Mar 20, 2021; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Iowa State Cyclones wrestler David Carr celebrates after defeating Rider Broncs wrestler Jesse Dellavecchia in the championship match of the 157 weight class during the finals of the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships at Enterprise Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
With each passing day, we get closer and closer to when college athletes across the country will have the opportunity to profit off of their name, image and likeness.
This will be a massive change that is certain to alter the landscape of college athletics in ways we probably don’t even understand at this point. As of this writing, Iowa State has not clarified how they’ll approach the opening of this door, but we can be sure there are people inside the athletic department who will do the best they can to help athletes get the most out of this opportunity.
“Everything we can give our kids or how we can serve our kids to better them both in their beginning process coming to Iowa State or in their ending process leaving Iowa State, I’m all for,” head football coach Matt Campbell said a few weeks ago. “I think as the dust settles here over the next couple months, and maybe even up to a year, of what is it exactly, what are the rules, how is this defined; obviously, I want to be at the forefront because I am a huge believer in making sure that we give our kids every opportunity to take advantage of this four-to-five-year opportunity they would have at Iowa State.”
One of the most profitable areas athletes will have at their disposal will be social media. This will be the spot where athletes will be able to build their own brand and benefit most from the platforms they’ve cultivated through exploits on the gridiron, court or mat.
For this reason, I went through the social media followings (Twitter and Instagram, but you can guarantee Tik Tok will come into this equation somehow, too) to get a read on who the most profitable athletes at Iowa State might be on these platforms.
Some of the names on this will not surprise you. Some of them might seem to come out of nowhere. Regardless, here’s the top-15…
No. 1 – David Carr, Wrestling (76,817 followers)
Carr was basically a household name in wrestling circles even before winning the national championship at 157 pounds this past spring. The 2021 Big 12 Wrestler of the Year is a former Junior World Champion.
His success on the mat has allowed him to foster a massive following, especially on Instagram, where he’s got a whopping 69.1K followers. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, an account of that size could draw anywhere from $275 to $475 per post.
No. 2 – Brock Purdy, Football (40,400 followers)
Obviously, QB1 was a lock to be right near the top of this list. Outside of Matt Campbell, there might not be a person on the national scene more synonymous with the rise of Iowa State football than the program’s four-year starting signal-caller and the owner of roughly 25 school records.
As large as Carr’s following is, Purdy seems like the safest bet to get the most immediate benefit from his following, which is split pretty evenly across Twitter (16.1K) and Instagram (24.3K).
No. 3 – Breece Hall, Football (28,500 followers)
Another guy who was a lock for the top of this list. Hall is widely considered as the best running back in college football entering the 2021 season and it is well-deserved after he was named the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and finished sixth in Heisman Trophy voting in 2020.
Hall is darn near a lock to get a pretty solid payday once he makes the jump to the NFL, which will most likely come after the 2021 season, but he’ll have plenty of chances to benefit off his name, image and likeness as a college student with 13.2K followers on Twitter and 15.3K followers on Instagram.
No. 4 – Isheem Young, Football (20,876 followers)
The Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year in 2020 quickly became a fan favorite in Ames with his hard-hitting, big-play-making way of playing football last season. His status as a one-time highly-touted recruit was surely helpful in fostering his 13.6K followers on Instagram and 7,276 followers on Twitter, too.
No. 5 – Joe Scates, Football (20,421 followers)
Another athlete who can bet benefitted from their status as a highly-ranked recruit, Scates has been considered a breakout candidate entering each of the last several seasons for Iowa State football. We’ve seen flashes of his potential as he’s caught eight passes for 159 yards and three touchdowns during the last two seasons, but the lack of consistency in production has probably held him back a bit from becoming a massive star.
Scates already has a really solid base to build on with 15.4K followers on Instagram and 5,021 followers on Twitter. If he gets closer to fulfilling the potential we’ve heard so much about in 2021, his value on the name, image and likeness market could rise quickly.
No. 6 – Xavier Foster, Men’s Basketball (19,500 followers)
A few weeks ago, senior center George Conditt (more on him later) singled out the redshirt freshman center from Oskaloosa as someone who would benefit greatly from changes to name, image and likeness legislation. It is easy to understand why when you think of Foster’s sky-high potential, sizable social media following and status as an in-state kid playing for one of the state’s marquee programs.
