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Which Notre Dame Football Players Can Best Profit From NCAA NIL Policy?

If you want a new job, your resume should be better than those of the other candidates. If you want to make money as a college athlete off your name, image and likeness (NIL), you better have more social media followers than your competitors.

That’s the name of the game.

In the world of entertainment, you’re only as powerful as how many people you can reach and how receptive those people are to what you’re providing them. College athletes across the country will be learning that on the fly as the NCAA cleared them to profit from their NIL on July 1.

Multiple Notre Dame football players are already trying to take advantage. Junior safety Kyle Hamilton is hosting a podcast with fellow junior safety KJ Wallace, junior cornerback Cam Hart and junior wide receiver Conor Ratigan. That podcast could be capable of receiving advertising revenue if it explodes with enough popularity.

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Notre Dame Fighting Irish football junior safety Kyle Hamilton
Notre Dame junior safety Kyle Hamilton could be one of many Irish student-athletes in line to make money off his name, image and likeness. (Mike Miller)

Hamilton also announced a partnership with Cameo, a personalized video service in which fans can pay Hamilton to customize a video shoutout. Need to wish a Notre Dame fan happy birthday in a unique way? Pay Hamilton to do it for you.

Hamilton is one of Notre Dame’s top 10 followed players on Twitter and Instagram. He’s in a position to make great gains from his NIL. What other Irish players can say the same? BlueandGold.com searched Notre Dame’s entire roster to find the players with the most social media followers.

Here’s what we found.

Top 10: Notre Dame Football Player Social Media Followings
ND Player Twitter Followers Instagram Followers Total Followers

RB Kyren Williams

8,030

27,500

35,530

RB Chris Tyree

6,733

18,500

25,233

S Houston Griffith

7,892

18,000

25,892

S Kyle Hamilton

6,006

17,300

23,306

QB Tyler Buchner

6,301

14,900

21,201

TE Michael Mayer

4,486

15,400

19,886

QB Drew Pyne

5,406

11,200

16,606

WR Braden Lenzy

6,486

9,786

16,272

OL Blake Fisher

7,485

8,410

15,895

QB Jack Coan

4,147

8,226

12,373

**All figures are as of 1 p.m. ET on July 2

Five other Notre Dame players — senior wide receiver Joe Wilkins Jr., junior defensive lineman Nana Osafo-Mensah, graduate senior linebacker Drew White, freshman offensive lineman Rocco Spindler, and sophomore wide receiver Xavier Watts — have at least 10,000 combined Twitter and Instagram followers. Almost every player on the roster has at least a few thousand.

Junior defensive end Isaiah Foskey has a modest but enough to work with 2,533 Twitter followers. He tweeted a personalized logo imposed on a sweatshirt Friday morning with the caption “IF Factor Coming Soon…” One Twitter user responded, “I will take a hoodie” with three shamrock emojis. Business might be about to boom for the IF Factor.

An account named “MOGL” quote tweeted Foskey’s tweet with the following: “Personalized merchandise is one of the many things college athletes can now do. Stay tuned for merchandise from one of our athletes.”

Such organizations have taken center stage since the NCAA announced its decision to draw back the reins on amateurism. Former West Virginia and Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee tweeted Friday, "I will be pursuing partnerships with the right collegiate kickers, punters, and snappers this upcoming fall.. I will have to do plenty of research and will seek advice from others about who the right folks are to represent the entire collegiate Specialist community #ForTheBrand."

Notre Dame senior long-snapper Michael Vinson retweeted a response to McAfee's tweet. It came from one of his former high school coaches, Bob Spagnoli: "Pat you have to sign up our former high school long snapper that I coached at New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois. His name is Michael Vinson and he’s tearing it up at Notre Dame! He’s even got a damn hype video!!! Great kid and tremendous family! #GoIrish."

Vinson has 780 Twitter followers and 1,610 Instagram followers. Not the best resume. He's not in the top tier of Notre Dame players who could take advantage of his NIL, but that's the beauty of what the NCAA is allowing. Anybody can profit. Sometimes people luck into a job they didn't think they had any business getting. Or other times they just simply wanted it more than the candidate with proper qualifications.

Sure, it might be easier for the Kyren Williams of the world to thrive in this arena, but if Spagnoli's message somehow reached McAfee and the latter liked Vinson's hype video then all the sudden the Fighting Irish long snapper could be in line to make some serious cash. McAfee has 2,078,354 Twitter followers. He could easily make a name for Vinson and anyone else he chooses to work with no matter how little they've been in the spotlight previously.

And speaking of Williams, he sent out a story on his Instagram account imploring people like McAfee who are actively seeking to help student-athletes to send an email to the address in his bio for business inquiries. That address? KyrenWilliamsNIL@gmail.com. A new email account for a new area of college athletics.

Barstool Sports founder and president Dave Portnoy, who has 2,619,229 Twitter followers, has also created a platform with the vision of helping college athletes make money money from their NIL. According to his tweets, he has agreed to work with student-athletes ranging from women's field hockey, lacrosse, soccer and volleyball players, baseball players, softball players and men's and women's basketball players.

"If you play Division I sports and you blink at me, we will sign you," Portnoy said in a Twitter video posted July 1.

Portnoy said a Stanford football player has also signed on to be a "Barstool Athlete." He's starting by sending those who send him a direct message free Barstool merchandise and pizza. Who knows where it could go from there?

Some student-athletes have already shown they don't need a guiding hand like McAfee or Portnoy. Former Notre Dame offensive lineman and current Florida State offensive lineman Dillan Gibbons is one of them. Gibbons created a GoFundMe to raise money for a Notre Dame fan he met after his first game in South Bend. The fan, Timothy Donovan, was born with a vertebral defect.

Donovan had surgery in April to correct an irregularity in his spine. Gibbons wrote that the surgery was successful, and he's raising money for Donovan and his family to be able to attend Notre Dame's season-opener at Florida State on Sept. 5. He started with a goal of $30,000. As of Saturday morning, Gibbons had raised over $35,000 in just one day.

There's intrigue for any student-athlete with enough ambition to capitalize on the new reality in college sports. If they get in with the right people or strive to open up doors for themselves and others, the possibilities seem endless.

There will undoubtedly be some Notre Dame players who walk off campus in South Bend more monetarily sound than they walked onto it. Or they can do like Gibbons and raise money for the betterment of society and those in need.

Either way, it'll be worth every penny.

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