NIL Watch: Trending Players After Week 3

Last Updated on September 23, 2023

Although name, image and likeness deals aren’t supposed to be based on performance on the field, it’s no secret that a big game—or season—can lead to new NIL deals.

After seeing search traffic for Shilo Sanders explode following his pick six in Week 3, I decided to take a look at athletes who are trending after each week’s games who are primed for NIL success.

In no order, here are the trending players from Week 3 based on Google search traffic.

Shilo Sanders (Colorado, Safety)

Colorado safety Shilo Sanders might not have been on many radars before last Saturday’s game, but his pick six made searches for his name skyrocket. In fact, it resulted in not only the most-read story on Business of College Sports in our twelve year history, but also our biggest traffic day in the site’s history.

The middle son of Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders, Shilo is a grad transfer with two years of eligibility left (including this season). He’s done deals alongside his younger brother Shedeur with Actively Black, Oikos and KFC. He also became a brand ambassador for Porsche last year and has done deals on his Instagram with TurboTax, Champs Sports and Sprayground.

Current following:

Instagram: 796K

TikTok: 3.1M

Shedeur Sanders (Colorado, QB)

Colorado QB Shedeur Sanders has already been a popular athlete in the NIL marketplace, but his stock continues to rise with every game this season.

In addition to deals alongside his brother Shilo, he’s done deals with Actively Black, Oikos and KFC. He’s also launched his own apparel line, SS2LEGENDARY and signed with Urban Outfitters and Topps.

Shedeur also has several firsts. He was the first college athlete to sign with Beats by Dre and the first HBCU athlete to sign with Gatorade. He was also the first NIL ambassador for Mercedes Benz.

Current following:

Instagram: 1.5M

TikTok: 525.6K

Travis Hunter (Colorado, CB/WR)

Unfortunately, Colorado’s two-way sensation Travis Hunter (who came over from Jackson State with the Sanders men) is out for three weeks after an injury in last Saturday’s double-overtime win against Colorado State.

His time off the field might impact his NIL opportunities a little, but he’s still a hot commodity thanks to his play the first three weeks of the season.

Currently, Hunter has NIL deals with Beats by Dre, Urban Outfitters and Topps. Based on his social media, it appears he’s also worked with KastKing, Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits, Michael Strahan Brand, HEY DUDE, and NXTRND. He also has a partnership with Phil Long Ford of Chapel Hills for a truck.

Hunter also resigned with Celsius for the rest of the 2023 season, which was announced just before the Colorado State game.

Current following:

Instagram: 1M

TikTok: 790.3K

Trevor Etienne (Florida, RB)

Trevor Etienne might be one of the guys with the most potential to grow his NIL profile, because he hasn’t had the blockbuster deals some of the others on this list have. However, after this first three weeks of the season, his value should be on the rise after a big win over a ranked Tennessee team (with a career-high 172 yards and a TD) and the Doak Walker National Running Back of the Week Award.

Etienne is a RB for Florida and the brother of Jacksonville Jaguars RB Travis Etienne, and the two recently did a deal together with Ellianos Coffee. He also has a deal with OpenLocker (which includes a partnership with Bleu Bird Wings in Gainesville), the Gataverse and GAMEDAY Products.

Current following:

Instagram: 58.4K

Cam’Ron Silmon-Craig (Colorado, Safety)

Colorado safety Cam’Ron Silmon-Craig is another Jackson State transfer to Colorado helping fuel the Buffaloes 3-0 start. He had two interceptions in the first three games and 12 tackles. He’s one I’d snap up as a brand as a guy on the rise.

Currently, I only see one brand deal for him on Instagram: Produce Section Clothing. Although he has a solid following, he’s not doing a ton of posting. If he amped it up a little and showed a some more behind-the-scenes and off-the-field content, I think he’d see his NIL take off.

Instagram: 46.8K

Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi (Colorado State, QB)

Colorado State QB Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi fought hard last week in the double-overtime loss to Colorado in only his second career start. The redshirt freshman was cool under pressure as he played in a hostile environment and nearly won a game no one had picked the Rams to win.

Fowler-Nicolosi isn’t super active on social media, but if he keeps up like this on the field, he might want to post at least a couple of times a week to put himself in position to take advantage of the NIL deals that will come if he remains the Rams’ starter.

Instagram: 3.1K

Drake Maye (UNC, QB)

UNC QB Drake Maye is one of the highest valued athletes in the country right now when it comes to NIL.

Maye is one of seven athletes who signed with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s new energy drink, Zoa. He also joined six of his WRs to partner with Jimmy’s Famous Seafood and Jimmy’s Famous Meals through UNC collective Heels4Life.

His social media also shows NIL deals with Bose, Next Gen Camps, TABLECampus Mogul, and Corcoran HM Properties. Mayes has acknowledged his NIL earnings have made him a millionaire.

Instagram: 61K

Montrell Johnson (Florida, RB)

Florida Gators RB Montrell Johnson is another guy whose NIL stock rose with his Week 3 performance against Tennessee. Scoring twice, he was a key part of Florida’s upset over the No. 11 Volunteers.

Outside of some work with NIL collective Florida Victorious, Johnson doesn’t seem to have done much in the NIL space. Expect that to change if he can keep doing what he did in Week 3.

Instagram: 15.8K

Colorado State DB Henry Blackburn was also trending after Colorado State’s heartbreaking double-overtime loss to Colorado, but unfortunately it was because of a late hit. Because of the subject matter of the searches (like death threats to his family), I’ve left him off this list because the reason for him trending isn’t one likely to attract brands.

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