(Publisher's note: This was republished with permission from Illini Guardians. For more information on this Name Image Likeness (NIL) collective and how you can contribute, visit IlliniGuardians.com.)
THE POWER OF NIL: ILLINI HELPING ILLINI
Chicago, IL – In a demonstration of the powerful reach and impact college name, image and likeness (NIL) programming can bring to the community, Illinois star football players, Isaiah Williams and Alex Palczewski, met with Chicago grade school students on February 26, 2022 at the Evolution Express Art Show on Chicago’s South Side in celebration of Black History Month. The art show was organized by Chicago Positive Impact, an organization founded by former Illini basketball star, Tracy Abrams, with the NIL appearances fostered through the Illini Guardians, an NIL collective bursting onto the scene to create just such events.
“Chicago Positive Impact is dedicated to bringing mentorship, leadership, and life skills development to Chicago public school students, and there is no more powerful an impact on these kids than allowing them to share their art, and hear the lessons of success from elite college stars like Isaiah and Alex,” said Abrams.
Abrams, a four-year starter for the Illinois basketball team earned his bachelor’s degree in 2015, a masters in Recreation, Sport and Tourism in 2016, and a masters in Education Policy and Organization Leadership in 2017. The Chief Operating Officer of Chicago Positive Impact is Alex Austin, a former Illini basketball player, having earned a bachelor’s in Communications, a masters from Champaign in Sports Management and a second masters from SIU in Kinesiology.
“Seeing how Tracy and Alex have used their education and Illini experiences to create such a great community program is really inspiring,” said Palczewski, the Illini football captain who embarks on his own graduate degree and returns to the gridiron for a sixth season with the Illini. He boasts 52 career starts—more than any other player in the nation. Williams, a dynamic dual threat at wide receiver and quarterback for the Illini, led the team last year in both receptions and receiving yards, and jumped at the chance to bring his own stories of dedication, football brotherhood and success to the event.
“You wake up to work out at 6 a.m.. After that you go to class. After class you have study hall. After study hall, if you want to be great you go back in and put in extra work. It’s hard, but I love what I do, and when you love what you do, you’re willing to put in all of the necessary things to make success happen,” Williams told the crowd.
“At the end of the day, we’re living out our dreams,” Palczewski added. “What matters is what’s in your heart and your head. You find the ‘why’ behind what you do and what drives you. For me, it was my parents coming here from Poland, making a life of opportunity for me. That’s my ‘why.’ When you find yours, it just has to drive you to be the best version of yourself every single day,” he said.
“Alex and Isaiah are such impactful leaders not only for Illinois football, but the influence and impression they can have on kids at an art show like this is an extremely potent example of the positive reach that NIL programming can have when it is done right,” said Creg McDonald, a founder of the Illini Guardians NIL collective.
Illini Guardians is an organization that allows Illini fans and supporters across the nation to pool their NIL contributions, so that the funds can be used to enter NIL contracts with University of Illinois athletes in a fashion to create lucrative, prudent and responsible marketing income for the students. These NIL contracts may range from commercial endorsements to personal appearances, such as the February 26, Evolution Express Art Show, hosted by Chicago Positive Impact.
“It was just incredible to see two former Illini student athletes creating such a profound impact on their community and using the notoriety and story of
two current football stars to accomplish this,” said Illini Guardians founder, Adam Fleischer. “Listening to Alex and Isaiah sincerely explain to the kids the feeling of being part of the Illini brotherhood, and their relationships with their mentors who helped guide them on the path to success was something that you could see sinking in with the kids in the room. The talent of Illini student athletes is undeniable, but so too was the character of these kids on full display, as well as the far-reach that Illini NIL programming can have on both the student athletes and our communities.”
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