Student-athletes are some of the fastest and toughest people, but behind their strength and public image are humans with complex emotions and real struggles.
Anxiety and depression are not weaknesses, former Vols football player Derrick Furlow Jr. told Knox News. He works to break down that stigma by specializing in the trade of names, images, and likenesses between student-athletes and mental health organizations.
Sports Life Business, Furlow’s brand for authoring and public speaking, expanded with SLB The Agency. To build relationships with student-athletes in this new NIL era, Furlow is recruiting a former Vols standout who had his own mental health issues at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
SLB agencies work with athletes in all kinds of NIL deals, not just mental health companies. Furlow said these deals could range from large payouts by players to smaller exchanges.
John Adams:Why the Tennessee Vols Set a ‘Modern’ Scoring Record in Opening Day
Nayland Upgrades:Tennessee fans upgrade from luxury seats to 360-degree bar
“Every day, people look up to athletes,” Farlow said. “[These NIL contracts]will have no problem for everyday people to realize, ‘I’m dealing with something, I’m going through something. I should go get help.'”
Student-Athlete Secures NIL Deal
Sure, money doesn’t buy happiness, and former Lady Vols star Alexis Hornbuckle is careful to distinguish between difficult one-off moments and normal struggles with anxiety and depression.
“No, money doesn’t solve all mental health problems,” said Hornbuckle, who works as an ambassador for SLB The Agency. not.”
Alexander Johnson was neither a part-time student nor a part-time athlete. He worked full time at both. A standout linebacker from 2011 to his 2014 season, he recalls taking out loans just to pay for food and gas.
“One of the biggest things I realized in college was that my family went to buy a 45 jersey and we couldn’t even get one. It was sold out,” he said in tears. told Knox News, holding back. “I know a lot of people are saying they get paid to come to school, which means schools make billions of dollars from these students. I’m making dollars.”
After finishing last season with the Denver Broncos, Johnson is a free agent in the NFL. He also plans to become an SLB agent and will be the first athlete to sign with the agency.
“I’m glad[Furlow]brought me here just because he lived and experienced it,” he said. “And it just touched my heart to know that I overcame this problem. Now I can help other children and students and say, ‘You can overcome it.’ .”
How VFL Focused on Mental Health
The agency’s mental health focus was a bit of an accident. Furlow, a Knox News 40 Under 40 winner in 2021, worked with local media agencies before refocusing on launching Ketamine Media. rice field.
According to a February news release, the company is committed to “communicating and connecting with individuals interested in exploring new treatments for mental health care.”
Through Ketamine Media’s work and relationship with Furlow, SLB has access to a network of mental health providers.
Furlow believes that having athletes take on the role of agents and ambassadors is key to the success of the business, and payment will depend on fees from NIL transactions.
“The SLB agency is by athletes, for athletes,” he said. “One of the biggest things he wanted to do was put together a platform where athletes could go there and do it and be a representative of the athletes who have lived.
“So now these new student-athletes getting these NIL contracts are just dealing with someone who went to law school who doesn’t play a particular sport they’re unrelated or have nothing in common with. not.”
Not all agents and ambassadors have degrees in sports management, but former student-athletes go through state protocols for certification, Furlow said.
NIL relationships must be genuine
Farlow said SLB will start by working with “local” athletes in Knoxville before expanding to other markets. Corporate ambassadors have less time commitments than agents, but agents are able to perform commissioned work while working full-time jobs.
Johnson, for example, will be certified as an agent in any city signed to play football.
“You’re just going to be the go-between, you’re not necessarily on the phone all the time, but you’re building a real relationship with them,” Farrow said. As ex-athletes)…we didn’t have to do anything different, we just didn’t have an agency to say we did.”
Student-athletes have two ways to market themselves. It’s either performance on the field or personality.
Furlow then helps athletes connect with nonprofits, give back to their communities, build their brand on social media, and showcase their individuality. This kind of work could help him capitalize on his NIL deals in the future, he said.
Jacqui Pearl, the daughter of former Vols basketball coach Bruce Pearl, will lead the SLB’s non-profit arm, Furlow said.
Hornbuckle, who became the first player to win NCAA and WNBA titles at the same time, said, “In the locker room,[athletes]are the people you’re most familiar with.” Either you’ve experienced it or you can connect to those resources.
“But it’s just athletes using athletes. I don’t feel like I have to go out, because if you’ve never been an athlete, you have no way of understanding the mind of an athlete.”