Auburn student-athletes attend NIL Summit

by Jeff Shearer
Auburn in the ATL (l/r): Dylan Cardwell, Justin Stuckey, Taylen Collins, Sophia Groth, Elijah McAllister and Damari Alston dressed to impress at the 2024 NIL Summit.Auburn in the ATL (l/r): Dylan Cardwell, Justin Stuckey, Taylen Collins, Sophia Groth, Elijah McAllister and Damari Alston dressed to impress at the 2024 NIL Summit.
David Gray/Auburn Tigers

AUBURN, Ala.  Dressed to impress, six Auburn student-athletes sauntered on the red carpet Saturday night on their way into the College Football Hall of Fame, the first event of the 2024 NIL Summit.

Representing Auburn during the three-day event created by Influencer were Damari Alston and Elijah McAllister from football, Dylan Cardwell from men’s basketball, Taylen Collins from women’s basketball, gymnast Sophia Groth, and track and field’s Justin Stuckey.

The event included student-athlete and administrator panels on financial literacy, mental health, and digital marketing.

“Collegiate athletics are tough on the mind and the body,” said Collins. “Being able to lean on each other and get the help that we need was really powerful, seeing everybody else’s story and how we can relate to one another.”

Groth served as a panelist in a session titled “Women Athletes Winning in the NIL Era.”

“An awesome opportunity to be in front of so many student-athletes talking about something that has had a huge impact on my Auburn experience,” she said. “You can have a small following and still have a major impact. It was a great panel.”

Three Tigers were nominated for 2024 NIL Awards: Groth and McAllister for Athlete Advocate of the Year for leveraging their name, image and likeness to create community impact, and Stuckey for Innovator of the Year for exemplifying creativity to generate value.

“To see that some of my work, from my podcast to the ‘Saturdays with Stuck’ series I started, had gotten recognized even though I was battling some injuries with track and field, I was still able to make an impact off the track,” Stuckey said.

The Auburn student-athletes are among the first generation to benefit from NIL, which the NCAA approved on June 30, 2021.

“It’s helped me tremendously,” said Groth, an aspiring college athletics administrator who credits NIL opportunities with helping develop her professional and communication skills. “Being able to take advantage of everything it has to offer has made a lasting impact. I wouldn’t have the same platform, connections and relationships without NIL.

“I love to be on the forefront of it because it’s exciting to be part of something so new. This gives me so much more insight to open doors now for future conversations.”

The NIL Summit provided time for the Auburn student-athletes to network with corporate decision makers.

“Taking advantage of that was pretty cool,” said Stuckey, who says he also benefited from listening to the program’s presenters. “They had to start somewhere. They didn’t just pop up to where they are now.

“It shows that if you put forth the hard work toward whatever goal you’re setting, you can reach those goals.”

With hundreds of student-athletes attending from all divisions and regions, Auburn’s delegation enjoyed the chance to connect.

“That’s the one place I’ve been where there are that many student-athletes and you’re not competing,” Stuckey said. “You’re getting to hang out, learn and network. It’s always fun to represent the Auburn family.”

Atlanta-based financial advistor and former Auburn running back Ronnie Brown, entering his ninth season as the Auburn Sports Network's sideline reporter, reflected on the importance of finanical literacy in his career.

"At 23 years old, when I got drafted as the second overall pick, I was focused on learning how to make the money and be the best at my craft, but I wasn't ready financially," he said. "NIL is normalizing these conversations on financial education so that these young men and women can make the most of these opportunities."

Collins, who aspires to a career in real estate and returns for her final season after helping Auburn’s women’s basketball team advance to the NCAA Tournament, encourages fellow student-athletes to attend future NIL Summits.

“Take in everything, try to connect and step outside your comfort zone,” she said. “The more you’re involved and getting to know other people and talking to businesses, it’s going to help further your career.”

Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter: @jeff_shearer

20240622_NIL Summit_DG_0345RBU: Former Auburn running back Ronnie Brown visits with current Tiger Damari Alston