NIL deals: Two NC State football stars appear in ads


Studying quarterbacks and breaking down the movie comes naturally to NC State linebacker Drake Thomas.

Being in front of the camera, without a helmet or shoulder pads, is certainly outside his comfort zone. But it was hard to tell when he and quarterback Devin Leary were on screen recently, appearing in a series of commercials for Bobbitt Construction in Raleigh.

“It takes a bit of time to adjust,” Thomas said. “I would say the first time was awkward. I’m obviously not an actor, but we went back to doing other videos and I was definitely a lot more comfortable. It was more natural. »

In three seasons, Thomas had 192 tackles and was an ACC first-team performer in 2021. Last season, Leary broke NC State’s single-season record for touchdown passes (35), while throwing just five interceptions.

Their success in the field thrust them into the limelight, and when Bobbitt Construction contacted them to appear on camera, they were ready.

“We’ve never shot a video or acted before, so this is new to us,” Leary said. “But it’s funny to see Drake jump into a skit, like, this dude is our starting linebacker and he’s doing a construction video.”

NC State linebacker Drake Thomas (32) smiles while chatting with quarterback Devin Leary (13) after NC State‘s 28-13 victory over Louisville at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, NC on Saturday, October 30 2021. Ethan Hyman [email protected]

Balance school, football, NIL

Since the summer of 2021, athletes have been able receive compensation for their name, image and likeness (NIL), which allowed Thomas and Leary to appear on camera wearing red T-shirts with their jersey numbers and names on the back.

Few players on NC State’s football roster have jumped into the NIL world like Thomas. In addition to Bobbitt advertising, Thomas has deals with the Gopher app, Jungle Brand fitness apparel, and Municipal, another clothing brand, to name a few.

A year later, he learned to balance everything.

“I would say I made it a point to keep the essentials,” Thomas said. “So obviously school and football, you put that first. Without football, if you’re not performing on the pitch, the NIL stuff won’t matter. I’m obviously focused on the football and as long as I focus and give my all, (no opportunity) will come.

Thomas does not have an official NCAA certified agent to handle his NIL transactions. It’s just him and his family, navigating it all – so far.

“It was a lot, especially in the beginning, trying to figure out what it was all about, where the opportunities really were,” Thomas said. “Over the past four or five months, I’ve definitely settled in, really taking advantage of the opportunities I’ve had.”

October 3, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack quarterback Devin Leary (13) and linebacker Drake Thomas (32) celebrate after defeating the Pittsburgh Panthers at Heinz Field. The Wolfpack won 30-29. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire – USA TODAY Sports Charles LeClaire Charles LeClaire – USA TODAY Sport

A day on the set

In the first ad, released May 10, Leary and Thomas stand in front of a whiteboard. Leary began by reviewing a game drawn on the board, heavy on quarterback lingo. The Bobbitt employees seated around the room all have confused looks on their faces. Thomas comes next and reviews some defensive play, with more confused faces at the table.

Bobbitt employees shout company-related responses, prompting Thomas to deadpan the line, “What are these people talking about?”

“They just told us the idea they wanted behind the video,” Thomas said. “And we figured out what we were going to do.”

The second video shows Leary calling a play into a group, then the employees rush to their cars. The advertisement ends with the slogan “We know construction”.

The day on set lasted a few hours, with most of their time spent repeating lines to make sure they got it right.

“I would say 10 times, at least, just to get all the different angles and if we got it wrong we had to do it again,” Thomas said. “Sometimes you fumble on your words, or you have exactly what you want to say but can’t get it out.”

Thomas has made it clear that he hasn’t caught the acting bug. He added that Leary was “pretty into it” when they were on set.

“I think he’s a really good actor,” Thomas said of his quarterback.

Now the face of the program, with a Heisman campaign (maybe) underway, Leary has become more visible around Raleigh. He hasn’t ruled out more on-camera appearances in his future.

“I’m open to anything,” Leary said. “If anyone wants to shoot videos, I’ll do my best.”

This story was originally published July 13, 2022 5:10 a.m.

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Sportswriter Jonas Pope IV covered college recruiting, high school sports, NC Central, NC State and the ACC for The Herald-Sun and The News & Observer.


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