The Association of Former Students July 6, 2022 3:30 PM updated: July 6, 2022 4:34 PM
This story originally appeared on Texas A&M Today.
Students at the Texas A&M University School of Law will soon have the opportunity to learn about athlete advocacy and name, image and likeness issues from a current NFL player with first-hand knowledge of the skills attorneys and sports agents need to advocate for athletes.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Trayveon Williams '20, a former Texas A&M student who played for the Aggies from 2016 to 2018, will co-teach a new course for the spring 2023 semester on the still-emerging landscape of name, image and likeness (NIL) deals. July 1 marks one year since college athletes have been able to earn and accept money from endorsements, ad campaigns, appearances and other commercial activities.
Williams wasn’t able to monetize his name, image and likeness during his time as a collegiate athlete. But he believes the knowledge law students will gain through the new course, with his added perspective, has the potential to “completely revolutionize” the world of NIL.
“These kids are coming into a completely different world now,” Williams said of current collegiate athletes. “They’re in the position to make millions and have a platform to do big things. We can be at the forefront and be the ones who are preparing these future advocates who can put these athletes in the best position possible.”
He’ll teach the class alongside fellow former student Alex Sinatra ’11, a sports attorney and sports business consultant who graduated from the law school in 2014. Sinatra acknowledges the curriculum will likely have to be adapted throughout the semester, in response to evolving NIL guidelines on the federal and state level. The concepts and skills at the center of the course, though, are “evergreen.”
Those include handling negotiations, drafting and reviewing contracts, and understanding FTC regulations. Most importantly, Sinatra said, students will learn how to articulate the relevant issues in a way that’s relatable to athletes. She stresses that the course will train future advocates who have the best interests of their clients at heart: “The advocates have to be an extension of the athletes when the athlete can’t be in the room or doesn’t have knowledge to represent themselves fully.”
This is where Williams comes in. Using his experience as both a current pro and former college football player, he hopes to provide insight into what these issues look like for athletes.
“If you can give them a frame of mind and understanding of what the world is like for an athlete, from the law side of it they can easily represent and be the best advocates for these athletes,” Williams said. “NIL is something the NCAA still doesn’t completely understand. If we can jump on it early and help these future advocates gain ground, we can put everyone in the position to be successful down the road.”
An NIL course makes “total sense” for Texas A&M Law, said Dean Robert Ahdieh, adding that this isn’t the first time the school has engaged the subject. A panel of faculty members discussed legal topics related to NIL policy in February as part of a conversation series hosted by Southeastern Conference law schools. It was also the subject of a symposium hosted in March by a student group.
“For students who go on to work in sports or entertainment law – or even contract work generally – it makes sense for them to have an understanding of what’s happening in this space,” Ahdieh said. “With NIL in the news, students will be interested – on top of the fact that one of the instructors is an NFL player.”
Ahdieh said the school had already been in discussion with Sinatra about offering an NIL course before Williams was recruited to teach. That part, the dean says, started as a joke.
U.S. News and World Report released its 2023 rankings of the nation’s best graduate schools in March, naming the law school No. 2 in the state of Texas. In the past four years, the school has jumped 34 spots on the overall list – from No. 80 in 2019 to No. 46 in the current edition. In a writeup of the new rankings, the blog Above The Law remarked that with Texas A&M’s run into the top 50, “you might think Trayveon Williams was doing the rushing there.”
Williams rushed for more than 1,000 yards twice with Texas A&M, and was the fourth Aggie to register multiple 200-yard rushing games. In 2018, he set a school record for rushing yards in a single season.
Ahdieh shared the blog post on Twitter, where he “announced” Williams as the school’s newest faculty recruit. When Williams saw the tweet, he called up his agent.
“I thought I was signed up for something that I didn’t know I was signed up for,” Williams said.
Once he was in on the joke, Sinatra reached out to Williams about the possibility of co-teaching, and Ahdieh enthusiastically agreed to the idea. When asked if he was serious about wanting to do it, Williams said the answer was easy: “Sign me up.”
As a former college athlete, Williams is well-acquainted with juggling school with football, and is confident he’ll be able to balance his responsibilities with the Bengals and other business ventures. When he can’t attend classes in-person at the Fort Worth campus, he’ll teach virtually via Zoom.
“It was just an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” he said. “I realized this could be a real opportunity to make a difference.”