Desmond Ridder, the University of Cincinnati’s most well-known current student-athlete, is dipping much more than just his toes into the name, image and likeness pool.
The Bearcats’ senior quarterback, who is on the watch list for both the 2021 Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award and the Maxwell Award, has signed an exclusive NFT (non-fungible token) deal with digital collectible company Candy Digital, the company announced Friday.
Ridder, who announced earlier this month that he had signed a NIL deal with sports agency Vayner Sports, will be featured in several NFT collectibles that will be available for purchase in September.
“Pumped up to be able to expand my name and brand, while also representing the best school in America,” said Ridder in a July 13 social media post announcing he was joining Vayner Sports.
Ridder is just one of many college student-athletes who have seized financial opportunities since the NCAA Board of Directors suspended the NCAA’s antiquated rules prohibiting student-athletes from profiting off of their name, image and likeness.
UC men’s basketball guard Jeremiah Davenport and UC sprinter Caisja Chandler have also struck NIL deals in recent weeks.
“What happened on July 1st in college athletics with Name, Image, Likeness rights was nothing short of a supernova,” said Vayner Sports co-founder Gary Vaynerchuk, a co-founding board member of Candy Digital. “College student-athletes are now able to market themselves in ways never imagined before, and together with a booming NFT marketplace, the interest in their first generation collectibles has never been higher.”
NFTs are digital assets that delegate ownership of a virtual item like a picture, tweet or video, typically paid for in ethereum cryptocurrency.
Candy Digital, which is building Major League Baseball’s official NFT ecosystem where fans and collectors will be able to purchase, trade and share officially-licensed NFTs, will launch Sweet Futures in September ahead of the college football season.
Sweet Futures will create NFT collectibles for some of the country’s top college football players. Ridder, Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell and Georgia quarterback JT Daniels will headline the launch, with Candy Digital set to announce additional players in the coming weeks.
Candy Digital officials told The Enquirer on Friday they are not making the details of Ridder’s financial compensation public at this time. The University of Cincinnati declined to grant The Enquirer an interview with Ridder for this story, citing the need to continue to work on its “own internal NIL policy, particularly with full athlete education.”
“Launching ‘Sweet Futures’ with top players like D.J., Sam, JT, and Desmond underscores how powerful the combination of NFTs and collegiate NIL rights will be,” said Scott Lawin, CEO of Candy Digital. “College sports fans are among the most loyal and passionate consumers on the planet, and ‘Sweet Futures’ will enable them to celebrate their passion for their team’s best players through a revolutionary new form of digital collectible. This is an unprecedented moment in the history of college sports for student-athletes and fans to celebrate together.”
Ridder, the 2020 American Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year, enters his senior season as the No. 2 passer in school history, throwing for 6,905 career yards, 57 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound right-hander passed for 2,296 yards and 19 touchdowns against six interceptions in 2020, while rushing for 592 yards and 12 more scores, the most rushing touchdowns by an FBS quarterback last season.
Ridder’s 22 career rushing touchdowns are the most ever by a UC quarterback.
Ridder, who is 30-5 as a starter, will open the 2021 season as the winningest quarterback in college football.
The Bearcats are scheduled to kick off the season Sept. 4 at Nippert Stadium against in-state rival Miami University. The 125th Battle for the Victory Bell is set for 3:30 p.m. on ESPN+.