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WWE announces the first NIL class of the TKO era

WWE

WWE instituted their Next in Line (NIL) program, in which they sign college athletes to name, image & likeness deals (also NIL...get it?) so they can explore a career in sports entertainment while finishing out their collegiate ones — back in December of 2021.

They haven’t announced a new class of signees since January of this year, however. That means the group WWE announced today (Dec. 6) is the first since Endeavor bought control of the company and merged it with UFC to form TKO Group Holdings.

What does that mean? A sign the change in ownership doesn’t indicate a change in strategy here like it might in other areas of the business. Other than that probably not much, except maybe a a fun piece of trivia if one of these folks turns into the next Roman Reigns or Bianca Belair.

Here’s the press release with all 14 names, highlighted by two young men who’ll try to follow in Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar’s footsteps:

WWE® SIGNS 14 ATHLETES TO AWARD-WINNING NIL PROGRAM

STAMFORD, Conn., December 6, 2023 WWE, part of TKO Group Holdings (NYSE: TKO), today announced the signing of 14 college athletes to its award-winning NIL (Name, Image & Likeness) program – “Next In Line™” – that provides a clear pathway from collegiate athletics to WWE.

On the two-year anniversary of the inception of WWE’s NIL program, the fourth class of athletes is highlighted by two of the nation’s top-ranked wrestlers, two-time All-American Lucas Davison from the University of Michigan and former Big 12 Champion Stephen Buchanan from the University of Oklahoma. The class also includes WWE’s first acrobatics athlete, Bayley Humphrey from Baylor University, first baseball player, Adam Berghorst from Indiana State, and first male cheerleader, Slane Glover from Ohio State.

The fourth “Next In Line” class includes athletes from 14 different universities and ten NCAA conferences [listed by name, school, sport, height/weight, hometown].

• Adam Berghorst, Indiana State, Baseball, 6’ 7”, 260 lbs., Zeeland, Mich.

• Bayley Humphrey, Baylor, Acrobatics, 5’ 10”, Chandler, Ariz.

• Darci Khan, Howard, Track & Field, 5’ 7”, Stockbridge, Ga.

• Desmond Coleman, Liberty, Track & Field, 6’ 4”, 250 lbs., Charlotte, N.C.

• Grace Stephens, Monmouth, Track & Field, 5’ 5”, Monroe, Conn.

• Jeremy Cody, Miami (Florida), Track & Field, 6’ 7”, 220 lbs., Pueblo, Colo.

• Josh Pearcy, Rice, Football, 6’ 2”, 245 lbs., Moorestown, N.J.

• Kali Terza, Kennesaw State, Track & Field, 5’ 4”, Woodstock, Ga.

• Lucas Davison, Michigan, Wrestling, 6’ 2”, 235 lbs., Chesteron, Ind.

• Momen Zahid, William & Mary, Football, 6’ 5”, 295 lbs., Ashburn, Va.

• Sirena Linton, Arkansas, Gymnastics, 5’ 2”, Phoeniz, Ariz.

• Skyla Schulte, Michigan State, Gymnastics, 5’ 2”, Bolingbrook, Ill.

• Slane Glover, Ohio State, Cheerleading, 6’ 1”, 205 lbs., Delray, Fla.

• Stephen Buchanan, Oklahoma, Wrestling, 6’ 0”, 200 lbs., Loyal, Wis.

WWE’s “Next In Line” program has signed 60 college athletes since its inception in December 2021. Seven athletes have signed full-time developmental contracts with WWE and train year-round at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando.

The program serves to recruit and develop potential future Superstars and continues to enhance WWE’s talent development process through collaborative partnerships with college athletes from diverse athletic backgrounds. WWE has signed athletes from 15 different sports including 42 members of Power-Five conferences. The program’s members have earned 18 NCAA Championships, 34 Conference Championships and 55 All-American honors.

All athlete partnerships feature access to the state-of-the-art WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Fla., in addition to resources across the organization including brand building, media training, live event promotion, creative writing and community relations. Upon completion of the NIL program, athletes may earn an exclusive opportunity to be offered a WWE contract.

The program’s athletes boast impressive social media followings with more than 12 million combined followers on TikTok and nearly five million combined followers on Instagram. WWE currently has one of the largest fanbases on TikTok with more than 25 million followers and more than 30 million Instagram followers.

Learn more about the “Next In Line” program at wwerecruit.com.

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