Illinois football tight end Luke Ford will take his talents from the gridiron to the ring in 2023.
The advantages of NIL are beginning to show their benefits for the Illini. In a partnership with the WWE, tight end Luke Ford and 14 other student-athletes will be brought on to participate in the WWE once their college playing days are over through a NIL initiative.
The program, “Next in Line” will unveil its second class Monday evening during the first-ever NIL Summit at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, Georgia. Names like Hampton’s Keshaun Moore and Michigan State’s Maliq Carr will also participate, along with other athletes across the nation.
"“WWE’s comprehensive NIL program launched in December and serves to recruit and develop potential future Superstars, and further enhances WWE’s talent development process through collaborative partnerships with college athletes from diverse athletic background,” a press release stated."
“Next In Line” has signed 31 full-time college athletes since its inception and currently has 25 active athletes following the graduation of six inaugural members from the program.
The eventual goal of the program, upon completion, is to compete in the WWE as a career. The participants will be able to learn skills such as creative writing, media obligations, and live event promotion before signing with the WWE altogether.
Illinois football tight end Luke Ford will benefit from this NIL deal.
Ford is taking another step towards building a professional network from this deal. He will not only get the opportunity to meet some of his fellow college athlete peers and opponents but also learn some key skills that will eventually make him a successful wrestler in the near future.
Illini Nation should be excited for Ford and will maybe give fans an excuse to watch the WWE if they hadn’t done so previously. For Ford, his athletic career is just beginning.