Update as of 2/10/22: The NFTs sold out in 3 hours and paid out a total of $305,000 to the student athletes…$28k each!
Former UGA football players Ty Frix, Keith Marshall and Aaron Murray, along with Ty’s brother Trent Frix, recently created The Players’ Lounge, a digital collaborative space for college fanbases, with the University of Georgia as its initial focus. In addition to using a Discord channel to connect fans, the group will launch an NFT collection called DGD Mafia on Sunday, January 9 to benefit current UGA football players.
Those who purchase the NFTs will also gain access to exclusive content and experiences, both within The Players’ Lounge and also in physical locations. Fifty percent of all profits will go to current UGA football players who will leverage their name, image and likeness to help promote the NFT launch.
Ty Frix says the idea came from two separate experiences he had: starting a Young Lettermen’s gathering in the parking lot before UGA games with fellow former teammates back that has been going strong since 2015 and, more recently, learning to mine cryptocurrency.
“I became a Letterman 10 years ago and was really sort of perplexed by the fact that most of my teammates, and even my best friend, didn’t know we had a Lettermen’s Club and didn’t really know how they could come back and get involved. So, I started trying to work on that with with my teammates, and we started The Young Lettermen’s parking lot for fellowship at game time.”
Through that, Ty Frix realized they could do a better job as former players connecting with other former players.
“When we learned about NFTs this year, we started realizing that this was the perfect opportunity to take this technology that’s sort of on the fringe of the college sports world and bring it into college sports as a way to bridge the gap between former players, current players and also fanbases.”
The Players’ Lounge has signed six current UGA football players, with a goal of signing approximately 10 to help them promote their January 6 NFT launch. So far, they’ve announced partnerships with Nakobe Dean, John Staton, Payne Walker, Jake Camarda, Ladd McConkey, Christopher Smith, John Fitzpatrick and Kelee Ringo. The final group of players will receive 50% of the sales from the NFTs.
“Our goal wasn’t for us to get the benefit of it,” said Murray. “I wish I had lived in NIL years; I’d be doing pretty well, I think. We’ve been in these kids’ shoes and know how hard they work. People want to make it seem like it’s so easy and the guys have great lives because they get a free scholarship, but it’s tough work to balance school and being a collegiate athlete, especially in the SEC where the demand is extremely high at a place like Georgia. It’s physically and mentally taxing.”
For Murray, it’s all about helping current players do something his own teammates were punished for under the previous rules prohibiting profiting from your own NIL.
“For us to find a way to put some money back in these players’ pockets, I think it’s great. I lived through two times when two of my teammates were hurt by [previous NIL rules]. AJ Green my freshman year was suspended for four games because he sent some money home to mom and dad. He got in trouble for signing a jersey. Todd Gurley got in trouble for signings and memorabilia too, and he gets suspended four games. It frustrated the heck out of me, so when Ty brought this to me, I said, ‘I want in.’”
Initially, current players will be helping to promote NFTs created around former players, but the company hasn’t closed the door on doing NFTs with current student athletes in the future.
Murray says the idea behind The Players’ Lounge goes beyond the NFTs, however.
“An important aspect for us is building the community. When you just have player trading cards, that’s all it is. Anyone can have it, and you’re just trading a card on the internet. We’re creating an atmosphere and a community where you get to interact with former players. We have a great Discord channel with a ton of fans that we’re interacting with right now. We’ll have signed memorabilia, whether it’s current or former athletes, and we’re going to be having meetups in the spring and fall. So, exclusive stuff that you can only attend if you have one of these NFTs.”
Ty Frix says much of the motivation for him in creating The Players’ Lounge was giving back to the community that supported him during his playing career.
“We got beat against Alabama my senior year in the 2012 SEC championship, and it was really like the soul got sucked out of all of us. It’s the the most emotional locker room I’ve ever been in, and the worst bus ride home I’ve ever had. Then we got home and we had dozens of cookies sitting outside of our house. Me and Aaron lived together, and we had posters and a big banner that was signed by 1,000s of fans. They came by and dropped it off to express their appreciation for how hard we played, and that’s something that you never forget. Nothing matters as much as taking care of the group that took care of us so much.”
Currently, the Discord channel for UGA has 886 members as the company leads up to its initial NFT launch. Murray and Marshall have already done a live interview in the group to share more about their plans and additional live events are planned.
In the future, The Players’ Lounge may expand to include other UGA sports teams. The company is also hoping if they can prove their concept with UGA they can expand it to other schools in the future.
Check out my podcast interview with Ty Frix and Aaron Murray below.