“We think we have something very special to market, to sell and to position our guys in this space at a really, really high level.”
The tenor of the football preseason gathering is so different this year, both with the lingering shadow of COVID-19 and the coming of the new NIL freedoms for players to profit from their sport. Somewhere on this landscape, we also will get around to worrying about Tech’s continuing, difficult transition from Paul Johnson’s option to Collins’ somewhat hipper playbook. But the changes brought about by the coming capitalistic chaos just figure to be so profound.
They will profoundly affect recruiting, profoundly alter the locker-room dynamic between players who are making big coin and those who aren’t, profoundly shade the way we look at these players in a harsher mercenary light, profoundly make a coach’s job harder.
There were times as the ACC’s Coastal Division teams made their rounds during Wednesday’s press gaggle that it sounded more like a marketing seminar than a football primer.
The Miami quarterback, D’Eriq King, shared his approach to this season, and a new wrinkle to being a good college teammate: “My thing was work with good companies. You can’t work with everybody. You want to work with companies that align with your core values. ... (And) my main goal is to help as many teammates as I can to earn whatever they can earn.”
The Pitt quarterback, Kenny Pickett, weighed in on a deal he signed with a local hotel and restaurant, in which he included his offensive linemen. Very shrewd to keep the muscle happy. “That was obviously very important for me to get done,” Pickett said.
There’s a sophomore quarterback in Tuscaloosa who has yet to play a down and is reported to be making in the high six figures already. That was relayed by his head coach, who was only too happy to get out the word that there is gold in the red soil of western Alabama. And, young five-star, there’s plenty more where that came from.
There’s a sophomore quarterback in Atlanta who upon hearing that report evinced no jealousy all. “When I saw that, I was real happy for Bryce,” Tech’s Jeff Sims said Wednesday of Bryce Young’s fortune at Bama. “Me and Bryce have known each other from the Elite 11, we have that connection. I was really happy for him. It was shocking to see he made that much, but he really deserves it.”
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
The real secret to making the NIL work for Tech does not lie in the accident of its location. Atlanta may have just a few more corporate opportunities than Tuscaloosa, but opportunity isn’t set in concrete. It will travel to where the winning is.
On that score, Collins has an answer, too. The message from Wednesday – one that will resonate far more with Tech fans than all the NIL talk – is that the Yellow Jackets are ready to win. Good to know.
Year 1, Collins said, was about transitioning to the new offense and establishing “the culture,” whatever that concept means now. Year 2 – 2020 – was just about grimly running the COVID obstacle course.
Now, said the coach who was 6-16 (5-12 in the conference) through two tough seasons at Tech, “the branding is set, the culture is set, the recruiting is at a high level – it is set.
“Now it’s time to play really good football.”
This offseason has been about working on three problem areas that have most haunted Tech. Penalties (the Jackets ranked 119th of 127 teams in most penalty yards per game last year). Red-zone scoring conversion (with the burden of an unreliable kicking game, the Jackets were 121st in that category). And turnovers (111th in turnover margin). Collins seems to sense enough commitment to buffing out those flaws that he dares declare, “We got a chance to be pretty good.”
In the end, winning is a very solid, profitable strategy. And winning is “happening this year,” Sims said. “That’s what everybody is focused on.”
It turns out that winning is terrific for one’s name, image and likeness.
From strictly a business standpoint, winning should be at the core of every Tech player’s marketing portfolio.
“Playing good ball individually, winning games collectively, both of those things combined elevates and makes you more marketable,” Collins said.
“Then,” he added, “if you’re a good dude and you present yourself on social or when you’re in front of the media, those only enhance business wanting to align with you. Obviously, we’ve had those conversations.”
So, when the team is up against it and the breaks are beating the boys, tell them to go out there with all they got and just win one for the name, image and likeness.