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NIL Providing A Second Education For Some URI Football Players

Rams Coby Tippett and Jaylen Smith are some of the athletes taking advantage of these new financial opportunities.

Coby Tippett promoting RETHINK Water


A new college football season is upon us; one that revs up in earnest for the University of Rhode Island this Saturday when Bryant University makes the trek to Meade Stadium (kickoff 6pm)

In many ways, it’s a brave new world for college athletics. The advent of student-athletes as paid sponsors on behalf of Company X has provided new opportunities and possibilities. Some are blatantly obvious – disposable income for a Saturday night! – while others haven’t been stressed nearly enough concerning Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL).

Coby Tippett
Coby Tippett (#18)

Specifically, let’s look at Coby Tippett, senior defensive back for the Rams. In early July, the NCAA provided the green light for those in Tippett’s position to earn as many dollars as they possibly can through various affiliations and enterprises. On August 6, Tippett announced via his personal Instagram page that he had partnered up with RETHINK Water, where proper hydration meets the environmental friendliness of the drink’s packaging.

“It’s been awesome to work through the process. It’s still fairly new to everyone, but you have to be careful what you’re getting into and making sure you’re protecting your eligibility,” said Tippett, who was connected with Chris O’Donovan, co-founder of RETHINK products.

“Right off the bat, we had a great conversation and have had a great relationship ever since,” added Tippett. “I’ve known about RETHINK Water for a few years. As soon as NIL became a thing, I jumped right on it. I’ve had a great working relationship with them ever since and hope it can only go in the right direction from here.”



The opportunity to put some dollars in his pocket is nice, yet let’s not discount the benefit that Tippett and others are receiving when it comes to NIL and the financial responsibility that comes with being on the payroll.

You mean to tell me that Uncle Sam is grabbing a piece of my earnings? What’s up with these taxes?

“It teaches you to be a man really quick in terms of learning the business side of things,” said Tippett. “You’re working on your personal brand, but you’re also building based off the brand you’re representing.”

There’s also an interaction aspect that could prove beneficial once the day comes when Tippett hangs up the cleats for good.

“You never know. You might need these people five or 10 years down the road,” he said. “I want to work these relationships early and as often as I can and take as much of a professional approach as possible.”

Coby Tippett
Coby Tippett

Spearheaded by athletic director Thorr Bjorn, URI has provided multiple workshops every week in an effort to better educate Tippett and his football teammates on a different sort of competition that’s taking place away from the field.

“Our email box is always getting flooded,” said Tippett. “It’s still fairly fresh, but I think it’s moving in the right direction. You’re probably going to see more movement once the season starts and people look around the CAA and see who the hot teams are.”




As one of the trailblazers on his own team, Tippett has sought to provide guidance and serve as a springboard should his fellow Rams have questions related to Name, Image, and Likeness.

“There’s information that I have that I can give to them,” he said. “A lot of guys deserve this opportunity, for sure.”

A freshman running back for the Rams who starred at Pawtucket’s Shea High School, Jaylen Smith became part of this groundbreaking turn of events in college sports by hooking up with Wings Over, a chicken wing franchise with a location in Providence.

Jaylen Smith
Jaylen Smith

“I reached out to them, they emailed back. One thing led to another and boom, I’m a Wings Over [Providence] athlete,” said Smith. “It’s a great opportunity.”

“The sky’s the limit. I can see people quickly jumping on Jaylen,” said Tippett.

As for the URI head coach and his stance on NIL deals, Jim Fleming said, “I’m fully supportive of our athletes being able to get monetized for what they’re being able to contribute, but I also feel concern that as an 18 to 22-year-old, you now have football and academics as well as a business plan. I think that might be a little too much. When tax time comes, some guys might be saying ‘I have to pay some of this back?’”

Yes, they will. It’s all part of this NIL landscape, one that isn’t solely limited to visions of dollar signs dancing in one’s head.