gaslighting 101.

That’s not to say that NILs are perfect. Between shady third-party collectives and different states with different rules, there will always be some degree of chaos. But the thing is, there was always chaos — with recruiting violations and blowers hovering around campuses. At least now future Tebows can make some money amidst the chaos.

And the fact that there are still coaches complaining about that lost “amateur” fairy tale is ridiculous. Not everyone is going to make millions with the pros. For most student-athletes, this is the end of their athletic career.

There’s a 15-year-old Georgia quarterback named Julian “JuJu” Lewis who has over 100,000 followers on Instagram, north of 200,000 likes on TikTok, and is already making comparisons to Trevor Lawrence, the top overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft. Why not turn that social media presence into coins, like other influencers his age? Lewis also has 35 scholarship offers, including from USC, which has an athletic department not fond of outside NIL collectives, but did set up its own shop last June – BLVD, which has since blossomed.

Last month, the Tommy Group, led by former USC great Keyshawn Johnson, officially launched as an outside collective for USC players … after already working with 80 student-athletes. Among them is Caleb Williams, who was able to cash in on his likeness while in college, unlike Tebow.

Or think of Johnny Manziel, who in 2012 became the first college freshman to win the Heisman. In high school, he was nicknamed “Johnny Football,” but didn’t trademark it until he left Texas A&M. By then, the lion’s share of his 15 minutes was behind him, and with it huge winning potential. Sure, he and Tebow still got called up in the first round and signed contracts worth millions. But what about the millions that were on the table when they were in college? Or rather, the millions that ended up in someone else’s pockets while they were “amateurs”?

When Johnson told me about the Tommy Group, I was delighted to see my friend use his expertise to help Trojans like Williams make the money he didn’t make when he was in college. Representation is important, and I think it’s a win-win situation when NFL greats like Johnson and Drew Brees, who joined an NIL collective at his alma mater Purdue, return this way. In many ways, they are the only ones who can truly understand what a student-athlete like Williams is going through.

Example: The Athletic running a survey of NFL agents about their views on NILand one of them said “the problem is you see a lot of unqualified people taking advantage of these young men.”

First, that’s rich when you come from a cop.

Second, former college stars with NFL careers are among the most qualified people to show the younger versions of themselves how to maximize their 15 minutes (if college is indeed the end of their fame).

Perhaps that’s why Tebow was one of the speakers at last year’s NIL Summit in Atlanta, to update the next Heisman winner on the things he’s learned.

Johnson told me his group’s intent isn’t to make money for itself, but to look out for what’s best for Trojans. And when I think how many times this lifelong Trojan has yelled “Fight On” in my face, I believe him.