Former ESD receiver adeptly balances college football with endorsements
Jack Betts went to Amherst College looking to make his mark as a wide receiver, not an entrepreneur.
Three years later, the former Episcopal School of Dallas student from the Park Cities has caught only one pass but has secured dozens of endorsement deals enabled by the 2021 passage of Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) regulations for NCAA athletes.
While balancing the rigors of football and academics, Betts has become a social media ambassador for brands ranging from PSD Underwear to Omaha Steaks — usually earning commissions or free products in exchange for pre-arranged viral shoutouts.
“I’ve always been interested in the business side of things,” said Betts, whose parents are both attorneys. “I’ve viewed it as a continuous internship. I’m really getting to understand the internals of what it’s like to run a startup.”
Such arrangements are unusual at schools like Amherst. The Massachusetts campus has about 2,000 students and competes at the NCAA Division III level.
However, Betts has become a pioneer in the NIL space. He’s attended national conferences, been interviewed on podcasts and television shows, and become a resource for other student-athletes who aren’t sure how to get started.
Betts didn’t play in 2019, and the Mammoths canceled their 2020 season due to the pandemic. The NIL guidelines took effect in July 2021, and six months later, Lifestyle Bands reached out to him.
“I figured I might as well throw my hat in the ring,” said Betts, a junior English major. “Coming from the Division III level, I had very limited resources coming from my school. It’s been built from the ground out from my desk at home.”
In forging more than 30 partnerships during the span of a few months, Betts learned that you don’t need to play for Alabama or Ohio State to take advantage of the new NIL landscape.
“Why wouldn’t I be the one who breaks down that barrier? Deals aren’t exclusive to Division I and Power Five [conference] guys,” he said. “We’re talented; we’re creative. I wanted to be the one to change the narrative and break down that wall.”
During his free time, Betts became social media savvy and educated himself in brand-building and self-marketing. He launched a website. And he has more than doubled his following on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok.
“Starting out, there was a lot of hesitancy from these brands. It’s all about selling yourself and presenting yourself as a professional,” Betts said. “Most of the time, I am these brands’ first Division III athlete. I have to show that I deserve to be in partnership with them.”
Betts will need to focus more on football this fall. But his long-term goals include starting an academy to empower indigenous athletes looking to break into the NIL space since he has Cherokee heritage.
“Down the line, the skills that I’m flexing here will be useful in the business world,” Betts said. “As student-athletes, we’ve learned to balance all of the obligations we have going on in our lives. It’s another thing I’m going to have on my plate.”