Terms of the six-month deal were not disclosed, but the exclusivity of it indicates it will be worth many thousands of dollars to Georgia’s junior quarterback from Irvine, Calif.
“We’ve been working on this for several weeks with Zaxby’s,” said Dan Everett of ESM, a sports marketing firm out of Greenville, S.C. “It’s our understanding that this will be the only deal that Zaxby’s will do. Our goal has been to position JT to be the lone ambassador for major brands and this achieves that.”
Everett signed Daniels and North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell to exclusive NIL marketing agreements in July. At the time, Everett said he expected Daniels -- a realistic Heisman Trophy candidate, according to oddsmakers – to earn “high six- to seven-figures” in his first year.
Daniels’ deal with Zaxby’s is yet another bow shot in the growing “chicken wars” of college football. Howell and Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei have been contracted to represent Bojangles, another Southern-based chicken restaurant. Chick-fil-A and Popeye’s have yet to enter the fray.
Zaxby’s is national chain of restaurants. It has 937 locations in 560 different cities and 17 states nationwide, according to business database ScrapHero.com.
Ironically, none of those are locations are in Daniels’ home state of California. So, he had never patronized a Zaxby’s until moving to Athens in June 2020, when he transferred to Georgia from USC.
“Zaxby’s has been my choice of food since coming down here to Georgia,” Daniels said in the press release circulated by the food chain Tuesday. “I mean, there really is no comparison. I get asked all the time what my favorite food is. It is Zaxby’s. Hands down.”
Daniels did a photo shoot at the Atlanta Highway location of Zaxby’s in Athens this past weekend. However, he won’t be making any television or radio commercials, according to Everett. The agreement calls for Daniels’ likeness to be used in ads for Zaxby’s, and he is to make occasional appearances at corporate and philanthropic events.
The deal -- and all of Daniels’ deals -- also require the support of Extra Special People (ESP), Everett said. The Watkinsville-based group supports children and adults with special needs. Zaxby’s already was a sponsor.
Primarily, Daniels is being asked to promote Zaxby’s on all his social-media platforms. That includes a Twitter page, which has 27,600 followers, and an Instagram page that is followed 66,200 people as of Tuesday afternoon. Everett said most of Daniels’ work for Zaxby’s already and been done.
“We wanted to make sure that none of this is a distraction for JT,” Everett said. “We produced a lot of content this past weekend. I was down in Athens with him, and we got a lot done. And from a deliverable standpoint, we’re putting everything on pause until the bye week.”
Georgia coach Kirby Smart probably appreciates that. Daniels will lead the Bulldogs’ offense into Charlotte on Sept. 4 where the No. 5-ranked Bulldogs will face off against No. 3 Clemson in the Duke’s Mayo Classic to open the season.
The deal also provides Daniels with generous access to Zaxby’s food, which he plans on sharing with his teammates.
Sharing, Everett said, is one of the underplayed aspects of Daniels’ growing enterprise. He has made a point to share as much of his income as he can with teammates.
Last month, Daniels was contracted through ESM to make an appearance at Campton Restaurant in Monroe. But instead of going alone, Daniels brought along offensive linemen Warren McClendon, Jamaree Salyer and Justin Shaffer. Daniels split his appearance fee evenly with his three teammates, Everett said.
Everett claims that Daniels is working teammates and/or ESP into every deal he’s brokering.
“He’s like Santa Claus,” Everett said. “JT has been using this platform to benefit his teammates, to benefit non-profits. I don’t know how anybody can be more generous with NIL than JT Daniels. He’s establishing the paradigm for what premier players in college sports on NIL should be doing.”
Zaxby’s is just the latest deal Everett has brokered for Daniels. Sports business analyst Darren Rovell reported earlier this week that Daniels has signed a deal with Super Card, a trading card company. That agreement guarantees Daniels $100 per signature and 50% royalties on signed and unsigned cards, which could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Everett would not confirm the details of arrangement because it is not official yet. But he did confirm that Daniels plans to share the revenue it produces with his teammates.
“No other quarterback in the country is asking brand partners to strategically include teammates in deals to the levels that JT has,” Everett said. “Any time a teammate is included, they get paid. There’s no other player in the country that is being generous enough to potentially give away hundreds of thousands of dollars the way JT has. I think that’s the real story here.”
Obviously, that sits well with Daniels’ teammates.
“Oh, yeah, I’m a big chicken guy,” senior cornerback Ameer Speed said. “JT’s getting some good chicken deals, and I’m down with chicken. But I’m trying not focusing on NIL too much right now.”