Foster’s popularity will only continue to grow once he’s able to get back on the court at full strength this winter after battling back from a foot injury that cut his true freshman season short. The majority of his following comes from his Instagram account, where he’s got 15.4K followers.
No. 7 – Tristan Enaruna, Men’s Basketball (13,652 followers)
The first newcomer to Iowa State on this list, Enaruna was a highly-touted prospect out of high school that landed at a program with a massive following in Kansas to help him build his 9,531 followers on Instagram. There is probably value in his accounts based purely on numbers, but his value in central Iowa will be decided by how he performs on the hardwood in his time as a Cyclone.
No. 8 – Charlie Kolar, Football (11,696 followers)
Kolar has turned himself into the guy basically every Cyclone fan wants to hang out and drink beers with on a Friday night through his down-to-Earth social media accounts. Oh, being a two-time All-American and one of the best tight ends in the country helps, too, but who could forget the most nonchalant returning to school announcement ever done by a high-profile college athlete?
Charlie Kolar will have many opportunities to profit off his name, image and likeness simply because he’s Charlie Kolar and Charlie Kolar is awesome.
No. 9 – George Conditt, Men’s Basketball (11,630 followers)
Despite some struggles on the court during the past two seasons, Conditt has remained a fan favorite with his personality and life-long connections to Iowa State. Over the last several weeks, his performances as a member of the Puerto Rican men’s national team prove the progress he made towards the end of last season was no fluke, and he could be in for an exciting senior year.
His endearing personality will certainly open doors for him in the name, image and likeness department right away. A big season in 2021-22 will do even more for him if he chooses to return for the extra year student-athletes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
No. 10 – Tyrese Hunter, Men’s Basketball (10,777 followers)
Another newcomer to the Cyclones with a sky-high ceiling in the world of name, image and likeness. Hunter proved to be one of the top point guard prospects in the country during the 2021 recruiting cycle and arrives in Ames with huge expectations to go along with an already sizable following on social media.
Deliver to expectations on the court and the Racine, Wis. native’s name will become a hot commodity around Ames.
No. 11 – T.J. Tampa, Football (10,540 followers)
Of all the names on this list, Tampa’s was the one that surprised me the most. That surprise isn’t due to a lack of talent or anything of the sort. People inside the program love his potential, and he’s sure to play a bigger role as a sophomore in 2021.
The surprise is really born from the fact he wasn’t an overly highly-rated recruit (three-stars by all the recruiting services) and played the majority of his time on special teams as a true freshman. This will be one individual to keep an eye on as we enter the 2021 season.
No. 12 – Jirehl Brock, Football (10,428 followers)
Iowa State landing both Brock and Hall during the 2019 recruiting cycle remains one of Matt Campbell’s biggest victories on the trail during his time in Ames. Some people might even forget Brock was the highest-rated player in the Cyclones’ class that year.
You can expect Brock’s role in the program and notoriety outside of it to grow this season as he steps in to be the primary backup behind his classmate. He also has to be the clubhouse leader to become “the guy” once Hall has moved onto a professional future, which makes Brock another one to watch moving forward as his profile grows.
No. 13 – Lexi Donarski, Women’s Basketball (10,103 followers)
You might be surprised to see Donarski is the only women’s basketball player to make the list rather than do-everything-superstar Ashley Joens. Still, you have to remember Donarski was as highly touted as they come when he committed to Bill Fennelly’s program as part of the 2020 recruiting class.
The former McDonald’s All-American will have a whole bunch of chances to profit off her name, image and likeness, assuming she continues on her current trajectory, coming off being named Big 12 Freshman of the Year last season.
No. 14 – Mike Rose, Football (9,809 followers)
Can we get some freaking love on the socials for the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year? My goodness. This man might be the best linebacker in all of college football, for goodness sakes. So go follow Mike Rose on Twitter and Instagram right now if you don’t already, just so Cyclone fans can show their appreciation for one of the most productive players of Iowa State football’s rise towards national prominence.
No. 15 – Hunter Dekkers, Football (9,478 followers)
Matt Campbell never officially named a backup quarterback last season, but Dekkers was the only signal-caller not named Brock Purdy (or Dylan Soehner) to throw a pass in 2020, so we can read between the lines.
Much like I said about Jirehl Brock before, the state of Iowa’s all-time leader in passing at the high school level is the clubhouse leader to be the guy after “the guy.” His time to profit off his name, image and likeness could come in a big way in the not so distant future.