The second class of WWE varsity athletes receiving name, likeness and likeness agreements includes the first entrants in men’s basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, cheering and dancing, along with four of the Power 5 soccer programs.
The 15-member group participating in WWE’s “Next In Line” program will train at the promotion’s performance center in Orlando, Florida, and receive resources in areas such as brand building and media communications. Gable Steveson, Olympic gold medalist and NCAA heavyweight wrestling champion, headlined WWE’s NIL premier class with the Miami basketball twins and social media stars Haley and Hanna Cavinder.
The new group includes Auburn All-America gymnast Derrian Gobourne, Chandler Hayden, Tennessee track and field champion, Pac-12 heavyweight wrestling champion Cohlton Schultz and dance and cheering athlete Ole Miss Ali Mattox, who won a world championship with Team USA in 2019.
Illinois tight end Luke Ford, a former ESPN Top 100 rookie who started his career in Georgia, headlines the football-playing contingent, along with Arizona State fullback Case Hatch, Stanford Thunder outside linebacker Keck and Michigan State tight end Maliq Carr, a transfer from Purdue who also plays for MSU’s basketball team. The class also includes Hampton linebacker KeShaun Moore, WWE’s first NIL signer of an HBCU program. Hayden and Central Michigan basketball player Mikala Hall are among the highly-followed participants on social media.
WWE launched the Next In Line program to identify future superstars and start developing them at a younger age. The promotion has a long history of hiring former college athletes, including former stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (Miami football) and College Football Hall of Famer Ron Simmons (Florida State), and current stars Roman Reigns (Georgia Tech football) and Bianca Belair (Tennessee athletics). The average age of the 25 athletes in WWE’s NIL program – 12 women, 13 men – is 21.
WWE’s newest NIL class will be recognized Monday night at the inaugural NIL Summit, to be held at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. In March, WWE held a tryout for 45 current and former college athletes as part of WrestleMania week in the Dallas area.