Labor and Agents: Oklahoma QB using NIL freedoms to get paid for autographs at convention

Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler, the Heisman Trophy favorite and a potential No. 1 pick in the 2022 NFL draft, is cashing in on name, image and likeness opportunities with plans to sign autographs at the National Sports Collectors Convention later this month.

The National, as it is known, is a 41-year-old annual event that regularly features hall of fame members from all the major sports signing autographs. “At the end of the day, it’s the first time there’s been a college athlete there, so it is a little bit groundbreaking,” said Chris Cabott, CEO of Steinberg Sports & Entertainment and Rattler’s NIL agent.

The signing agreement is Rattler’s only deal that has been made public, but Cabott, an NFL agent who represents Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and many other NFL players with agency founder Leigh Steinberg, said more NIL deals are in the works.

Collectors will pay $150 for Spencer Rattler’s autograph.getty images

“There are some trading card opportunities we are looking at right now and some brand partnership opportunities,” Cabott said, adding those opportunities must be vetted through the University of Oklahoma.

Cabott would not entertain a question of whether he wanted to represent Rattler for on-the-field work and preparation for the 2022 NFL draft. “We are representing him solely in the marketing capacity for NIL.”

Cabott also would not comment on financial details of Rattler’s autograph signing deal with The National. He will be signing autographs for two hours on the morning of Saturday, July 31. The event is taking place outside Chicago at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Ill.

Jeff Rosenberg, president and CEO of TriStar Productions, which runs the autograph pavilion of The National, also would not provide financial details of the deal with Rattler. But he said those who want the quarterback’s autograph will pay $150 for it.

Pricing the autograph took some guesswork, as the company has never sold autographs of a college player before, as it was not allowed to do so until July 1 of this year, when new NIL laws took effect. “We have no history — this is the very first time,” Rosenberg said.

He said the pricing is somewhat based on imagining what top college quarterbacks who have been drafted but have not yet played in the NFL — like former Clemson quarterback and Jacksonville Jaguars rookie Trevor Lawrence and former Ohio State quarterback and Chicago Bears rookie Justin Fields — might have earned in the summer of 2020, had they been allowed that commercial opportunity.

Rattler will be the first college player to sign autographs at The National.

“For the Heisman, if you go to Las Vegas or wherever they post odds on, he’s the No. 1 favorite to win the Heisman,” Rosenberg said. “As well as when you look at all the prognosticators [in mock 2022 NFL drafts], he’s the No. 1 pick.”

Predicting who will be the No. 1 pick in July the year before next April’s NFL draft can be risky and wrong. But Rattler put up impressive numbers last year as a redshirt freshman, passing for 3,031 yards and 28 touchdowns and winning Big 12 Championship MVP.

Rattler will be the only current college player signing autographs at this year’s show, but that is mainly due to timing, Rosenberg said. The National executives did not even know if they could hold a convention of its size until June 11, due to the pandemic. Last year’s convention was canceled because of COVID-19.

Then, it wasn’t clear if college players could sign autograph deals until the new NIL laws took effect at the start of the month. In the last two weeks, Rosenberg said he’s received multiple texts and emails from agents representing well-known college players from top schools, but turned them down.

Space is a factor. There are already 120 mostly former athletes signing at the show, including former NFL players Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith and Ray Lewis, and former MLB players Jeff Bagwell, Chipper Jones, Johnny Bench and Mike Piazza.

Rattler will almost certainly be the youngest autograph signer at the event, as well as the only active college player, at least this year.

“I would expect it will change immensely going forward because in the last two weeks I’ve had many, many agents — mostly by texts and emails — try to get ahold of me,” Rosenberg said. These agents represent “the top, top players, the quarterbacks, especially quarterbacks and receivers and running backs from the Alabamas and the top, top schools — the Penn States and Clemsons and all these folks,” he said.

The NIL decision came just too late to make plans for them this year, but Rosenberg is excited about having Rattler at the show. “I am pretty confident we are going to have lines of people who want to meet him and get his autograph,” he said.

Liz Mullen can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @SBJLizMullen.

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