It was a momentous day for South Carolina athletics when the Gamecocks football program signed 2023 five-star football recruit Nyckoles Harbor to a Letter of Intent on National Signing Day.
Harbor, a tight end, wide receiver and defensive end from Washington D.C., was immersed and entrenched in an intense recruiting battle, before he ultimately chose the Gamecocks over the likes of Maryland, Oregon, Michigan, and Alabama.
Harbor plans to play tight end to maintain the weight and strength to participate in track and field as well.
With him off to Columbia, there will be plenty of NIL opportunities when he gets on campus. Harbor has already inked a deal with Champs Sports since Washington D.C. allows high school student-athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness.
When Harbor enrolls at South Carolina, expect South Carolina-focused NIL collective Garnet Trust to reach out for any potential NIL deals as well. Even though they were not part of the recruiting process, the collective has the highest of praise for the newest addition to the Gamecock family.
“We had zero (recruitment) of him or anyone in his family,” Garnet Trust Director of Operations Jeremy Smith told The NIL Deal in a recent interview. “Until he is on campus we obviously can’t put anything into a contract. I don’t know (for certain), but from what I’ve been told he turned down some more lucrative NIL deals that we could ever put forth to get him to (sign) with South Carolina.”
Smith said that he has never met Harbor, as he is not allowed to enter any NIL agreements until they are enrolled students. He has heard of Harbor’s talent and character, though, and is eager to work on NIL deals when he eventually shows up on campus.
“I’ve heard he is an extremely upstanding young man and obviously a freak athlete,” Smith said of Harbor. “He’s very bright, he comes from a very good home. His parents are very involved. He seems to fit the culture of what football coach (Shane) Beamer is building at the University of South Carolina. He’s (someone) who will keep the locker room intact, (and) who will want to be here for the ‘we’ and not the ‘me.’”
Smith also discussed the overall vision and plans for Garnet Trust moving forward in the NIL space.
“Overall, we are obviously very supportive of the legislation that allows student-athletes to take advantage of their name, image and likeness,” Smith added. “We want to make sure we’re doing it the right way at the University of South Carolina. It’s not about just paying the athletes, it’s more about them earning the money they do receive. Also, (we’re) bringing alongside financial literacy for those who need it and tax assistance for those who need it. And other brand advantages to help them grow while they’re at USC.”
While Gamecock student-athletes will be compensated financially when they arrive on campus, Smith said the bigger picture is about benefiting their lives when they ultimately leave campus.
“We think (securing NIL deals) is more about the four years after they’re in school than the four years they’re at the school,” he said.
With possibly Harbor in the future and many other star athletes already representing Garnet Trust, Smith and his collective have big plans for the future.
“(NIL is going to) play a major role moving forward,” Smith said. “I don’t know how much of it will come into recruiting as it is retention. Your whole strategy has to be built around the culture that the coaches are building within each of those sports. We try to align directly with that. So, when a coach is recruiting a player that fits that culture we assume that those players are coming to the school for the right reasons and not for financial reasons.”
“We will do what we can based on their evaluations and offer them the best opportunity to earn money while at the University of South Carolina through NIL,” Smith added.
With the football program stepping up as a major player through NIL, and other athletic programs, namely the women’s basketball team getting their fair share of clout as well, look for Garnet Trust to be a driving force in a battle to compete and win in this current NIL-based college athletics landscape.