WWE Announces 2nd Group of NIL Contracts, Including Former Illinois TE Luke Ford

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVJune 13, 2022

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - SEPTEMBER 25: Luke Ford #82 of the Illinois Fighting Illini runs the ball during the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Ross-Ade Stadium on September 25, 2021 in West Lafayette, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Michael Hickey/Getty Images

WWE announced its second "Next In Line" class Monday, providing 15 college athletes with name, image and likeness (NIL) contracts, and the opportunity to become WWE Superstars.

Sports Business Journal @SBJ

.<a href="https://twitter.com/WWE?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@WWE</a> has announced its second “Next in Line” class.<br><br>15 college athletes have signed NIL deals that provides them with a pathway to WWE. <br><br>➖ <a href="https://twitter.com/SmittySBJ?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@SmittySBJ</a><a href="https://t.co/LLRt3Swy8x">https://t.co/LLRt3Swy8x</a> <a href="https://t.co/TNe8tLW5Nl">pic.twitter.com/TNe8tLW5Nl</a>

Included in the group are football, basketball and volleyball players as well as track and field athletes, wrestlers, a gymnast and a cheerleader.

Perhaps the most recognizable name is Illinois tight end Luke Ford, who was rated as the No. 51 overall recruit in the country by 247Sports in 2018 before playing at the University of Georgia and then transferring to the University of Illinois.

Last season, Ford set career highs with 15 receptions for 114 yards and two touchdowns for the Fighting Illini.

Michigan State tight end Maliq Carr, Stanford linebacker Thunder Keck, Arizona State fullback Case Hatch and Hampton linebacker KeShaun Moore are the other football players in the latest class, and ESPN's Adam Rittenberg noted that Moore is WWE's first signing from a historically Black college or university (HBCU).

Rittenberg also reported that WWE's first signings in men's basketball, volleyball, gymnastics and cheer are part of the class.

WWE is hoping for a successful follow-up to its first Next In Line class from December, which included University of Minnesota national champion wrestler Gable Steveson and basketball-playing twins Hanna and Haley Cavinder from the University of Miami.

As part of its announcement, WWE revealed that the Next In Line signees will have access to the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida, plus they will be aided in working on "brand building, media training, communications, live event promotion, creative writing and community relations."

WWE added that all six athletes who graduated from the inaugural Next In Line class have either signed with or are in conversations to sign with the company, and graduates from the second class could be given the same opportunity.

Next In Line has been WWE's way of taking advantage of the new name, image and likeness (NIL) rules laid out by the NCAA, which allows college athletes to profit off their names while still maintaining eligibility.

Per Rittenberg, the second Next In Line class will be recognized at the inaugural NIL summit at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta on Monday.

Listen to Ring Rust Radio for all of the hot wrestling topics. Catch the latest episode in the player below (warning: profanity).