LSU defensive end Ali Gaye has signed NIL deals with tech companies with an eye toward helping his native country of Gambia years from now.
Gaye signed a deal with technology company airSlate and another with Trazer, a computer simulation performance company, and his NIL representative is in talks about more tech and software deals. He is represented by Steven Smith, marketing coordinator for Wasserman Football.
“Coming from my home country, tech was never exposed to me,” Gaye told Sports Business Journal. “At a late age I learned what tech could really do for a community and I wanted to be a part of that. I want to learn about the tech space and create relationships to bring these resources back to my home country.”
Gaye did not have access to any kind of technology until the late age of 12, when his family emigrated from Gambia, the smallest country in mainland Africa, to the Seattle area. He started playing football in the eighth grade and was recruited by top football programs out of high school but had to go through the junior college route while he improved academically. He was then able to transfer to LSU.
Since coming to the Tigers, the 6-foot-6 Gaye has become a star defensive end, with two sacks, one interception and 32 tackles, including 9.5 behind the line of scrimmage, in a shortened 10-game, 2020 season, his first in Division I football.
Ali Gaye was 12 years old when his family emigrated from Gambia to America.Wasserman
Despite his size and his ability to menace offenses on the field, off the field, Gaye is humble and exceedingly polite. He says the words “thankful” or “thank you” or “grateful” or a combination of the above in interviews and social media posts. The LSU football team had to evacuate to Texas to escape Hurricane Ida early last week. Asked if the team was OK, Gaye said, “Thank you. Yes we are all safe, thankfully, getting ready for UCLA.”
His genuinely nice personality is one reason airSlate was attracted to him, said Steve Owen, the company’s head of business development and channels.
Executives at airSlate also liked the fact that Gaye is an immigrant and has had to work hard and overcome obstacles, with grace, in order to get to where he is today, which is a potential first-round 2022 NFL draft pick, Owen said.
Gaye embodies the core values of airSlate, which are grit and productivity, Owen said. The particular airSlate offering that Gaye is endorsing in mini-commercials and blogs is signNow, an electronic signature product. SignNow has seen a lot of growth during the pandemic, as many employees work from home.
The company, meanwhile, has received a lot of attention since the deal was announced in late July, including from other technology companies and from other student athletes. “We have been pursued a fair amount after exposing the partnership with Ali,” Owen said. “We have had multiple athletes approach us.”
The agreement with Gaye is airSlate’s first athlete endorsement. “We might do another one or two, but we are extremely satisfied with the partnership we have with Ali,” Owen said.
Gaye is satisfied as well. “I am very grateful for airSlate and Trazer believing in what I am trying to do and bring back to my community,” Gaye said. “NIL is a great opportunity for student athletes to not only learn about new industries but build relationships that can change and impact communities.”
Wasserman has also signed Texas A&M running back/wide receiver/kick returner Ainias Smith for NIL representation and is in talks with multiple companies for deals for him.
The BMW Championship win secured a spot for Patrick Cantlay on Team USA for the Ryder Cup.getty images
■ CANTLAY’S WIN OPENS OPPORTUNITIES: Patrick Cantlay’s win in the BMW Championship late last month not only vaulted him to the top of the FedEx Cup standings but solidified his mystique as a cool customer and opened more opportunities for the golfer.
“We have had a strong influx of interest following what he did at the weekend — both from brands we are already talking to, as well as new potential partners,” said Jordan Bazant, WME Sports co-head and Cantlay’s agent.
Cantlay’s endorsements include Hugo Boss, Lexus, Titleist, Footjoy and Netjets. Cantlay, whose nickname is “Patty Ice,” wears the Marcus x Goldman Sachs logo on the front of his headwear.
The win came after a tense, six-hole playoff with Bryson DeChambeau, and an incident that generated social media and golf world buzz. DeChambeau, who is already embroiled in a public feud with golfer Brooks Koepka, tried to entangle Cantlay in a new one during the match.
“Patrick, can you stop walking?” DeChambeau said audibly in the broadcast at one point. The comment caused NBC Sports analyst Paul Azinger to remark, “You know, I’m surprised he called Patrick out like that.”
But Cantlay brushed it off, went on to win his third PGA Tour event of the season and, when asked afterward about the incident, said it was “no big deal.”
Cantlay “improves under pressure,” Bazant said, when asked about the incident. “He loves the intense competition. This past Sunday shows why he is going to thrive in the U.S. Ryder Cup team in a few weeks’ time.”
Indeed, the win secured Cantlay’s place on Team USA for the Ryder Cup, which is being played at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin Sept. 24-26.
Cantlay is very involved in his corporate partnerships and in The Patrick Cantlay Foundation, which benefits the growth of junior golf and first responders. “Ahead of the Ryder Cup, he will be making a donation to The First Responders Children’s Foundation, with a focus on college scholarships and prioritizing those whose parents were injured in duty,” Bazant said.
Liz Mullen can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @SBJLizMullen.